June 8, 2017 / 10:22 PM / 2 months ago

Japan minister denies government considering new nuclear plants

Japan's Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko arrives for the 3rd Inter-sessional Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2017.Kham

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's trade minister on Friday denied a media report and said the government is not considering building new nuclear plants or replacing existing reactors.

The Nikkei business daily reported earlier that Japan's trade ministry would launch a panel as early as this month to revise the country's energy plan and consider building new nuclear plants or replacing existing plants in the future.

The government will keep its current plan, set up in 2014, to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, according to the Nikkei report, but also says that keeping nuclear power at a minimal share of the overall energy mix would require the construction of new reactors.

"At this point, we are not thinking of new construction or replacement at all," Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters, dismissing the report as groundless.

Seko said the government is discussing the schedule for the revision of its basic energy plan, normally done every three to four years. No details for consideration have been set, he said.

If the government called for a policy that included building new reactors, such a move would face strong public resistance following Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the world's worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986.

A target by the industry ministry for nuclear to provide about a fifth of the country's electricity in 2030 provoked widespread criticism when it was finalised in 2015.

Reporting by Ami Miyazaki; Writing by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue

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