Akiko Hirai says the Hamaoka power station 3 km from her home evokes such dread of the crippled Fukushima plant that she would spend ¥500,000 installing solar panels if it helped make Japan nuclear-free.

“Who can really guarantee that they’re 100 percent safe? I want nuclear plants to be halted if they’re so frail,” said the 53-year-old housewife, who’s lived in Shizuoka Prefecture for more than 20 years. “It’s not that I’m worried about myself, it’s my daughter and other small children I’m concerned about.”

Hirai helps illustrate Japan’s growing antinuclear movement in the wake of the world’s biggest nuclear accident since Chernobyl. That’s creating an opportunity for makers of solar equipment such as Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp. to capitalize on orders that analysts estimate may exceed $100 billion over the next decade, bringing down costs for consumers.

“It’s become clear we can’t keep relying on nuclear power or fossil fuels,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo. “Still, solar power is too expensive for the vmarket to bloom without subsidies. It’s easy to agree on the big picture but not so easy to determine who pays the price.”

Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., Japan’s two largest makers of nuclear reactors, have underperformed the Topix index, while shares of Panasonic and Sharp have outperformed the benchmark since last month’s disaster struck.

Last June, Japan laid out plans to build nine reactors by 2020 and at least five more the following decade to increase the nation’s portion of nuclear energy to 50 percent of overall power generation by 2030 from 29 percent in 2009. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said March 31 the country needs to revise those policies.

That means Japan will probably step up a campaign to encourage the use of solar cells for years at the expense of atomic power, Takashi Watanabe, a Tokyo-based analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote in an April 1 report. Solar may be the strongest option because of restrictions on where wind and thermoelectric power stations can be built, he said.

source: search.japantimes

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