Japan should aim to break its dependence on nuclear power, said the country’s prime minister Naoto Kan.

But he ruled out calling a general election over energy issues. While calling for more conservation efforts and greater use of renewable energy, he also gave no indication of when and how Japan could achieve this goal. Environmentalists have still praised the statement, which they have described as “historic”.

 “I have come to realize that Japan should aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear power generation by phasing out such energy systematically and in stages,” said Kan.

The remark follows the Japanese government’s announcement that two-step additional safety assessments will be conducted on Japan’s nuclear facilities.

Business leaders have expressed concern that these checks could trigger economically damaging power shortages, although Kan said Japan is capable of overcoming power shortages in the summer and winter peak seasons.

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