* Minister says need to review nuclear energy target
* Officials stand by commitment to nuclear power
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, May 8 Japanese officials said on Sunday
they were committed to nuclear power after the prime minister
called for a plant to close, but that the target of obtaining
half of Japan's electricity from nuclear power by 2030 needed a
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has called for the closure of a
nuclear plant in central Japan, citing the risk of another
disastrous quake after the Fukushima Daiichi plant, in the
northeast of the country, was destroyed by the March 11
earthquake and tsunami.
Nearly 26,000 people were killed or are still missing after
the quake and tsunami which triggered the world's biggest
nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The plant is still
The call to shut down the Hamaoka plant signalled a
potential shift in energy policy, and while the government says
other plants will be unaffected, it could embolden anti-nuclear
Several thousand protesters marched through central Tokyo on
Saturday to welcome Kan's call to shut down Hamaoka and urging
him to push for further closures. [ID:nL3E7G7046]
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said that
Japan would remain committed to nuclear power, although Trade
Minister Banri Kaieda, who oversees energy policy, said Japan's
target must be reviewed.
"With regard to energy policy, we set the target last June
of increasing nuclear power to 50 percent by 2030, but we will
have to rethink this," Kaieda said on Fuji TV.
"We must put more effort into renewable energy, and that
will become one trigger for (economic) growth."
Chubu Electric Power Co is leaning towards closing
the plant as requested and could make the decision at a board
meeting as early as Monday, media said.
Asked whether he would seek the closure of other nuclear
plants, Kan told reporters on Sunday: "That won't be the case,"
adding that Hamaoka had an especially high risk of being hit by
a massive earthquake.
Japan last year vowed to boost the share of electricity
generation through nuclear power to 50 percent by 2030 from the
current 30 percent by building at least 14 new reactors.
Government experts put the chance of a magnitude 8.0 quake
hitting the Hamaoka area in the next 30 years at 87 percent,
which raises questions over why it was built there in the first
The magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11 crippled cooling systems
at Fukushima Daiichi, operated by Tokyo Electric Power .
Of 54 reactors in commercial use in Japan, 32 are under
planned or unplanned maintenance and operators may face
resistance to restarting them.
Board members of Chubu, which serves major manufacturers,
including Toyota Motor Corp , postponed a decision on
Saturday on whether to temporarily close Hamaoka.
Chubu spokesman Akio Miyazaki said another board meeting
would be held on or after Monday. The Nikkei business daily said
the board would meet on Monday.
Yomiuri newspaper said Chubu was likely to comply with Kan's
request to close Hamaoka, with a capacity of 3,617 megawatts,
pending introduction of quake and tsunami safety measures -- but
only after it finds ways to supply power in a stable fashion.
Two of the plant's three working reactors are in operation.
Chubu says it can meet this fiscal year's peak demand of
25,600 MW even if Hamaoka shuts. But the Yomiuri newspaper,
quoting a company executive, says the company may have to
consider "rolling blackouts" in very hot weather.
Miyazaki said relying on thermal plants to make up
shortfalls if Hamaoka closes would push up costs by 700 million
yen ($8.7 million) per day -- or about 256 billion yen a year.
That could overturn the firm's projected profit of 130 billion
yen in the year to March 31, 2012.
Chubu chairman Toshio Mita was in Qatar to discuss possible
procurement of liquefied natural gas, Miyazaki said.
($1 = 80.630 Japanese Yen)
(Additional reporting by Mari Saito and Linda Sieg; Editing by