UPDATE 1-Japan still considering total nuclear power pullout

October 18, 2011

By Marie Maitre

PARIS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Japan has not ruled out the possibility of complete closure of its nuclear power stations as one option for the country’s future energy policy after the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, economy minister Yukio Edano said.

“I am certain that we are going to reduce nuclear power generation but whether we are going to reduce it to zero is a separate issue,” Edano, the economy, trade and industry minister told Reuters on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting hosted by the International Energy Agency in Paris.

Asked whether pulling out of nuclear was being considered, Edano said: “Yes, it is still under consideration.”

Earlier Edano told a press briefing that Japan was working on improving its energy efficiency and would promote the development of renewable energy sources and of gas powered generation plants to make up for lost nuclear output.

Japan’s former prime minister Naoto Kan concluded in March that nuclear power was no longer worth the risk after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima power plant.

But his successor Yoshihiko Noda has signalled that nuclear power could play a role for decades and pro-nuclear interests are quietly campaigning for their sector.

The government has let a panel of experts begin a debate on Japan’s energy policy.

Public concern about safety leapt after the Fukushima accident, which forced 80,000 people from their homes and sparked fears about food and water supply. Some 70 percent of voters polled in July backed Kan’s call to phase out nuclear plants.

A series of scandals in which regulators and power companies tried to sway hearings on reactors has also dented public trust.

Noda has acknowledged that public safety concerns will make it tough to build new reactors, but has stopped short of saying atomic power would play no role at all by 2050.

He said decisions on reactors already under construction would have to be made “case-by-case”. (Reporting By Marie Maitre; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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