Industry minister Yukio Edano waded into the national debate on energy policy Tuesday, saying the nation could phase out nuclear power by 2030 without hurting the world’s third-largest economy.
“We can do it,” Edano told reporters in Tokyo when asked what the impact of Japan ditching its stable of nuclear reactors would be. Most have been shut down.
“I don’t think the zero scenario is negative for Japan’s economy. On the contrary, it can create growth as efforts to develop renewable energy and improve energy-efficiency could boost domestic demand,” he added.
Tokyo ushered in new rules last month that require utilities to buy all electricity produced from renewable sources, including solar and wind power, at above-market rates for two decades, to stoke “green” power investment.
Edano meanwhile also said he opposes Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s plan to meet with an antinuclear citizen’s group.
Such a meeting between the prime minister and a specific organization may send the wrong signal in terms fairness and transparency, Edano said.
The nation has a system in place that all citizens can participate in, Edano said, citing recent hearings the government held in 11 cities to glean public opinions about energy policy.
The state has refrained from listening directly to any specific group, including business lobbies, about energy policy, Edano said.
According to sources, Noda plans to hold talks as early as Wednesday with the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, a citizen’s group that holds antinuclear rallies every Friday outside the prime minister’s office.
Edano’s comments come as the government pursues a new energy strategy in light of the Fukushima atomic crisis, which led, directly and indirectly, to the shutdown of all 50 of the nation’s nuclear reactors. Two were restarted last month on Noda’s recommendation.
Noda has pledged to deliver a new energy policy by the end of 2012, with options ranging from cutting nuclear altogether by 2030 to nuclear power accounting for about one-third of Japan’s electricity — the level before the Fukushima disaster struck.
Under the zero-nuclear scenario, government-chosen experts have forecasted Japan’s economic growth could fall between 1.2 and 7.6 percent by 2030.
Disposal volume drops
Iwate and Miyagi need to send an estimated 1.69 million tons of debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami outside of their prefectures for disposal, the government said Tuesday.
The amount, reported at a meeting of relevant Cabinet ministers by Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, is 780,000 tons less than projected in May.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he will do his utmost to speed up the disposal work.
Of the total, 420,000 tons are in Iwate, down from 1.2 million tons projected in May. The sizable drop resulted from a decision to recycle 900,000 tons of incombustible debris for use in postdisaster reconstruction projects in the prefecture.
The remaining 1.27 million tons are in Miyagi.
The government wants to complete disposal of all debris from the March 11 disasters by March 2014. Local communities outside Iwate and Miyagi have offered to accept some 370,000 tons of the total.
Since there have been no offers to take the remaining 1.32 million tons, the government is ready to accelerate negotiations with 16 prefectures.