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September 19, 2012


Business leaders criticize gov't nuclear power phaseout policy



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Leaders of Japan's major business groups on Tuesday criticized the government for setting a target of completely phasing out nuclear power in the 2030s, warning that such a move will seriously affect the economy.

It is rare for leaders of the three business groups, including the Japan Business Federation, the nation's most influential business lobby, to jointly hold a press conference to oppose a specific policy.

The business leaders said it would become difficult for Japanese companies to keep jobs in the country, as the phaseout policy would lead to higher electricity prices. They added that the target had been set without thorough study.

"It is extremely regrettable that our voices were not heard at all," Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, told the news conference in Tokyo. "We strongly urge the government to re-create a responsible energy strategy from scratch."

The Japanese government decided Friday that the nation will seek to phase out nuclear power completely sometime in the 2030s, approving a big shift in national energy policy following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Yonekura hinted that he may consider resigning from the government's national strategy council, where he serves as a private-sector member, saying, "I will consider various means," when asked whether he will continue in the post. Yonekura did not attend a meeting of the council held Tuesday.

At the press conference, Tadashi Okamura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he is "utterly unconvinced" by the government's plan as it fails to clarify solutions for alleviating the burden on people from the phaseout or show a path toward realizing a high level of energy saving.

The group "wants the plan to be created after a strict investigation that comprehensively assesses safety, stable supply and security of energy, as well as measures to deal with global warming," Okamura said.

Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, echoed the view, saying the government's decision will destabilize energy supply in Japan, an island country which is poor in energy resources such as fossil fuels and cannot receive electricity from other countries.

"It is important to secure mixes of various electricity sources as much as possible," Hasegawa said, adding that Japan also needs to contribute to the development of safe and effective nuclear power generation by utilizing its cutting-edge technology.

In Osaka, Shosuke Mori, chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, also expressed opposition to the policy, saying, "We strongly urge (the government) to withdraw it immediately."

At a news conference, Mori said a rise in electricity charges stemming from increased fuel costs to make up for nuclear power generation would lead to an "industrial decline," and demanded the government hold thorough discussions and study on the energy policy.




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