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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Japan must lead way on nuclear energy, say advisors

A government advisory body on Friday urged Tokyo to take the lead in promoting nuclear energy worldwide as part of efforts to fight global warming.

Japan is struggling to meet its obligations to slash greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol and is also being hit hard by high oil prices as Asia's largest economy has virtually no natural energy resources.

The Atomic Energy Commission, which is in charge of setting the country's nuclear energy policies, made the call for more nuclear power in an annual paper submitted Friday to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet.

"Our country should work for the international community to have a common recognition that an expansion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy is inevitable as a measure against global warming," it said.

The commission forecast the number of nuclear reactors worldwide will surge to 790 by about 2030. There were 435 in 2006, when nuclear energy accounted for some 16 percent of global power generation.

Calls are growing for the use of nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse gases, at a time of high oil prices and growing consciousness about global warming.

US President George W. Bush in 2006 launched a push to resume construction of nuclear power plants which was halted after an accident at the Three Mile Island station in 1979 when a reactor was destroyed.

Nuclear cooperation is expected to be high on the agenda during a trip to Japan next month by Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France, the only member of the Group of Eight industrial powers that relies on nuclear power for more than half of its energy needs.

But there is wide opposition to atomic energy in Japan, the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world's largest nuclear power plant, located northwest of Tokyo, was hit last year by an earthquake, causing a fire, a small radiation leak and the shutdown of the plant.

(Source: AFP)

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