March 18, 2012 / 4:19 AM / 8 years ago

Japan's majority favor phasing out nuclear power: poll

TOKYO (Reuters) - A vast majority of Japanese favor the gradual phasing out of nuclear plants but accept that some reactors need to be restarted to secure enough power in the short term, a newspaper poll showed on Sunday.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is seen in Fukushima prefecture, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo March 11, 2012, the day marking the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. REUTERS/Kyodo

The poll, published in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper and conducted on the first anniversary of the tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis, comes ahead of decision expected soon by the government on whether to allow the restart of two idled nuclear reactors.

According to the poll by Japan Association for Public Opinion Research, 79.6 percent of those asked were at least more or less in favor of breaking with nuclear power eventually.

But 69 percent backed the restart of some nuclear reactors to ensure enough power. Just 28 percent were opposed.

Only two of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are currently operating but both are scheduled to be shut by early May which means potential power shortages this summer.

The poll is in sharp contrast to a poll in the Asahi Shimbun last week when 57 percent of those questioned were against restarting reactors.

The debate over nuclear power has turned increasingly heated after a powerful earthquake and tsunami last March crippled the Fukushima atomic power plant northeast of Tokyo and triggered the worst disaster of its kind since Chernobyl in 1986.

The government has said it will eventually reduce its reliance on nuclear power — which before the crisis accounted for 30 percent of electricity demand.

Trade Minister Yukio Edano said this month that no nuclear reactors in Japan may resume operations in time for summer, leaving the country facing an estimated 10 percent power shortage during demand hours in summer.

The government has been conducting stress tests on the reactors to prove their safety to a cynical public. But many local governments hosting nuclear reactors have called for a more comprehensive set of tests taking into account damage caused at Fukushima.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher

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