As nationwide outrage mounts over the decision to allow two nuclear reactor restarts in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Monday that he will look into the challenges Japan would face if it someday ends its reliance on atomic power.

But at a news conference in Hiroshima after the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony, Noda refused to declare "zero reliance" as an eventual policy goal.

"I intend to order the Cabinet to identify the possible challenges if Japan were to have zero reliance on nuclear energy in the future," Noda said. "To deepen discussions on the future energy mix, I believe it is necessary to consider the possibility of having zero reliance in the future."

The government has been soliciting public opinion on how much Japan should rely on nuclear energy by 2030, and about 70 percent of those giving input have called for zero reliance. The Cabinet is to lay out a new energy policy by month's end, and attention is focused on how much the public's input will be reflected.

"I believe a comprehensive national discussion is necessary on the issue . . . but at the same time, I don't think we should keep holding these talks for a long time. We should hold thorough discussions to a certain degree and reach an end at some point," Noda said.

He also met with representatives of the atomic-bomb survivors and was told the government should reconsider its reactivation of the two reactors in Oi.

"We were exposed to an indescribable amount of radiation in a second," said hibakusha Sunao Tsuboi. "Just because things are OK now doesn't mean we're safe. Many (radiation) problems surface later, and I want the government to keep that firmly in mind."