Japan forum to discuss nuclear-free energy future

TOKYO - Japanese and European officials are to discuss future energy solutions at a forum in Kyoto this weekend in the wake of Japan's plans to eliminate atomic power from the country's energy mix by 2040.

Officials at the annual Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum Sunday will discuss the experience of removing nuclear power from a country's energy mix, and what independent institutions can advise on the process.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration in September declared its aim to eliminate atomic power over the next 30 years, as the cabinet declared a three-pronged strategy leading up to the halt, with tougher safety standards, the shuttering of reactors 40-years-old and a ban on the building of new units.

Since the tsunami-sparked meltdowns at the Fukushima plant last year there has been a grounds well of public opposition to nuclear power, which once provided a third of energy-hungry Japan's electricity.

Genevieve Fioraso, France's minister of higher education and research, told reporters Saturday ahead of the forum that Japan faired well despite its energy problems but said development of renewable energy solutions was "difficult".

Among officials attending the forum Sunday are Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UK government chief scientific adviser John Beddington, and members of the Fukushima inquiry commission.

A vocal protest movement drawn from a cross-section of the country's usually apolitical society regularly stages demonstrations outside the prime minister's office calling for nuclear power to be abandoned.

Japan's influential business community however continues to rally against the halting of nuclear power production, warnings of the dangers of energy shortages as all but two of the country's 50 working nuclear reactors are offline.

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