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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced today that Japan plans to begin restarting its idled nuclear plants later this year. All 50 of Japan’s nuclear reactors were taken offline after a meltdown occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following a devastating tsunami almost two years ago. In the wake of the disaster, Japanese politicians vowed to phase out nuclear power in favor or renewable energy, but the announcement today by Abe signals a change of course back to nuclear. The news coincides with a new report from the World Health Organization that cancer risks are 70 percent higher for female infants living near Fukushima.
Following the 2011 meltdown, then-prime minister Naoto Kan called for a complete phase-out of nuclear energy. Then, last spring, Japan shut down its last operating nuclear power plant, marking the first time since 1970 the country sourced zero of its energy from nuclear power. But it didn’t last long; by June of last year, two reactors in Fukui prefecture were restarted. Now, it appears that many more reactors could soon be restarted.
Although nuclear power is particularly unpopular in Japan following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Abe says that nuclear reactors must be restarted in order to ensure a stable power supply across the country. In a speech to the Japanese Parliament, Abe said that nuclear power plants will have to pass more rigorous safety guidelines, which will be overseen by an independent watchdog agency. Abe said that the new safety standards will be enforced “without compromise,” according to a report published by the New York Times.
In addition to calling for nuclear power plants to be restarted, Abe said that Japan will continue to pursue alternative energy, like wind and solar, in order to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear energy.