SEOUL – Nuclear power is set to remain a key part of Japan’s energy profile despite the safety concerns raised by the Fukushima disaster, senior Japanese energy officials predicted Monday.
“The Japanese government still considers nuclear as an option for the energy mix. It must not be excluded from the overall energy mix,” said Zengo Aizawa, vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. which operates the stricken Fukushima plant.
“The government has rethought the idea of abandoning nuclear energy,” Aizawa told a session of the World Energy Congress being held in Daegu, South Korea.
Japan shut down all 50 commercial reactors in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant.
Two reactors were restarted in July last year, but were taken offline again last month for inspections, leaving the country without any nuclear power.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly backed a return to the widespread use of atomic energy, but the Japanese public remains divided, with opponents citing continued safety fears.
Makoto Yagi, Chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, told the gathering of energy officials in Daegu that Japan should remain committed to nuclear power in the medium and long term.
“It is important to resume nuclear power plants as soon as their safety can be guaranteed,” Yagi said.
He stressed the importance of regaining public trust by explaining the post-Fukushima safety measures that were being put in place.
“It is a Japanese responsibility to help improve nuclear safety standards worldwide,” based on the lessons learned from Fukushima, he added.
Nuclear power supplied about one-third of Japan’s electricity before the 2011 tsunami.