TOKYO, June 22 (Reuters) - An advisory panel to Japan’s trade ministry on Wednesday pushed for a full restart of nuclear power generation in the country, warning of a hollowing out of industry and a 7.6 trillion yen ($95 billion) price tag if fears of power shortages linger.
Over three months after a massive earthquake and tsunami, workers are still trying to stabilise reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, nuclear capacity elsewhere remains offline and the country is questioning its reliance on atomic energy.
The panel, which includes executives from companies such as Toyota Motor Corp , Nippon Steel Corp and Toshiba Corp , said that the quake has raised fears of higher electricity costs, revealed supply chain vulnerabilities and damaged Japan’s brand.
Not resuming operations at nuclear reactors that are now undergoing maintenance will lead to power shortages around Japan, while replacing all energy generated by nuclear reactors with thermal power generators would cause crippling costs for industry, the panel said in a draft report.
The trade ministry hopes to use the panel’s advice as a springboard for future policy, as it looks to prevent an exodus of companies.
The panel also called for utilities to buy back power conserved by companies, as well as for measures to encourage the consolidation of firms and for lower corporate taxes.
“Many overseas customers are taking their business elsewhere, fearing future disruptions to Japan’s supply chain,” said ministry official Shuzo Takada.
“Japanese executives are clearly considering moving production bases abroad.”
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry found that about 70 percent of the firms it polled said they expected more companies in their supply chains to move some production overseas. ($1 = 80.270 Japanese Yen) (Reporting by Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Joseph Radford)