TOKYO, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A government panel in Tokyo Friday introduced a plan to phase out nuclear power as a major source of electricity for Japanese consumers.
The deadly disaster at the Fukushima nuclear facility following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 has raised widespread concern about nuclear power in the earthquake-prone country, Voice of America reported.
The compromise plan calls for shutting down all nuclear power facilities by 2040. However, reactors found to be safe would be allowed to restart.
The new energy policy calls for investing almost $500 billion over the next two decades to expand renewable sources like wind and solar power.
Before the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima facility, about a third of Japan's electricity was produced by nuclear plants. All but two of the plants have been shut down since May.
Questions about the plants' ability to withstand natural disasters have raised significant resistance to the renewed use of nuclear power as a source of energy, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In a survey conducted by the government, 87 percent said they wanted to get rid of nuclear power altogether. Other polls have found opinions a little more nuanced -- 30 percent to 40 percent want a nuclear-free Japan while an equal number say nuclear power should be no more than 15 percent of total energy production.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to call for new elections by early next year and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party has not said whether it would be bound by the plan if it regained control.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies called the plan "very regrettable," arguing that it will raise energy prices and increase greenhouse gas emissions as the country falls back on more fossil fuels during the expansion of renewable energy sources.
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