Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country must consider using more nuclear power, as the import-dependent nation grapples with rising fuel prices and a weak yen.
Regulations in place since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 need to be made more efficient to help the process of restarting Japan’s idled reactors, he said, adding new impetus to calls for the energy source to take a bigger role. Only about a third of operable reactors have resumed.
"We must think about nuclear power given rising electricity and gas prices,” Kishida said in a TV Tokyo interview late Tuesday evening. "We won’t compromise on safety, and will get the understanding of the people before proceeding.”
Kishida’s remarks come as Japan contends with an energy crisis that’s sent prices of liquefied natural gas and coal to record highs. The nation imports almost all of its energy needs, and costlier fuel has slashed profits of utility companies and stoked inflationary fears among consumers who are facing higher power bills. A beleaguered yen, which has weakened against the dollar to touch the lowest level in two decades, is adding to the burden for fuel importers.
Lawmakers have been calling for nuclear restarts to accelerate, while public support is growing according to a March survey.
Still, a lengthy restart inspection process, combined with frequent lawsuits filed by nuclear opponents, have hampered efforts to get idled reactors back online. Of 33 operable reactors overseen by the Nuclear Regulation Authority only 10 have restarted under rules imposed since the Fukushima disaster.