Japan to restructure energy policy

Japan to restructure energy policy Tokyo: Japan will scrap a plan to increase nuclear power from 30 per cent to half of the nation's energy source by 2030 and will promote renewable energy as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis, the Prime Minister said Tuesday.

Naoto Kan told a news conference that Japan needs to "start from scratch" on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and has been leaking radiation ever since.

Kan said nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy but now it will add two more renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and a conservation-oriented society.

"We will thoroughly ensure safety for nuclear power generation and make efforts to further promote renewable energy," an area where Japan has lagged behind Europe and the US, he said.

Kan also said he would take a pay cut beginning in June until the Fukushima nuclear crisis is resolved to take responsibility as part of the government that has promoted nuclear energy. He didn't specify how much of a pay cut he would take.

The operator of the stricken power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, has been struggling for nearly two months to restore critical cooling systems that were knocked out by the disaster.

Some 80,000 people living within a 20-kilometre radius of the plant were evacuated from their homes on March 12, with many living in gymnasiums.

On Tuesday, about 100 evacuees were allowed into that exclusion zone briefly to gather belongings from their homes.

The excursion marked the first time the government has felt confident enough in the safety of the area to sanction even short trips there. Residents have been pushing hard for weeks for permission to check up on their homes.

The evacuees just a fraction of the tens of thousands forced to flee when the plant started leaking radiation after the quake and tsunami boarded chartered government buses for the two-hour visit.

They were provided with protective suits, goggles and face masks to wear while in the zone, and were issued plastic bags to put their belongings in.

They were also given dosimeters to monitor radiation levels and walkie-talkies. All were to be screened for radiation contamination after leaving the 20-kilometre zone.

More visits are planned, but residents fear they may never be able to return for good.

Many had been secretly sneaking back into the zone during the day, but the government concerned over safety and the possibility of theft began enforcing stricter road blocks and imposing fines on April 22.