Nuclear power will remain a key part of Japan's energy policy, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Wednesday, but the government will review oversight of the industry amid the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.
The premier said a special commission would investigate the crisis that unfolded after a monster tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's cooling systems on March 11, leading to reactor meltdowns and the radiation leaking into the environment.
"The investigation commission on the accident, which will start meeting soon, should discuss the way Japan administers its nuclear policies," Kan said, adding that he hoped "to lay a basic direction for a thorough reform".
But Kan backed the principle of nuclear power, telling reporters: "If we come up with new ways to use atomic power more safely... we will naturally utilise atomic power further.
"In the first place a thorough review is needed. Everything should start from there."
Kan announced that reactors currently suspended for routine check-ups across the nation would be allowed to resume operations if they are deemed safe.
Local opposition to restarting reactors suspended for check-ups has grown since the disaster, although some experts say any move away from nuclear power would mean using more fossil fuels they say are more environmentally damaging.
The world's number three economy generates about 30 percent of its power from nuclear plants.
"Until now, Japan's energy policies were built with two major pillars of fossil fuel and nuclear power," Kan said. "In addition to that, we must add two more pillars of natural (renewable) energy and energy saving."