Japan's Maehara: reactors can restart if new watchdog gives OK

TOKYO, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Japan's Economics Minister Seiji Maehara, who also oversees national strategy, said on Friday nuclear reactors can restart if a new regulator approves their safety, saying it is up to each utility to judge the need to use nuclear energy in a power mix for the time being.

"If safety is approved, such reactors would be considered as an important power source. We should rely on nuclear as an energy option for the time being," he said at a news conference.

Japan's new nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said this week it does not hold ultimate responsibility to authorise reactor restarts and is only concerned with safety.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet last month agreed on a new energy policy that aims to end the country's reliance on nuclear power but removed any reference to a target date to do so by the 2030s, which had been included in an earlier version of the plan.

All but two of the country's reactors are offline for safety checks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.

(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Michael Watson)


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