The disaster-struck country would work to cut its use of nuclear energy to zero by 2040 by eventually shutting down its stable of reactors, which once supplied resource-poor Japan with about one-third of its energy. “The government will introduce every possible policy resource that would enable nuclear power generation to be at zero during the 2030s,” the paper said. The move would bring resource-poor Japan into line with Italy, Switzerland and Germany, which has said it will wean itself off nuclear power by 2022, and comes amid regular vocal protests against nuclear power. Tokyo’s new energy policy calls for shutting down reactors that are more than 40 years old, not building any new nuclear reactors and only restarting existing reactors if they pass standards issued by a new regulatory agency. Ahead of a general election expected this autumn, nuclear energy has become a hot issue in Japan with regular protests that sometimes attract tens of thousands of people calling for it to be ditched. The decision on Friday comes about 18 months after a huge tsunami swamped reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, sparking meltdowns and radiation leaks in the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986. In the months that followed, all of Japan’s working reactors were shut down for routine safety checks, with only two of them ever having been restarted, and those in spite of strengthening anti-nuclear public opinion. Japan is now heavily dependent on Middle East oil and has been forced to ramp up its imports to make up the energy shortfall since the accident. Last week, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) said Japan should aim to cut nuclear power and released a policy paper that recommended the country make greater use of renewable energy, and take further energy saving measures, including the use of smart metering. It also said Japan should develop resources in nearby waters and look to cheaper procurement of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels, including shale gas. At the same time the country’s powerful business lobbies have worked hard to push for a restart of shuttered reactors, fearing power shortages. Germany last year said it would shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022, while in Italy, a referendum rejected any resumption of nuclear energy generation, which was halted after the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl. Switzerland has approved plans to close its five reactors by 2034. However a number of Asian countries are pushing ahead with expanding their nuclear programmes. (AFP)]]>

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