TOKYO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated he would approve the construction of more nuclear reactors.
That's an about-face from the previous administration, led by the Democratic Party of Japan and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who announced in September its goal of zero nuclear power by the end of the 2030s.
So far only two of Japan's 50 reactors have been restarted following shutdowns after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
Abe had said he favored a reconsideration of Japan's nuclear energy policy after his Liberal Democratic Party won the Dec. 16 general election.
Abe, who formed his Cabinet Dec. 27, toured Fukushima Saturday.
The following day, Kyodo News reports, he told a Japanese news program, "The new reactors will be totally different from those at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 plant that caused the crisis. We will be building them with consent obtained from the Japanese people."
As one of its post-Fukushima measures, Noda's administration banned the building of new nuclear reactors that exist only in the blueprint stage, of which there are nine.
Construction is in progress on three other reactors, which Noda's administration had said could continue.
Separately, Asahi Shimbun reports that the number of Japanese households that have refused benefits – cash given directly to individuals -- for living near nuclear plants has almost doubled since the Fukushima disaster, a trend that the newspaper says reflects increasing opposition "to a system long criticized as paying off citizens to promote nuclear power."
While 14 of the country's prefectures paid $87 million in benefits to 1.03 million households in fiscal 2011, the report says, 171 households had declined the benefits, representing an increase of 80 percent from 2010.
Japan started the system of benefits in fiscal 1981, to seek understanding and cooperation for nuclear power the newspaper says.
Electric utility companies pay the benefits, which are funded by taxes collected as part of electricity bills, on behalf of municipal governments. The amounts paid are based on the power generation capacity of the nuclear power plants) and other factors.
But Shuji Shimizu, a professor of regional finance at Fukushima University, categorized the payments as a blatant example of dispensing favors.
"I think a growing number of people in areas around nuclear power plants are saying 'no' to such a practice by rejecting the benefits," Shimizu said in the Asahi report.
Reports surfaced 10 years ago that utilities had collected names of those who had refused benefits, labeling some as nuclear opponents and provided that information to local governments.
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