In his first policy speech since taking office, Japan’s prime minister Yoshihiko Noda said that Japan’s dependence on nuclear power must be reduced to the ‘maximum extent.’

Noda did not go as far as the country’s previous prime minister Naoto Kan, whose calls for Japan to become a nuclear-free society last summer were met with fierce criticism.

“As fossil fuel prices rise, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, and in the mid- to long-term, dependence on nuclear power must be reduced to the maximum extent, all the while avoiding the creation of a tight electricity supply and demand,” Noda said on 24 January in an address to the Diet.

Noda, who officially took over from Kan in September 2011, said that by the summer of 2012 a new Japanese energy strategy would be completed. The strategy will present a framework for the electric power system as well as measures to be taken to curb global warming, he said.

As of 27 January, just three reactors Tomari-3, Takahama-3 and Kashiwazak I Kariwa-6 are in operation in Japan; 34 units remain shut for inspection while the remaining 17 units are shutdown either a result of the tsunami or, in the case of Hamaoka, at the request of the government.

The Japanese government ordered two-step stress tests at all Japanese nuclear power plants in response to Fukushima. Based on the results of those tests the government is to decided whether or not reactors can resume operation. As of January 30, Japan’s nuclear regulator NISA had received stress test evaluation reports for fifteen of Japan’s reactors, but none have been granted permission to restart.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently conducted an inspection at Kansai Electric’s Ohi plant to review the methodology used for its stress tests. Ohi 3 was the first Japanese power plant to complete the first step of the mandatory stress tests in October 2011. The IAEA is due to present a report on its findings to the Japanese government by the end of this January.