Japan to reduce reliance on nuclear power?

Sept. 13, 2011 at 1:19 PM
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TOKYO, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Japan aims to reduce dependence on nuclear power, new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Tuesday in his first policy address to Parliament.

Noda's stance contrasts with that of his predecessor Naoto Kan, who called for Japan to end its reliance on nuclear energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the radiation-leaking crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Kan was widely criticized for his handling of the response to the crisis.

While Japan must try to reduce dependence on nuclear energy "as much as possible" in the mid- to long-term, Noda said, nuclear power stations would restart after regular inspections in which safety "has been thoroughly verified and confirmed, under the premise that a relationship of trust is developed with the local government."

Japan's Nuclear Safety and Security Agency would be established as an affiliated agency under the Ministry of the Environment and work to "boldly unify regulations" for nuclear power safety, Noda said.

He said Japan will introduce a new energy plan around summer 2012 to replace its current policy, set to expire in 2030.

Under Japan's previous energy plan, prior to the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power had been set to meet more than half of demand by 2030, up from about one-third. In his first speech to the nation as prime minister Sept. 2, Noda said it was "unrealistic" to build new reactors and that existing reactors would be decommissioned at the end of their life spans.

Only 12 of Japan's 54 commercial nuclear power plant reactors are currently in operation.

Pointing to the nation's limited fossil fuel resources and advanced technological power, the Noda also said Japan must take the lead globally on new forms of energy, presenting "a cutting edge model for energy conservation and renewable energies."

A report from Greenpeace International says that by switching to renewable energy, Japan could permanently shut down all its nuclear stations by 2012 and maintain economic growth and meet its carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.

Greenpeace's plan calls for Japan's solar power and wind energy generation to increase from the current level of 3,500 megawatts to 47,200 megawatts by 2015.

"The tremendous potential of Japan's renewable energy industry not only allows it to retire its existing nuclear plants, but provides a huge opportunity to boost the economy by creating thousands of green jobs," Greenpeace International Renewable Energy Campaign Director Sven Teske said in a statement.

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