TOKYO, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The majority of Japanese say they want to end the country's dependence on nuclear power, a new report says.
The report, by a government panel of experts that analyzed recent polls on the country's attitudes toward nuclear power, says the majority of the public has expressed support zero nuclear dependency because of a growing "distrust in policy-making processes on nuclear policy and anxiety over the safety of nuclear power generation," The Daily Yomiuri newspaper reports.
The report also says that many of those who support "zero dependency" also want renewable energy and are willing to accept increased power costs for it.
The government says it plans to use the findings for its energy plan but an editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun cautions the government against deciding the nation's energy future on the basis of public opinion polls.
Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan was the third largest consumer of nuclear power, after the United States and France, with nuclear plants generating about one-third of Japan's electricity.
Japan was without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades in May when the last of its reactors was shut down for maintenance.
For its new energy plan, the Japanese government is considering three possible scenarios of nuclear power dependency in 2030: zero, 15 percent or 20-25 percent.
Sumio Saito, an energy consultant with Wind Connect Japan, a firm that promotes alternative energy, says there is no turning back to nuclear energy, even though that means Japan will consume more fossil fuels in the short term.
"Fossil fuels are needed in this transition period as Japan moves away from nuclear power," he told Inter Press Service.
"This could be viewed as a 'grace period' in the short term despite the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as a result," he said.
Figures from Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy indicate that if the country's 50 nuclear reactors were to close this year, power companies would face losses totaling $55.9 billion, leading to insolvency for at least four companies.
"People talk easily about shutting down Japan's nuclear power plants, but the economic and financial consequences are severe," Reiji Takeishi, professor in environmental economics at Tokyo International University was quoted by The New York Times as saying.
The Japan Business Federation, referred to as "Keidanren," argues that the three nuclear options are based on the assumption that a rise in electricity bills and a negative effect on economic growth are inevitable.
A rise in electricity bills, Keidanren says, would encourage companies to transfer their factories overseas, and higher electricity rates would make it difficult for many small- and middle-sized companies to survive.
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