Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday promised to “review the nation's nuclear energy policy” by thinking out of the box on this sensitive issue.

Mr. Kan's new pledge acquires unusual importance because of global concerns about the safety of civil nuclear power in the context of a continuing crisis at the quake-and-tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi atomic energy plant in Japan.

Addressing a parliamentary panel in Tokyo, Mr. Kan said: “I, for long, looked positively at our [policy of] nuclear power [generation] in light of Japan's strong safety framework. However, I now think that these kinds of assumptions should be put aside as we review the nation's nuclear policy. We also need to thoroughly examine the means by which an accident like the one at Fukushima could have happened.”

Such a firm political pledge came just a day after the United States promised to stand by Japan in its current crisis and the operator of the Fukushima plant unveiled a roadmap to bring the nuclear radiation levels under control in six months to nine months' time.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said on Monday that U.S.-made robots were deployed, using remote-control methods, to measure the radiation intensity and also the temperature levels and oxygen density at two of the damaged-reactor sites. One more reactor building would also be mapped similarly. The objective was to “determine what kind of operations can be conducted inside the plant” and map out a feasible course of action accordingly.

Citing data obtained so far, a company official said a worker might get exposed to the permissible level of radiation in just about four-and-a-half hours. However, the temperature readings and the oxygen concentrations were found to be good enough for doing work inside the buildings.

And, as the government began mulling over a possible timeline for allowing the evacuees to return to a safe environment around the plant, the question of decommissioning the power station in a fool-proof manner was also put on the agenda.

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