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Japan's economic development requires nuke power: lawmaker

TAIPEI -- Japan's economic development requires nuclear power plants, but the plants must pass strict safety checks before they can resume operations, a visiting Japanese parliamentarian said in a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, a member of the House of Representatives in Japan's Diet, was asked by Ma about how Japan has coped since stopping operations at all of its nuclear power plants after a nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011 and its plans to restart some of them.

Hosoda said Japan's electricity rates have risen by an average of 20 percent since the across-the board shutdown, and if the nuclear power controversy is not settled, rates will go up again.

This will affect Japan's international competitiveness, foreign investment and job market and drag down the country's economy, the lawmaker said.

At present, Hosoda said, many nuclear power plants in Japan have applied to resume operations, and it is expected that at least one will restart in the winter at the latest.

Other nuclear power plants will go into operation after passing safety checks under Japan's new policy, he said.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party government approved a new energy policy earlier this month to restart nuclear energy, marking a U-turn from the previous government's plans to phase out atomic energy.

Asked by President Ma about the Japanese people's response to the new policy, Hosoda said there will always be a certain number of people in Japanese society who oppose nuclear power.

The government needs to work harder to explain to them the essential role nuclear power plays in Japan's economy, the parliamentarian said.

Though he did not address Taiwan's nuclear power situation, Hosoda did say that the main difference between the two countries is that Japan faces stronger earthquakes and tsunamis than does Taiwan.

He called the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011 and left nearly 20,000 people dead and missing a “once-in-1,000-years” phenomenon.

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