Calls for less nuclear and more renewables

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Japan's nuclear accident at the end of September, the country's worst so far, has brought mounting calls for greater use of alternative energy sources and put the government's plans for new nuclear plant on hold. At its first meeting last month, a new energy working group was planning to study the possibilities of adopting a renewables quota type policy, where utilities are obliged to include a set percentage of green energy in their power mix. The topic, put on the agenda after pressure from civic and renewables lobby groups, has so far met with resistance from the power industry and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The working group, under MITI's advisory committee for energy, has been set up to analyse trends in the development of renewables technology and policies adopted by countries overseas. Meanwhile, due to strong opposition from residents living near planned sites for new nuclear stations, authorities have been forced to withhold consent for nuclear plant -- the normal prerequisite before construction talks can begin. Two months after the critical accident occurred at the JCO uranium recycling plant in Tokaimura village, the government panel studying plans to develop the nation's power remains unsure about when it will be able to hold its annual meeting. The panel usually meets every November. The government and power companies plan to build 20 more nuclear power plant by 2010 as part of a measure to reduce global warming, but several utilities have now postponed their plans; among them is Hokkaido Electric Power, a utility on the main northern island in the midst of 120 MW of wind development (Windpower Monthly, October 1999). Hokkaido has otherwise limited new wind installation on the island to 60 MW over the next two years.

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