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Japan to decide on nuclear-power policy: reports

15 september 2012, 10:56
0
The upper lid of the reactor pressure vessel. ©AFP
The upper lid of the reactor pressure vessel. ©AFP
Japan on Friday was set to decide on a post-Fukushima energy policy that will see it abandon nuclear power within the next three decades, AFP says citing reports.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet was due to meet later in the day, with Tokyo expected to announce soon after it would permanently shut down the entire fleet of atomic reactors by some time in the 2030s, Kyodo and Jiji Press news agencies reported, citing unnamed government officials.

The move would bring resource-poor Japan into line with Germany, which has said it will wean itself off nuclear power by 2022, and comes amid regular vocal protests against nuclear power.

Nuclear had provided around a third of the country's electricity before the disaster at Fukushima, when a huge tsunami swamped reactor cooling systems, sparking meltdowns and radiation leaks in the worst atomic accident for a generation.

In the months that followed, all of Japan's working reactors were shut down for routine safety checks, with only two of them ever having been restarted, and those in spite of strengthening anti-nuclear public opinion.

Japan is presently heavily dependent on oil from the Middle East and has been forced to ramp up its imports to make up the energy shortfall in the last 18 months.

Last week, Noda's ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) issued a policy recommendation saying Japan should "put every political resource to realise a situation where the number of nuclear plants operated be zero in the 2030s".

The DPJ listed three principles to achieve this: not constructing new nuclear plants, stopping old nuclear plants after 40 years of operation, and only approving the restart of nuclear plants that had passed safety checks by a nuclear regulator.

The policy paper recommended Japan make greater use of renewable energy, and take further energy saving measures, including the use of smart metering.

It also said Japan should develop resources in nearby waters and look to cheaper procurement of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels, including shale gas.

Ahead of a general election expected this autumn, nuclear energy has become a hot issue in Japan with regular protests that sometimes attract tens of thousands of people calling for it to be ditched.

At the same time the country's powerful business lobbies have worked hard to push for a restart of shuttered reactors, fearing power shortages.

Germany last year said it would shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022, while in Italy, a referendum rejected any resumption of nuclear energy generation, which was halted after the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl.

Switzerland has approved plans to close its five reactors by 2034. However a number of Asian countries are pushing ahead with expanding their nuclear programmes.

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