Japanese PM foresees nuclear-free nation, no mention of stepping down

08:38, July 14, 2011      

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Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday said that he would pursue renewable and natural energy sources as the cornerstone of the future of Japan's energy policies, but declined to mention when he would step down for his bungled handling of the ongoing nuclear crisis.

The embattled prime minister, under fire from opposition parties and from senior ministers from within his own Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said during a nationally televised news conference that the government's slow response to the tsunami- triggered nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, in the days and weeks following the March 11 twin disasters, could have been mitigated were it not for delays in instructions between his office and the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency.

"My instructions as given in a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) following the Fukushima disaster, were for the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency, which is supposed to check the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), to be made more autonomous from the government."

"But I understand that the delay in my instructions caused trouble to the public," Kan said.

The prime minister also said that prior to the nuclear crisis in northeastern Japan, up until now, he has believed the government has needed to review the safety of nuclear power in Japan and said that the nuclear accident compounded his fears of the "great risk" nuclear power posed.

As such Kan proposed that from Thursday a new bill for renewable energy will be discussed in parliament as part of an overhaul of Japan's current nuclear energy policy.

In the short-term the prime minister said that he has asked for the suspension of the Hamaoka nuclear power plants and has introduced a two-pronged series of stress tests on the nation's nuclear facilities, to ensure the safety of the people and in line with the government's energy policy.

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