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PM: Japan ‘can exist without nuclear power’

PM: Japan ‘can exist without nuclear power’ thumbnail

Japan’s prime minister says he wants the country to learn from its ongoing crisis and become less reliant on nuclear energy.

Naoto Kan told a news conference on Wednesday the risk of nuclear energy is too high and he wants to wean the nation off nuclear energy and eventually seek a society that can do without it.

He said Japan should develop renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. He said another pillar of Japan’s energy policy should be conservation.

Japan’s nuclear energy use has been scrutinised since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused partial meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant northeast of Tokyo.

“By reducing its reliance on nuclear power gradually, we will aim to become a society which can exist without nuclear power,” said Kan.

“Considering the grave risk of nuclear accidents, we strongly feel that we cannot just carry on based on the belief that we must only try to ensure (nuclear) safety.”

Kan earlier announced a full review of Japan’s energy plan, under which atomic power had been set to meet more than half the demand by 2030, up from about one third before the March 11 disaster.

The earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, which has leaked radiation into the air, soil and sea as a consequence of the meltdown.

With all but 19 of Japan’s 54 reactors now shut, mostly for regular checks, Japan is going through a power crunch in the sweltering summer months, and there are fears that outages could slow the already limping economy.

Promises of clean energy

The prime minister has said he wants to make clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal a new “major pillar” of the industrial power’s energy mix.

Telecom giant Softbank has announced plans to build 10 large-scale solar power plants. Its president Masayoshi Son and 36 of Japan’s 47 prefectures launched a council on Wednesday aimed at boosting renewables.

“If everything goes as scheduled, a renewable energy bill will be discussed in the Diet (legislature) starting tomorrow,” Kan said.

Even so, Al Jazeera’s Aela Callan, reporting from Tokyo, said that Kan’s speech contained “no detail” on targets for different types of clean energy to be used.

“All we heard was the predicted announcement that he wants to move the country away from nuclear power,” said Callan, who added that Kan did, however “quite successfully dodged a question over whether he would step down.”

The prime minister, Japan’s fifth in as many years, made the speech at a time when he is under intense pressure to step down from political adversaries who accuse him of having bungled Japan’s response to the tsunami.

Kan has clashed with plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over the Fukushima accident.

The prime minister scepticism about boosting nuclear power in the quake-prone island nation has also set him on a collision course with pro-nuclear politicians, both in the conservative opposition and within his own party.

“There are worries about power supply in Japan,” said Kaoru Yosano, Japan’s economy minister, earlier on Wednesday.

“Manufacturers may well consider moving plants to a country with a stable electricity supply or cheaper labour.”

Anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan has grown since the Fukushima disaster, and thousands have since protested at a string of rallies against TEPCO and nuclear power and for a shift towards alternative energy.


3 Comments on "PM: Japan ‘can exist without nuclear power’"

  1. DC on Thu, 14th Jul 2011 2:35 am 

    While the sentiment to switch over to renewables is a noble one, japan has some strengths and also weakness. For solar, Japan is the position where is has the skills to make all the panels they need, but lack the solar resources and above all, land, to make a serious go of it. They may have better luck with wind. Maybe geo-thermal? Japan sits on the ring of fire, maybe they can use that to there advanatage. One thing I dont doubt tho, is if Japan says there going to do something, they probably will, unlike some north american peoples I could mention….

    Constrast this with the US. They have huge solar potential, in the form of the SW deserts. But neither the ability to build advanced solar equipment, but more importantly, the will to built them. Being broke does help either. But Japan has the same problem. Fukishima may not bankruptt Japan, but its still going to be a big hit. The money that will be required to deal with fallout from fukishima, wont be available to move away from nukes.

  2. Roderick Beck on Thu, 14th Jul 2011 2:50 pm 


    You can’t run a country on renewables. Neither wind nor solar are reliable nor can the electricity they generate be stored at reasonable cost. Hydro is the only successful renewable energy and hydro is vulnerable to global warming induced declines in precipitation.

  3. Kenz300 on Fri, 15th Jul 2011 2:35 pm 

    Children in Japan are going to school wearing radiation monitors. Radiation hot spots have been detected outside the contamination zone and even in Tokyo. Meat and vegetables sold in stores have been found to contain high levels of radiation. The disaster in Japan continues without any end in sight. It is time for Japan to transition to safe, clean alternative energy.

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