Japan P.M.: New nuclear plants possible

Dec. 31, 2012 at 12:58 AM

TOKYO, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- New reactors can be built with people's consent, Japan's new prime minister said, which would alter the previous regime's policy to phase out nuclear power.

"New reactors will be totally different from those at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant that caused the crisis," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on a TV program. "We will be building them with consent obtained from the Japanese people."

The Tepco-operated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant set off Japan's greatest nuclear crisis after being crippled in the catastrophic March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the northeast part of the country.

That led to strong public reaction against reliance on nuclear energy and the decision by the previous government of the Democratic Party of Japan, led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, to phase out nuclear power and close nuclear power plants by the 2030s. Currently, only two of the 50 reactors are online.

Noda's government was defeated in this month's parliamentary elections by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.

Since taking over as the new leader, the Abe government has indicated willingness to review the previous government's nuclear energy policy. Kyodo News said Abe's latest comment appeared to be moving further along in that direction.

Any review of the previous government's policy, however, would give highest priority to safety.

During the weekend, Abe toured the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor and thanked its employees involved in decommissioning the plant.

"I know the decommissioning process is hard work. But it is progressing well and we owe it all to you," Abe said.

In an earlier editorial, the Mainichi Daily News urged the new government not to overturn the zero nuclear policy, saying the

Fukushima plant disaster "has demonstrated the grave consequences of a severe accident and the danger of hosting nuclear plants in this quake-prone country, on top of the government's shoddy nuclear regulation in the past."

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