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Abe Repeats Japan to Cut Nuclear Reliance as Much as Possible

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Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Japan will reduce its reliance on nuclear power, while also seeking to promote conservation and clean energy sources, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated in comments to parliament today.

“We will work to promote an energy conservation society and introduce renewable energy,” Abe said. “On that basis, reliance on nuclear power will be cut as much as possible.”

Abe was joined by economy minister Toshimitsu Motegi in telling lawmakers that nuclear energy, which once supplied more than a quarter of the nation’s electricity before the Fukushima accident, must still be part of Japan’s energy mix.

The government has proposed an energy plan that describes nuclear energy as “an important base load energy source.”

The draft presented by the government on Feb. 25 requires approval by the Cabinet. The draft will be reviewed by the ruling parties before Cabinet approval, Motegi said this week.

In addition to nuclear power, the program also defines hydroelectric, geothermal and coal power as continuous and low cost sources of energy for Japan.

The policy draft, first released in December by a government task force, signals a shift away from the previous government’s intention to phase out nuclear technology.

Some regional utilities in Japan have applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nuclear regulator, for safety checks following the Fukushima nuclear accident almost three years ago.

The regulator has declined to give any dates for approving safety improvements at reactors or naming plants that are further along in the safety assessments. It has said that no approvals will be given this fiscal year, which ends March 31.

The current situation “is not a good condition in terms of stable energy supply,” Motegi said today.

Japan has been burning more coal and natural gas to make up for the nuclear power shut down after Fukushima. The shift has come at a cost, leading to 19 consecutive months of trade deficits.

To contact the reporter on this story: Masumi Suga in Tokyo at msuga@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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