(05-11) 04:00 PDT Tokyo --
Japan will scrap a plan to obtain half of its electricity from nuclear power and will instead promote renewable energy and conservation as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Naoto Kan said Japan needs to "start from scratch" on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation.
Nuclear plants supplied about 30 percent of Japan's electricity, and the government had planned to raise that to 50 percent by 2030.
Kan told a news conference that nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy, but now the government will add two more pillars: renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and an increased focus on conservation.
"We will thoroughly ensure safety for nuclear power generation and make efforts to further promote renewable energy," an area where Japan has lagged, he said.
Kan also said he would take a pay cut beginning next month until the Fukushima nuclear crisis is resolved to take responsibility as part of the government that has promoted nuclear energy. He didn't specify how much of a pay cut he would take.
The operator of the stricken power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has been struggling for nearly two months to restore critical cooling systems that were knocked out by the disaster. Some 80,000 people living within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the plant were evacuated from their homes on March 12, with many living in gymnasiums.
On Tuesday, about 100 evacuees were allowed into that exclusion zone briefly to gather belongings from their homes.
They were provided with protective suits, goggles and face masks to wear in the zone, and they received plastic bags to put their belongings in. They were also given dosimeters to monitor radiation levels and walkie-talkies.
All were to be screened for radiation contamination after leaving the zone.
More visits are planned, but residents fear they may never be able to return for good.
Many had been secretly sneaking back into the zone during the day, but the government - concerned over safety and the possibility of theft - began enforcing stricter roadblocks and imposing fines.