At Thursday’s Diet session, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged that nuclear plants that pass the new safety guidelines could restart within the year. This is to ensure maintenance of a stable energy supply. He mentioned that Japan had learned the need for stricter standards of safety after the Fukushima accident, which forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people. He stressed that the new safety standards will be implemented “without compromise.”
Right now, only two of the 50 operable nuclear reactors are online, after all the rest have been shut down following the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which emitted radiation over the region when the earthquake and tsunami damaged vital cooling systems. Leaders of the previous Democratic Party-led government vowed to slowly phase out nuclear power by the 2030s to be replaced with cleaner alternatives. Abe, however, said that Japan must have stable and cheap electricity from nuclear power if it wants to compete economically.
While Abe was firm in his stand of strict enforcement of the new safety guidelines, he failed to say when exactly the plants that meet safety standards may start operations. During his speech, he also made mention that Japan will continue to seek alternatives so that dependence on nuclear energy may be lessened; but not to the extent of eliminating it.[via NY Times]