Japan's first lady says she is 'anti-nuclear'

TOKYO (AFP) - The wife of Japan's pro-business Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not like nuclear power and would rather her husband's government did not try to export it, she said in a speech.

In comments that appear to run against the grain of government thinking, which is increasingly moving towards switching mothballed reactors back on, Mrs Akie Abe said Japan should press on instead with renewables.

"I feel bad that Japan is trying to sell nuclear power plants overseas because I am anti-nuclear," she said in a closed-door speech last Thursday at an event organised by a non-profit group that supports farming communities.

"I admit it is an important technology that Japan has," she said, footage posted on the website of the organiser showed.

"I think Japan should use part of the money being spent for nuclear power for developing new energy and try to sell Japan-made clean energy abroad."

Nuclear power has been a sensitive issue in Japan since a quake and tsunami wiped out the Fukushima atomic plant in 2011, sparking the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years and contaminating the environment.

All but two of Japan's 50 viable reactors remain shuttered amid public nervousness over safety in an industry widely seen as overly-cosy with government and regulators.

But despite vocal public opposition, the prime minister has said he wants to restart units when they are proven safe.

And his recently-unveiled bid to treble Japan's infrastructure exports to 30 trillion yen (S$383 billion) a year as part of an effort to boost the economy, will almost certainly have to include nuclear reactors.

In May, Japan and Turkey signed a deal to build a sprawling nuclear power plant on Turkey's Black Sea coast. Japan also signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Tokyo has also agreed with India to accelerate talks on civil nuclear cooperation.

After talks in Tokyo on Friday, Mr Abe and French President Francois Hollande said they would cooperate in developing nuclear power technologies and promoting the sector's exports to emerging economies.

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