Japan Pm Calls for Halt of Hamaoka Nuclear Plant
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Friday that Chubu Electric Power Co should halt all operations at its Hamaoka nuclear plant in centralJapan, due to worries a strong earthquake could cause another nuclear crisis.
The move to shutdown Hamaoka, seen at high risk to forecasts of a powerful earthquake in coming decades, follows pressure on the government to review Japan’s nuclear energy policy after a March 11 quake and tsunami crippled another plant, triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Kan, who has been under fire for his response to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan, said the government would try to prevent the halt of the Hamaoka reactors from causing power supply problems.
Companies in eastern and northeast Japan served by TEPCO and another quake-affected utility have already been asked to curb electricity usage this summer when demand peaks. The shutdown at Hamaoka raises the risk of power disruptions in the Chubu region, home to Toyota Motor Corp and other major manufacturers.
Kan said he made the decision “out of concerns for public safety,” citing a forecast by government experts that put at 87 percent the chance of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the area served by Chubu Electric within the next 30 years.
“If there were a major accident at Hamaoka nuclear plant, it would have an enormous impact on the entire Japanese society,” Kan told a televised news conference.
The Hamaoka decision signals a likely shift in Japan’s energy policy, with the government now rethinking its target of boosting the country’s reliance on nuclear to 50 percent of its power needs by 2030, up from 30 percent before the quake.
“The decision was made with safety as the priority, and it is the first step necessary to developing an energy policy,” Noriyuki Mita, director at the Trade Ministry’s Electricity and Gas Industry policy planning division, told a separate news conference.