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Japan will scrap a plan to increase nuclear power to half of the nation's energy source by 2030 and will promote renewable energy as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis. Koji Sasahara/AP/Press Association Images

Japan scraps plans to build any further nuclear plants

Following the result of the country’s nuclear crisis, the Japanese Prime Minister has announced that Japan needs to “start from scratch” and embrace renewable sources of energy.

JAPAN WILL SCRAP a plan to obtain half of its electricity from nuclear power and will instead promote renewable energy as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis, the prime minister announced today.

Naoto Kan said Japan needs to “start from scratch” on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a 11 March earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation.

Last year, the Japanese government announced a plan to build a further 14 nuclear reactors by 2030, with an aim of increasing the country’s reliance on  nuclear energy from 30 to 50 per cent, the New York Times reports.

Kan told a news conference that nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy but now it will add two more — renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and an increased focus on conservation.

“We will thoroughly ensure safety for nuclear power generation and make efforts to further promote renewable energy,” an area where Japan has lagged behind Europe and the US, he said.

Pay cut

Kan also said he would take a pay cut beginning in June until the Fukushima nuclear crisis is resolved to take responsibility as part of the government that has promoted nuclear energy. He didn’t specify how much of a pay cut he would take.

The operator of the stricken power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, has been struggling for nearly two months to restore critical cooling systems that were knocked out by the disaster. Some 80,000 people living within a 20-kilometre radius of the plant were evacuated from their homes on 12 March, with many living in gymnasiums.

On Tuesday, about 100 evacuees were allowed into that exclusion zone briefly to gather belongings from their homes.

The excursion to Kawauchi village marked the first time the government has felt confident enough in the safety of the area to allow even short trips there. Residents have been pushing hard for weeks for permission to check up on their homes.

The evacuees boarded chartered government buses for the two-hour visit.

They were provided with protective suits, goggles and face masks to wear while in the zone, and were issued plastic bags to put their belongings in. They were also given dosimeters to monitor radiation levels and walkie-talkies.

All were to be screened for radiation contamination after leaving the zone.

More visits are planned, but residents fear they may never be able to return for good.

Many had been secretly sneaking back into the zone during the day, but the government — concerned over safety and the possibility of theft — began enforcing stricter roadblocks and imposing fines on 22 April.

The official visits were seen as a compromise that took both safety and the wishes of the residents into consideration.

Cold shutdown

The government and TEPCO in April projected that bringing the plant to a cold shutdown could take six to nine months and residents might be able to return to resume their lives. But they admit that timing is a best-case scenario.

TEPCO released an image of the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool, where fuel rods were covered with debris from explosions in March that damaged the building’s roof and walls. But officials said the fuel rods, protected by a metal screen, are believed to be largely undamaged.

The reactor’s rising core temperature has become a new headache. Nuclear Industry and Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said officials suspect that not all of the cooling water may be entering the pressure container as intended.

Kan said Japan will have to compile Japan’s new energy policy in a report for submission to the International Atomic Energy Agency in June. He didn’t give any numerical estimates for each source of energy in the new policy. “The committee will be independent from existing nuclear administrative organisations,” Kan said, adding: “It will be independent, open and comprehensive in nature”, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Additional reporting by AP

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