Japan: Prime Minister Kan slams nuclear energy, goes green

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Kan slams nuclear energy, goes green


The Asahi Shimbun, English Web Edition, May 12, 2011

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his administration intends to dump plans to get half of the nation’s future energy needs from nuclear power and instead place greater reliance on renewable energy sources.
“I believe there’s a need to start from a clean slate in discussing the basic energy plan,” Kan said at a news conference May 10.

The prime minister was referring to a plan approved last year to construct at least 14 additional nuclear reactors by 2030 — a move that would ensure that about 70 percent of all power generation would be free of carbon dioxide emissions.

While nuclear energy was expected to account for more than 50 percent of the power generated, the remaining 20 percent would come from renewable energy sources.

Kan said further discussions would now be needed on the basic plan, indicating the possibility that approval would not be granted for the construction of new nuclear reactors.

Kan said: “While nuclear energy and fossil fuels have been the two main pillars of electric power, we will include renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass, as a major energy component. We will also create an energy conservation society.”

The prime minister added that further measures would be implemented to improve the safety of nuclear power.

However, central government officials have yet to specify what forum would be used to discuss revision of the energy basic plan as well as any timetable for discussions.

Kan also said he would forego his pay as prime minister from June until the situation at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is resolved. He currently receives about 1.72 million yen ($21,000) a month, with 930,000 yen being the amount he is paid for serving as prime minister.

Kan also abruptly turned his back on the nuclear power industry, saying, “I would like to express my apologies because in addition to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, the central government also bears a major responsibility for having promoted nuclear energy as a national policy.”

He also indicated an independent committee would be established to look into nuclear accidents.

He said three principles would be emphasized in the creation of the new committee: independence from traditional nuclear energy administration; openness to the public and international community; and comprehensiveness in its coverrage of the technology, structure and organization.

The committee’s main task would be uncovering the cause of nuclear accidents.

When asked about compensation for the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Kan said: “We are now proceeding with establishing a compensation plan. While primary responsibility lies with TEPCO, the central government will also assume responsibility to ensure appropriate compensation is provided.”

Regarding measures announced by TEPCO to reduce expenditures, Kan said: “We believe that is part of the efforts that will have to be made. We will have to think about whether the measures are sufficient in the course of future discussions.”