TOKYO Japan aims to quit nuclear power in the 2030s in a new energy strategy to be unveiled soon, media said on Wednesday, a major shift from a pre-Fukushima disaster goal of boosting atomic energy to produce more than half the country's electricity.
The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered three meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi plant, spewing radiation and forcing about 160,000 people to flee their homes.
It also prompted the government to scrap a 2010 plan to boost nuclear power's share of electricity to more than 50 percent by 2030.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Monday that he wanted to decide on the new policy this week and would take into account a proposal by his Democratic Party for Japan to "invest all possible policy resources to make it possible to exit nuclear power in the 2030s".
Noda's new energy strategy, however, is unlikely to silence Japan's grassroots anti-nuclear movement or resolve a fierce debate over whether reducing atomic power's role will do more harm or good to the economy.
And with the Democrats likely to lose a general election expected within months, there was no guarantee that any new government would follow his stance.
Japan's powerful business lobbies argue that abandoning nuclear energy in favor of fossil fuels and renewable sources such as solar and wind power will raise electricity prices, making the country's industry uncompetitive and pushing production abroad.
Anti-nuclear advocates counter that a policy shift will create new openings for corporate profits in areas such as renewable energy and energy efficiency that will spark innovation and give the economy a boost.
The government has been considering three options for nuclear power's share of electric supply: zero as soon as possible, 15 percent by 2030 and 20-25 percent by the same date.
Surveys show that a majority of voters favor exiting nuclear power sooner or later.
Noda's decision to restart two reactors to avoid potential outages this summer galvanized anti-nuclear protests. The country's other 48 reactors remain idled for safety checks.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick)