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Japan to abandon nuclear energy

Anti-nuclear protesters.

TOKYO — Japan’s government said it intends to stop using nuclear power by the 2030s, marking a major shift from policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that sought to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply.

Japan joins countries such as Germany and Switzerland in turning away from nuclear power after last year’s earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Japan was the third-biggest user of atomic energy before the disaster.

In abandoning atomic power, Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30 per cent of its energy mix, but will remain a top importer of oil, coal and gas for the foreseeable future.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unpopular government, which could face an election this year, had faced intense lobbying from industries to maintain atomic energy and also concerns from its major ally, the United States, which supplied it with nuclear technology in the 1950s.

“This is a strategy to create a new future,” a policy statement said, after key ministers finalized the decision on Friday. “It is not pie in the sky. It is a practical strategy.”

All but two of Japan’s nuclear 50 reactors are idled for safety checks and the government plans to allow restarts of units taken off line after the disaster if they are deemed safe by a new atomic regulator.

Japan’s growing anti-nuclear movement, which wants an immediate end to the use of atomic power, is certain to oppose any such proposal to secure electricity supplies by restarting reactors.

By applying a strict 40-year limit on the lifetime of reactors, most will be shut down by the 2030s. (Reuters)

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