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Japan to aim for nuclear phaseout in 2030s: draft energy policy

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government is contemplating setting a target to abolish nuclear power generation in the 2030s under a new national energy policy, in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis last year, according to a draft of the policy obtained by Kyodo News on Wednesday.

“We will devote all policy resources to achieving zero nuclear power generation in the 2030s,” the draft said.

The draft said Japan will begin research on directly disposing of spent nuclear fuel, suggesting a shift in the current policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.

The draft also said the government will keep its word not to make Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted facilities for the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and storage of radioactive waste under the current nuclear fuel recycling plan, a final disposal site.

It added that the government will review Japan’s new energy policy, which may be finalized this week, every year through 2015 and every three years afterwards.

The government has been struggling to balance the pros and cons of nuclear power. The review of the energy policy is intended to give consideration to the concerns of some local governments, as well as the United States, over the possible phasing out of nuclear power generation by Japan in the 2030s, government officials said.

In the wake of last year’s Fukushima disaster, the government has been working to create a new national energy strategy as the current policy, which calls for increased reliance on nuclear power, is no longer tenable.

The Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has proposed that the government set a goal of completely eliminating nuclear power generation in the 2030s in the new policy.

On Wednesday, Noda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and other relevant ministers discussed how to address the concerns of local governments that are still willing to keep nuclear facilities as well as the United States, with which Japan has a civilian nuclear cooperation pact.

Noda also sent his special adviser Akihisa Nagashima and Hiroshi Ogushi, a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, to Washington to explain the new policy.

Under the plan, the government has listed 10 areas in which it will review energy policy, including Japan’s relations with the international community and local cooperation on hosting nuclear facilities.

The draft said the government would transform the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture into a research reactor.

To achieve a society that does not rely on nuclear power, Japan plans to limit the operation of existing reactors to up to 40 years since they first went online and not allow utilities to build new ones, according to the draft.

In the meantime, Japan will use existing nuclear reactors if they are confirmed as safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, it said.

Japan will also consider providing new support to local governments that have hosted nuclear plants for many years and receive subsidies to that end, the draft said.

The government is making last-ditch efforts to finalize the energy policy on Friday.

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