Despite crisis, nuclear to remain core energy source: Kaieda

Kyodo

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda pledged at a government panel meeting earlier this month to do his “utmost” to get idled nuclear reactors back on line and said nuclear power will remain a core energy source for Japan.

The pledge, revealed in the undisclosed minutes of the meeting, apparently reflect a backlash by Kaieda’s ministry against Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s plan to develop energy-conservation measures and renewable energy as a pillar of national energy policy.

Kaieda made the remark at a meeting June 7 of a government task force in charge of formulating new growth strategies, which started discussing innovative energy and environmental strategies.

Kan, who chairs the task force, told the meeting of a plan to create a new agency to promote use of natural energy, according to the minutes.

But Kaieda said the government would create a “best mix” of nuclear power, fossil fuels and renewable energy to meet medium- and long-term energy needs.

He also said basic energy policy will be revised by the middle of next year, indicating that METI will take the initiative in mapping out the revisions.

Responding to Kaieda’s remark, Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and a member of the government task force, said the government should convince the public of the necessity of nuclear power to maintain a stable electricity supply.

Tadashi Okamura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and another panel member from the business community, called on the government to ease public concern about nuclear safety.

Economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano told the panel that Japan should continue promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy.

Meanwhile, 14 environmental groups, including WWF Japan and Greenpeace Japan, have issued a joint statement stressing that the government’s closed-door deliberations on energy and environmental policies are unacceptable.

Safety guidelines review

The Nuclear Safety Commission said it will launch a review, possibly this month, of the screening guidelines for safety, quake resistance and disaster preparedness at nuclear power plants.

“We have to conduct a thorough review” of the guidelines so nuclear plants can cope with unexpected situations, including a loss of power sources in the event of a tsunami, NSC Chairman Haruki Madarame told a news conference Monday.

One of the current guidelines stipulates “there is no need to presume that all power sources may be lost for a long period of time,” a policy proved wrong by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.