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Liberal Democratic Party leadership race hopeful Taro Kono indicated his readiness on Wednesday to accept the restart of idled nuclear power plants for the time being, in order for Japan to realize its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

"It's necessary to some extent to restart nuclear plants that are confirmed to be safe, as we aim for carbon neutrality," Kono, currently regulatory reform minister, told reporters.

Kono, known as an advocate for a shift away from nuclear energy, is eager to run in the ruling party's leadership election on Sept. 29 to select a successor to outgoing LDP President and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

As there are concerns among some LDP members over his position on the issue, Kono apparently modified his stance to win broader support ahead of the party election.

"Basically, our priority is to increase the use of renewable energy sources, but it would be possible to use nuclear plants whose safety is confirmed for now if there are power supply shortages," Kono said.

"Nuclear plants will disappear eventually, but I'm not saying that they should be scrapped immediately, like tomorrow or next year," he added.

With Kono also in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, some people are questioning whether it would be possible for him to continue in the role while campaigning for the LDP presidency.

"I don't think (my election campaign) would affect my duties," Kono said.

Regarding the issue of the succession of the imperial throne, Kono said he will respect the opinions of a government panel of experts tasked with considering ways to ensure stable imperial succession.

Last year, when he was serving as defense minister, Kono provoked a backlash from conservative lawmakers in the LDP by suggesting that members of the imperial family's maternal lineage should be allowed to assume the throne.

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