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Japan PM calls for nuclear-free future

Naoto Kan says Fukushima crisis has convinced him to aim for a society not dependent on nuclear power

Prime minister Naoto Kan said on Wednesday the Fukushima nuclear crisis had convinced him that Japan should aim at a society that does not depend on nuclear energy and eventually has no atomic plants.

The unpopular leader denied he was considering calling a snap election over energy policy and sidestepped a question on when he would keep a promise to step down, saying he wanted to do his best to work on nuclear policy and rebuild the country from the devastating 11 March earthquake and tsunami that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

"Given the enormity of the risks associated with nuclear power generation, I have realised nuclear technology is not something that can be managed by conventional safety measures alone," Kan told a news conference.

"I believe we should aim for a society that is not dependent on nuclear power generation."

He said it was premature to set a timeframe for achieving that goal.

Kan also said Japan would be able to avoid summer and winter power shortages because of energy conservation efforts and companies' in-house power supplies, despite the large number of reactors now offline for inspections or other work.

The unpopular prime minister has become increasingly sensitive to growing public concern about nuclear power, but whether he oversees an overhaul of energy policy is in doubt since he has promised to resign, although he has not said when.

Nuclear energy accounted for about 30% of Japan's power supply before the 11 March disasters crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant 240km (150 miles) north of the capital.

That ratio slipped to 18% in June.


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