TOKYO - Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano on Monday suggested that the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan may have serious ramifications on the future of nuclear power in the country.
"We are investing all our time and effort to resolve this (nuclear) issue," Edano said.
"Afterwards we will seriously review the nation's overall nuclear supply policy taking into consideration this terrible disaster."
"There were plans to expand our nuclear energy program, but only once we have focused all our efforts to bring this situation to a successful end, can we have a solid view of the future of energy supplies in Japan," the chief cabinet secretary said.
Having said earlier Monday that the actions of Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO), owner and operator of the crippled power plant, to allow nuclear fuel rods to come into contact with water flooding the basement of damaged reactor buildings were "deplorable" and the utility's erroneous reading of radiation levels "completely unacceptable," the firm's plans to add more reactors to the six- unit facility are now highly unlikely.
In 2008, TEPCO said the commencement of four new nuclear power reactors would be postponed by one year due to the incorporation of new earthquake resistance technologies.
Due to this, new reactors No 7 and No 8 of the Daiichi facility were rescheduled to enter commercial operation in October 2014 and October 2015 respectively and reactor No 1 of the Higashidori plant in December 2015 and No 2 in 2018, according to the utility's plans.
But as a result of the ongoing crisis at the Daiichi facility, which has seen three workers hospitalized due to being soaked in radioactive water and a total of 19 exposed to dangerously high levels of radioactivity, as well as radiation leaking into the air, sea, local food produce and tap water - as far away as Tokyo, 240 km southwest of the plant - the expansion plans will in all likelihood be scrapped.
Edano last week hinted that once the facility had successfully gone through a cold shut down it would be decommissioned, and previous scandals, coverups and safety concerns at the aged, 40- year old facility that comprises some of the oldest reactors in the world, added to a long list of other, lesser-known nuclear accidents in Japan, will have the government's nuclear safety agency reevaluating the country's plans to expand its atomic energy program, sources close to the situation have said.
Nuclear accidents have occurred in the past two decades at plants in Tokaimura, Mihama, Monju among others, and five new plant construction projects have been canceled since 1994, following the a sodium leak and fire at Japan's Monju reactor, the severity of which was suppressed by the plant's operator.
Nuclear power accounts for roughly 25 percent of Japan's electricity and following the crisis in Fukushima, large regions in TEPCO's service area in Kanto have been subjected to rolling blackouts.
Following the Fukushima incident, a nuclear crisis comparable to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, China, Canada, Germany and the United States have ordered safety reviews or at least temporary halts to further construction of nuclear facilities, as the global debate about the safety of nuclear power plants in seismically sensitive regions intensifies.