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Japan Atomic Agency Says Renewable Power Can’t Replace Nuclear After Quake

Japan remains committed to nuclear power after a tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, leaking radiation, because the country needs non-polluting energy sources, the government’s nuclear safety spokesman said.

“While people may become more cautious, renewable energy alone isn’t sufficient, so nuclear power is essential,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a director general at the trade ministry, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday.

Workers have toiled round the clock to prevent Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plant from leaking more radiation into the air and sea, after a tsunami triggered by the magnitude-9 earthquake on March 11 damaged auxiliary generators running its cooling systems. The world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986 prompted officials in China and India and U.S. lawmakers to call for a review of atomic energy plans.

“You can yell all you like about nuclear power, but sooner or later you’ve got to decide how we’re going to keep the lights turned on,” David Wark, a professor in high energy physics at Imperial University in London, said by phone yesterday. “You’ve got three choices: freeze, burn a lot of fossil fuels or build nuclear power plants. All those countries that are planning to build nuclear plants, in the end they don’t have any choice.”

With almost no oil or gas reserves of its own, nuclear power has been a national priority for Japan since the end of World War II, a conflict the country fought partly to secure oil supplies. Japan has 54 operating nuclear reactors — more than any other country except the U.S. and France — to power its industries, pitting economic demands against safety concerns in the world’s most earthquake-prone country.

‘No Nuclear Armageddon’

“Events in Japan could rebound to nuclear power’s benefit,” Wark said. “When there is no nuclear Armageddon, you can imagine people thinking it was all overdone.”

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