JAPAN | Kan wants to phase out N-power / ‘Accidents cannot be prevented’

Posted on July 13, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI | 13 July 2011

Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Wednesday evening that he would put the government’s current basic energy plan back on the drawing board and make the nation’s future energy policy not dependent on nuclear power generation.

“I will aim to make the country not dependent on nuclear power,” Kan told a press conference held at the Prime Minister’s Office. “I will lower the nation’s dependence on it in stages and try to achieve a society that can function without nuclear power in the future.”

The prime minister’s announcement apparently reflects increasing public anxiety about the safety of nuclear power generation in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“Before the March 11 nuclear crisis, I thought that we should utilize nuclear power plants while securing their safety,” Kan said.

However, he has changed his stance after seeing the colossal damage caused by the nuclear crisis.

“I have realized that nuclear accidents cannot be prevented completely with the conventional safety measures we have at present,” he added.

His announcement is a complete turnaround of the government’s basic energy plan, which focuses on constructing at least 14 new nuclear reactors by 2030 to increase the ratio of nuclear power generation drastically as a percentage of the total electricity supply from the current 26 percent to 53 percent. The government’s basic energy plan was formulated in June last year.

But, the prime minister failed to reveal specific practical measures, a detailed schedule or numerical targets to realize his new policy during the press conference.

Kan said dependence on nuclear power could be reduced because enough power can be secured this summer and winter if electricity conservation measures are promoted and surplus electricity by in-house power generation facilities can be utilized.

However, he added that this policy change could not be fully realized in his term.

The prime minister also explained the confusion over the restart of reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture.

“I am sorry for causing inconvenience due to the delay of my instructions [concerning the restart],” Kan said. “I would like to apologize to the people concerned.”

Kan apparently wanted public understanding on the new energy policy by explaining them himself. However, he categorically denied the possibility of dissolving the House of Representatives to hold a snap election over the policy change on nuclear power.

“I never considered dissolving the lower house on this issue,” Kan said.

However, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey, more than 70 percent of people questioned thought that Kan should step down as prime minister by the end of August when the current Diet session ends.

As for when the lower house should be dissolved and a general election held, 29 percent said it should be by the end of this year and 22 percent said it should be as soon as possible.

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