The energy policy the Cabinet advisory panel proposed last Friday calls for greater reliance on renewable energy, more conservation and sustainable use of fossil fuels to achieve a nuclear-free society by 2040.
Such a reversal of Japan's decades-long advocacy of nuclear power is popular with the public, but faces strong resistance from powerful business interests and communities where nuclear plants are located are loath to give up their huge government subsidies.
To blunt outright opposition, the energy plan left many details undecided, and among the biggest are spent fuel processing and radioactive waste disposal. That allows a fuel recycling program at a plant in northern Japan's Rokkasho to continue. It also leaves unanswered how Japan will avoid accumulating stockpiles of spent plutonium in violation of its non-proliferation commitments.
The proposed phase-out of nuclear power by the 2030s was to be achieved mainly by retiring aging reactors and not replacing them. It calls for limiting each reactor to a 40-year lifespan and for building no more new reactors.
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