Japan won't abandon nuclear power despite crisis

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku also said the government has no plans to shut down any more functioning nuclear reactors other than three at the Hamaoka power plant in central Japan. The plant was asked Friday to halt the units until a seawall is built and backup systems are improved at Hamaoka.

"Our energy policy is to stick to nuclear power," Sengoku said on a weekly talk show on public broadcaster NHK.

He said Hamaoka was an exception and that the government's closure request Friday did not mean a departure from its nuclear-reliant policy.Chubu Electric Power Co., which runs the three Hamaoka reactors, postponed its decision Saturday on the government's shutdown request.

The main concern is that shutting down the reactors would likely worsen power shortages expected this summer. Nuclear energy provides more than one-third of Japan's electricity. Since the March 11 disasters, buildings have reduced lighting, stores have trimmed service hours and subway operators have shut air conditioning to join a nationwide conservation effort.

The government has been reviewing the safety of the country's 54 atomic reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the north. The disaster left more than 25,000 people dead or missing on the northeast coast and triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Hamaoka plant, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo, in an area where a major quake is expected within decades, has been a major concern for years. However, Sengoku said there is "no need to worry" about other plants in the country. "Scientifically, that's our conclusion at the moment," he said.

Chubu Electric executives failed to reach a decision yesterday over the shutdown request and will meet again after the weekend, company official Mikio Inomata said. At issue is how to make up for the power shortages that would result from the shutdown of the three reactors. Inomata said they account for more than 10 per cent of the company's power supply.

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