If reactors are deemed safe, restart them, OECD head urges

Kyodo

The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development urged Japan on Tuesday to restart nuclear reactors that have been deemed safe to ensure a stable power supply.

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria told reporters in Tokyo that the organization supports Japan’s continuing “to have an important nuclear capacity to generate electricity,” despite growing public opposition to atomic power in light of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No.1 power plant.

While acknowledging the public’s concerns, he meanwhile noted a power supply shortage could restrict the nation’s industrial output, saying, “As a condition of growth policy, you have to have sufficient sources of energy to fuel the economy, households, companies and infrastructure.”

Given that nuclear power accounted for around 30 percent of Japan’s energy supply before the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster crippled the Fukushima plant, Gurria said, “You cannot substitute 30 percent of installed capacity overnight.”

At present, reactor 3 at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari plant is the only one of Japan’s 50 commercial reactors still operating, but it is scheduled to go offline May 5 for routine checks.

Gurria also emphasized the importance of limiting the use of fossil fuels to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and urged the introduction of an environmental tax on such emissions as a way to give renewable energy a competitive edge.

During a meeting with Finance Minister Jun Azumi, meanwhile, Gurria said he supports Tokyo’s plan to raise the consumption tax to restore the nation’s fiscal health, the worst among major developed economies.

Gurria said Japan must pursue fiscal reforms, including reducing the public-sector debt, in order to achieve its potential growth, while overcoming chronic deflation, according to Japanese officials.

Azumi briefed Gurria on the government’s policies as well as its expectations that the economy will achieve a strong recovery in fiscal 2012, which started this month, supported by accelerated reconstruction work following the natural disasters.