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Monday, July 23, 2012

Zero option draws favor as government reactor meetings shift to west Japan


Staff writer

OSAKA — The central government-sponsored public hearings on Japan's energy future moved to west Japan on Sunday, with the majority of designated speakers and attendees favoring either a complete withdrawal from nuclear power by 2030 or a near halving of the nation's reliance on it.

About 140 people attended the hearing, part of a nationwide series sponsored by the central government. Officials said they received 318 comments directly and by mail from its Kansai region poll on three possible energy futures.

Of these, 211 people voiced support for abolishing atomic power completely by 2030. Another 40 said they favored cutting Japan's reliance on it to 15 percent.. Nuclear energy accounted for 26 percent of the nation's electric power in 2010.

The remaining 67 favored relying on nuclear for 20 to 25 percent of Japan's electricity needs.

Of the 11 who spoke at the hearing, six favored zero reliance, while three backed 15 percent and two 20 to 25 percent. Two speakers were women and both supported the zero option.

"Lots of people have said they do not want to rely as much on nuclear power and we want to reduce the amount as much as possible," said national policy minister Motohisa Furukawa in his opening remarks.

The Osaka hearing took place following intense criticism of earlier meetings in Sendai and Nagoya, where utility representatives were selected to speak. The two speakers in Osaka who favored the 20 to 25 percent scenario repeatedly stressed that they had no connections to either utilities or nuclear power-related firms.

Among the participants, who were from Osaka as well as surrounding prefectures, a clear majority favored ending reliance on nuclear power, loudly applauding the six speakers who variously explained why Japan should, and could, be nuclear-free by 2030.

Also, two speakers who favored the 15 percent option criticized the way the central government did its calculations for the three scenarios.

One from Kyoto said the forecasts presented for energy usage and cost lacked very basic data, such as population projections for 2030 and how the demography of a simultaneously aging and shrinking population would likely affect energy demand.



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