Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday will outline a plan to scale back nuclear power and boost renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, reports said. The embattled leader, who says he personally favors a complete phase-out of atomic power in quake-prone Japan, is due to present an energy policy “roadmap” with goals for 2020 and 2050, a leading newspaper reported.
Kan has resisted heavy pressure to resign and was forced to tone down his call for an eventual nuclear-free Japan after angry protests from business groups and pro-nuclear politicians in the opposition and his own party.
The new energy roadmap, drafted by the cabinet’s Energy and Environment Council, will “draw up a scenario that aims to reduce the reliance on nuclear energy”, the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun reported.
Japan until recently relied on nuclear plants for about 30% of its energy needs and had planned to boost that to 50% by 2030, but Kan has since called for a review “from scratch” of that plan.
More than four months since the March 11 quake and tsunami sparked the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster, only 16 of Japan’s 54 reactors are operational, with most of the shut plants undergoing safety checks.
Kan, a one-time environmental activist, has pledged to boost clean, alternative energy sources to 20% of the energy mix by the 2020s. They now make up about 9%, most of it hydroelectric power.
Under the new energy plan, the government would aim to reduce the dominance of Japan’s regional power companies and consider withdrawing their responsibility for operation of electricity transmission grids, the Asahi said.
The government would also promote private investment in renewable energy in regional areas, which “will create sources of economic growth,” the Asahi said.
In addition, the government would set up a panel to reassess the total cost of atomic power, factoring in the amount of compensation likely to be required for the victims of the Fukushima accident, the Asahi said.
A recent Kyodo poll found 70% of people expressed full or qualified support for Kan’s call for a society that does not rely on nuclear power.
The survey also found that public support for the Kan cabinet had fallen to 17%, the lowest level since it took power a little over a year ago.