Japan Prepares for Nuclear U-turn

From Financial Times

Japan’s plan for a nuclear-free society, which gathered momentum after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima nearly two years ago, looks set to be shortlived.

Since its electoral landslide in December, the Liberal Democratic party has wasted no time in setting the stage for a return to Japan’s former policy of promoting nuclear power as a major source of energy generation.

Shinzo Abe, who took over as prime minister last month, has given a clear indication that the government is looking to build new nuclear power plants, despite widespread public reservations in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.

“The new nuclear power plants we will build will be completely different from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which caused the accident, and those that were built 40 years ago,” Mr Abe said in a television appearance this week.

“We are likely to build new nuclear power plants on winning the public’s understanding,” he said.

Mr Abe’s comments came after Toshimitsu Motegi, his economy, trade and industry minister, said he would re-evaluate the previous administration’s ban on building new nuclear reactors.

The LDP’s pro-nuclear stance is a reversal of the previous administration’s commitment to phase out Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy by 2040, made in response to public fears about the safety of nuclear power.

A survey conducted by the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, just before the elections last month, showed that more than 60 per cent wanted to phase out nuclear energy completely.

In response to public concerns, the previous government halted all but two of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors and ordered them to undergo stringent safety inspections before being restarted.

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