Saturday September 15, 2012
Japan to complete reactors despite no-nuclear policy
TOKYO: Japan said Saturday it would go ahead with planned work to complete three new nuclear power reactors, despite saying a day earlier it would phase out atomic power generation by 2040.
The construction of the reactors at three different plants was suspended after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis on March 11 last year - the worst such accident in a generation.
"We don't intend to withdraw the permission that has already been given by the ministry," Yukio Edano, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said as he met local administrators in Aomori, northern Japan, according to reports.
Two of the reactors are located at plants in Aomori while the third is in the western district of Shimane.
Edano added, however, that the start-up of the reactors would be subject to approval by a newly created government commission to regulate nuclear power.
On Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government adopted a new energy policy, including the nuclear phase-out, in what was widely seen as bowing to public pressure after the Fukushima disaster.
Nuclear energy has become a hot issue in Japan ahead of a snap general election expected this autumn. Protests have attracted tens of thousands of people calling for atomic power to be ditched.
The new policy calls for reactors more than 40 years old to be shut down, plans to build more nuclear reactors to be shelved and existing reactors only to be restarted if they pass standards issued by the new regulatory agency.
Japan turned off its 50 reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster but has restarted two of them due to the possibility of summertime power shortages.
Japanese newspapers were divided over the new energy policy.
The influential Asahi Shimbun called the nuclear phase-out "realistic", stressing that "nuclear power plants face enormous risks and electric power companies have totally lost the nation's trust".
But the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said the government should first have outlined how it intended to meet the shortfall in energy production.
"It is extremely irresponsible for the government to tout 'zero nuclear power generation' without drawing up concrete steps to secure electric power in a stable manner," it said. - AFP