14 September 2011

Japan’s new PM intends to restart nuclear power plants

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has announced that he intends to restart the nuclear plants that were halted following the fallout of the Fukushima disaster.

Noda explained that his decision had been made on the basis that the country faces the very real prospect of power shortages in the near future. Addressing the Japanese parliament, Noda stressed that the reopening of discontinued plants was only a short term solution and that he remains committed to Japan’s goal of reducing its reliance on nuclear power. The announcement was made during Noda’s first policy speech since beginning his term in office a fortnight ago.

“It is not productive to see things in simple black and white, and talk in either anti-nuclear or pro-nuclear terms. We must move towards our mid- and long-term goals of lowering, as much as possible, our reliance on nuclear energy,” said Noda. Noda also added that he intends to rethink Japan’s energy policy in due course, and at the same time vowing to do the upmost in his power to increase the use of renewable energy.

The Prime Minister's predecessor, Nato Kan, made his stance on the country’s reliance on nuclear energy clear and made it his last call of duty to introduce a bill to encourage investment in renewable resources. With the rising cost of imported oil and gas, Kan saw investment in renewable resources as vital in Japan’s future energy plans, but Noda believes the more viable option would be to restart the two-thirds of nuclear power stations decommissioned under Kan's rule.

The decision is likely to provoke an angry reaction from some Japanese communities who are strongly opposed to reactor restarts. Since March’s quake a lack of confidence from the Japanese public towards the safety of nuclear power and the atomic industry has prevented and delayed idle plants being restarted.

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