6 Août 2012
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Monday he will instruct his Cabinet members to consider what kind of challenges the government could face if it decided to reduce Japan's dependency on nuclear power to zero.
It is the first time that Noda has referred to the possibility of eventually abolishing all nuclear power plants in the country in the future.
He appears to be paying attention to public opinion, with growing numbers taking part in the antinuclear demonstrations outside his office every Friday, which have drawn tens of thousands of people in recent weeks.
"We believe we should aim to reduce dependency on nuclear power over the medium to long term," Noda told a press conference after attending the annual peace ceremonies in Hiroshima commemorating the U.S. atomic bombings of the city in 1945.
Opposition to nuclear energy is increasing especially after Noda's government decided in June to reactivate two nuclear reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture for the first time since Japan suffered its worst nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi complex last year.
The government said that about 70 percent of the Japanese citizens who expressed a desire to speak at government hearings on the future of nuclear power supported the so-called zero option. A series of hearings in 11 cities was held from July 14 through Saturday.
Noda has reiterated that the resumption of power plants is necessary for the time being to avoid power shortages. The Nos. 3 and 4 nuclear reactors at the Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast have already been restarted.
The premier, meanwhile, suggested at the press conference that more time could be needed before the government maps out its new energy and environment strategy, which it had initially planned to finalize by the end of August.
"Nationwide discussions need to be deepened," Noda said.
Noda to examine issues to end nuclear dependence
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says he'll ask his ministers to clarify what issues lay ahead if the country should end its dependence on nuclear energy.
Noda told reporters in Hiroshima on Monday that he wants to see a thorough discussion on the matter, rather than rushing to reach a conclusion.
He indicated that he won't insist on sticking to the government's initial target of the end of this month in deciding the country's new energy policy.
The government has been holding public hearings nationwide as it reviews its energy policy in the wake of last year's accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The participants discussed 3 options for the ratio of nuclear power reliance in 2030 -- zero percent, around 15 percent, or between 20 to 25 percent.
Many of them voiced support for the zero-percent option.
Nuclear energy accounted for nearly 30 percent of Japan's total power generation before the accident.