Fatih Birol, newly installed executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, has said the nation’s energy policy following the Fukushima meltdowns provides a “realistic and balanced outlook,” underscoring the importance of continued use of nuclear power in the country.

In its future energy mix, decided in July, the government plans to have nuclear energy account for 20 percent to 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply in 2030. This compares with 28.6 percent in the fiscal year that ended in March 2011, the year of the disaster.

“I believe Japan without nuclear energy will face major challenges,” such as higher energy prices, greater energy security problems and greenhouse gas emissions, Birol, who took office Tuesday, told Kyodo News by phone last week.

“This plan provides a good prospect for nuclear power, and I believe nuclear power has an important role to play in Japan for the prosperity, cleanness and also the security of the country,” he said.

Turning to the lifting of sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program and its possible impact on the global energy market, Birol foresees a boost in oil production in Iran. He said output from existing oil fields may increase by half a million barrels to 3.4 million barrels per day “within a year’s time” once sanctions are lifted.

There is a “substantial potential for new production, new investment and new capacity building,” said Birol.

“How much Iran can make out of this will be in line with what kind of investment framework the Iranian government will offer to attract new investment and technology.”

Regarding the Group of Seven energy ministers’ meeting scheduled next May in Japan, Birol noted that it will take place “at a very crucial time” as it follows an international gathering this year aimed at reaching a new global agreement to tackle climate change.

“It will be the very first occasion that G-7 energy ministers will meet together to look at the result” of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP21, to be held in Paris in November and December.

Founded in 1974, the IEA has 29 member countries and makes policy proposals on energy issues, among other things. Birol was chief economist and director of global energy economics at the Paris-based organization before becoming executive director.

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