Japan's cabinet has stopped short of committing to phase out nuclear power by 2040, backtracking from an advisory panel's recommendations in the face of opposition from pro-nuclear businesses and groups.
Ministers did not endorse the 20-page national energy policy released by the panel on Friday, and offered a more vague endorsement of its goals.
The panel, responding to public demands for an end to nuclear power in Japan following last year's tsunami-triggered meltdowns, called on Japan to give up nuclear energy within three decades through greater reliance on renewable energy, more conservation and sustainable use of fossil fuels.
The cabinet said it would take the policy document "into consideration" and would seek public support for the goal. But the public in this case includes not only the general public, which has come out strongly against nuclear power, but also the nuclear industry and other business interests, as well as communities near nuclear plants which rely on them economically.
National policy minister Motohisa Furukawa said the gist of Japan's energy policy remains to phase out nuclear power, though it would take time to work out the details.
Mr Furukawa vowed to push for green energy and to seek to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
The cabinet's ambiguous endorsement has invited criticism from some commentators that the policy revision might be intended to win votes in elections expected in the next few months.
Nuclear energy made up about a third of the country's electricity before the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, and Japan had plans to increase that ratio to 50%. Now nuclear power is highly unpopular, and only two of the country's 50 functioning reactors are on-line while the government addresses public concerns about safety.
Meanwhile, Japan has launched a new nuclear oversight agency, following criticism that collusion between regulators and plant operators contributed to the meltdowns.
Officials said the five-member Nuclear Regulation Authority, headed by nuclear physicist Shunichi Tanaka, was inaugurated after months of delay due to demands from opposition politicians for more dependency as well as opposition to appointees' pro-nuclear background.