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Japan PM pledges to reduce atomic power use

Japan's PM Yoshihiko Noda calls for a new energy policy by summer of 2012 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster

AFP , Tuesday 13 Sep 2011
Noda
Japan's Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda (Photo:AP)
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Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday pledged to draw up a new energy policy "by summer" 2012 but stopped short of ruling out the future use of nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.

He added that Japan should take the opportunity to show the world a cutting edge model of energy saving and deployment of renewable energy.

"We should aim to reduce our dependence on nuclear power as much as possible over the medium- and long-terms," Noda said in a broad-brush policy speech to parliament, his first after becoming premier two weeks ago.

However, he did not rule out future use of nuclear power -- something his unpopular predecessor Naoto Kan had aimed to do -- and said reactors that are currently offline for maintenance would be restarted.

"It is unproductive to think only in the dichotomy of getting rid of nuclear power generation and promotion of it," he said.

Before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the following disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Japan had previously aimed to use nuclear power to generate around 50 percent of its energy needs by 2030.

The goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the energy independence of the resource-poor archipelago.

But sentiment has shifted in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant's cooling systems, sparking reactor meltdowns that spewed radiation into the environment forcing tens of thousands to evacuate from a 20 kilometre (12 mile) radius.

Radiation fears have become part of daily life after cases of contaminated water, beef, vegetables, tea and seafood due to the Fukushima accident. The government has been at pains to stress the lack of an "immediate" health risk.

Reactors that were halted for routine inspections have not been restarted amid a public backlash against nuclear power, and currently only 11 of Japan's 54 reactors are online.

The definition of a new energy policy is crucial for Japanese industry that this summer was forced to reduce peak power consumption to avoid power blackouts.

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