TOKYO, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The Japanese government has formed an energy panel to revise the country's energy policy.
The panel, created under the energy advisory committee of the Industry Ministry "will probe a road Japan will take over the next 100 or 200 years," said Japan's new Trade Minister Yukio Edano said Tuesday during the group's first meeting.
Under Japan's previous energy plan, prior to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, nuclear power had been set to meet more than half of demand by 2030, up from about one-third.
Headed by Nippon Steel Corp. Chairman Akio Mimura, the panel plans to devise a new energy plan for the resource-poor nation as early as next summer. Nearly half of its 25 members oppose nuclear power generation.
Edano urged the panel to thoroughly explore the nation's future energy policy and not feel constrained by the current energy situation, saying, "Since the (Fukushima) accident, citizens' opinions and their trust on nuclear power have changed substantially."
Mitsui Co. Chairman Shoei Utsuda, also a member of the panel, called for deliberate discussions on nuclear power from a global perspective.
"I think it will be important for Japan to keep contributing to the world by improving nuclear technologies, from the standpoint of the nation's energy policy and its diplomatic strategy," Utsuda said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated last Friday that it would be "difficult" to build any new reactors in the country. He has said that while his administration aims to restart nuclear plants that are now closed for maintenance or repairs once their safety is assured, the future of the facilities is still uncertain.
Only 12 of Japan's 54 commercial power plant reactors are in operation.
Separately, a panel created under Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry confirmed seven instances in which government officials asked power companies to organize participants to express pro-nuclear views during government-sponsored symposiums on nuclear energy.
The ministry said Tuesday it would punish six ministry officials -- including a former public relations director at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency -- over their roles in the manipulation of public opinion at the symposiums, most of which took place from 2006-08.
"It is outrageous that things like this had happened with regard to the nuclear power administration, where citizens' trust is of utmost importance," Edano said.