- - Thursday, May 26, 2011

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday announced bold measures for Japan to take a global lead in renewable energy and nuclear safety, as a new leak was reported at Fukushima’s stricken nuclear power plant.

Mr. Kan said Japan’s “Sunrise Project” would aim to lower prices for solar panels by a third of current levels in 2020 and then cut those prices in half by 2030.

The government aims to have solar panels on 10 million homes in Japan by 2020, and renewable energy would provide 20 percent of Japan’s electricity in a decade, he said.

Mr. Kan opened the summit of Group of Eight leaders in Deauville, France, on Thursday by speaking for about 10 minutes about Japan’s response to its worst crisis since World War II. He said Japan intends to host an international summit on nuclear safety with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) late next year.

He called on nations to strengthen cooperation among their nuclear regulators and said the IAEA should have more power to assist countries during a crisis. He also called for a review of international legal frameworks regarding nuclear safety.

Mr. Kan was speaking to G-8 counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

Japan’s nuclear situation is “gradually stabilizing,” he said, promising more transparency about events in his country.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), which operates the Fukushima nuclear plant, confirmed this week that it’s highly likely a meltdown occurred at three reactors more than two months ago, just days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

“Businesses and tourism are working as usual. Excluding the area surrounding the nuclear plant, radiation levels, including in Tokyo, are dropping, and they are absolutely unharmful to humans,” Mr. Kan said.

He asked countries concerned about importing products from Japan to make decisions based on science. He said Japan has taken strict precautions to assure food safety and prevent distribution of food items with high levels of radiation.

As the G-8 meeting got under way, President Obama told reporters that Japan will emerge “stronger than ever” after the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands in March and sparked a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

Mr. Kan thanked the United States for its assistance after the disaster. It was the first meeting of the Japanese and U.S. leaders since the March 11 disasters, though they did speak by telephone several times in the days and weeks that followed.

Nuclear safety is high on the G-8 agenda following the earthquake in Japan, which triggered a tsunami wave that devastated several towns, killed at least 25,000 people and flooded the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

An international team of IAEA specialists is visiting and inspecting the plant, and it plans to present its findings next month.

Tepco has said it aims to achieve a cool shutdown of the reactors by early next year.

But Tepco on Thursday noted a new leak of radioactive water. It said up to 57 tons of highly contaminated water had leaked from a storage facility into a trench. It vowed to step up monitoring of ground water.

In early April, the utility dumped about 10,000 tons of radioactive water into the ocean, drawing criticism from neighbors South Korea and China and other countries that banned seafood imports from Japan.

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