DATE=3/10/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=JAPAN - NUCLEAR ENERGY NUMBER=2-260049 BYLINE=KARRIN AMODEO DATELINE=TOKYO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Japanese government says it may cut the number of nuclear power plants to be built over the next decade. Karrin Amodeo in Tokyo reports Japan is undertaking a sweeping review of its energy policy. TEXT: Growing public mistrust of nuclear power, coupled with a decrease in national energy consumption led to Friday's announcement. The government says it is questioning its plans to build 20 more nuclear power stations over the next 10 years. Trade Minister Takashi Fukaya acknowledged that among the reasons is the growing opposition to nuclear energy in Japan. It is the first time the government has publicly stated that popular sentiment could curb the expansion of nuclear power here. The question of how many atomic plants Japan needs is a sensitive one. Because it is poor in natural resources, Japan relies heavily on nuclear energy. Fifty one atomic plants provide one third of the country's electricity. In some areas of the country, nearly everyone has a friend or relative who works at a nuclear plant. But along with the economic benefits of jobs have come the series of accidents and scandals that have continually plagued the industry here. Public suspicion of atomic energy reached new heights after Japan saw its worst-ever nuclear accident last September. One worker was killed and more than 400 local residents were exposed to radiation following an explosion at the Tokaimura processing plant. Friday's decision echoes what energy experts and anti- nuclear activists have long said -- that Japan's target for nuclear expansion is too ambitious. Figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry show that Japan is using less electricity for the first time in 16 years. The decline is attributed to the economic slowdown here. The overhaul of Japan's energy policy - starting in April - will take one year to complete. But a key question remains: how Japan can keep its promise to cut greenhouse gases if it decides to use less nuclear power. The government had planned to reach its target of a six per cent drop in emissions through the construction of atomic plants. NEB/KA/FC/PLM 10-Mar-2000 05:36 AM EDT (10-Mar-2000 1036 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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