The government officially decided Tuesday to change the process for selecting a final radioactive waste disposal site, saying the first phase will involve identifying scientifically suitable sites rather than waiting for offers from local governments.

The decision was reached during a gathering of ministers involved in the handling of high-level radioactive waste, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi told a news conference after the meeting.

The government is gearing up to finalize a mid- to long-term national energy plan based on a draft compiled Friday by a panel that labeled nuclear power as an "important" source of electricity regardless of the Fukushima disaster.

The draft also says the central government should play a more proactive role in resolving the stalled process to find a final repository for high-level radioactive waste that is produced through spent fuel reprocessing.

Up to now, the central government has been waiting in vain for local authorities to offer up potential sites.

Under the new plan, the central government will first present areas that are suitable, based on scientific findings, and actively try to obtain local consent, officials said.

The government is legally required to review the Basic Energy Plan at least every three years by taking into consideration changes in the energy situation.

The next energy plan will be the first since the Fukushima disaster threw the national energy policy into disarray.

The previous plan compiled in 2010 aimed to boost reliance on nuclear power to some 50 percent of the total in 2030 from around 30 percent before the nuclear crisis.