Japan set to reduce nuclear reliance

Updated: 2011-09-20 11:13


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Japan set to reduce nuclear reliance

Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono makes a speech during the 55th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference at the UN headquarters in Vienna September 19, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

VIENNA - There is political consensus in Japan to cut the country's reliance on nuclear power but there needs to be a public debate on how to proceed, a senior Japanese government official told the UN's atomic agency on Monday.

Nuclear Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono was speaking hours after 60,000 demonstrators marched in Tokyo to demand an exit from atomic energy after the Fukushima plant catastrophe.

"In Japan there is a kind of consensus that we would like to reduce the dependency on nuclear power, but the speed with which that would be achieved or the method that would be used to attain such a target has yet to be identified," Hosono told a news conference.

"Perhaps it will take a full year to discuss with the wider public in Japan to identify how energy policy should be."

New Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, taking office with virtually no cohesive energy policy in place since the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, has said it would be difficult to build new reactors.  

Noda has also said he would like to see reactors shut for safety checks to restart by next April in order not to undermine the world's third biggest economy.  

Six months after a huge earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant and caused the biggest civil nuclear power accident since Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, only 11 of the country's 54 reactors are in operation.