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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
Energy policy chief inclined toward nuclear-free Japan
The nation's new energy policy goal should be to no longer depend on nuclear power, national policy minister Motohisa Furukawa said Tuesday.
Furukawa told reporters this means Japan would have to embark on a broad quest to become totally nuclear-free. His comments could spark a backlash because he chairs the government panel that this month must unveil the nation's future energy mix.
His remarks came as he announced the government will convene a meeting of experts Wednesday to study public opinions it collected during the course of hearings on the future use of atomic power. Furukawa said the government will reflect the results when drawing up a plan that will wean Japan off nuclear power.
But Environment Minister Goshi Hosono cautioned against immediately ending Japan's reliance on atomic power, warning that doing so would lead to a decline in the number of nuclear experts, who are needed to deal with the decades-long work of scrapping the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
"Unless we have the knowledge of how to maintain such technology (for decommissioning), we can't simply say that we will be able to abandon nuclear power generation," said Hosono, who is also nuclear disaster minister.
He also stressed the need to consider the risks of relying too much on fossil fuels amid the unstable Middle East situation.
The government is stepping up efforts to compile its new energy policy in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which sparked public fears over the safety of dozens of reactors.
As part of its policymaking process, the government held public hearings nationwide and solicited comments on three options for reducing reliance on nuclear energy: zero percent, 15 percent and 20-25 percent by 2030, compared with 26 percent in 2010.
The expert meetings from Wednesday will study the public opinions amassed.