Monday, May 28, 2012

A whisper of hope from Japan.

More than a whisper, perhaps, though one needs to be careful, hoping, these days.

The former Prime Minster of Japan, the man who was in power when the Fukushima reactors melted through, and who lost power partly because of that- has come out publicly and clearly to say: Japan should end all use of nuclear power.  It's simply impossible to make it safe, in his opinion.  (Mine too, as you know.)

And, this is being repeated via the Japanese news feed; here's the NHK story today:

"Former PM calls for Japan to end nuclear power

"Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan says the nuclear accident at Fukushima convinced him that, for safety's sake, Japan must end its dependence on nuclear energy.

"Kan on Monday attended a hearing of a panel appointed by the Diet to investigate the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that began on March 11th of last year.
He blamed the government for promoting nuclear power as a national policy. He apologized for failing to prevent the accident as the head of government at the time.

"Kan said a nuclear safety agency said nothing about what would happen in such an accident, nor did the government receive information from other sources. He added that he feared the situation could get out of control.  Kan acknowledged that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, consulted the government about evacuating plant workers.

"He said that when the industry minister informed him of the workers' possible withdrawal, he thought it was out of the question.

"Kan said that he told Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu that the government would not allow the workers to leave, and Shimizu complied.

"The former prime minister criticized what he calls an inner circle of nuclear policymakers, experts and businesses for trying to hold on to their power without doing any soul-searching after the accident.

"He said disbanding the circle is the first step in a comprehensive reform of nuclear policy.

"He also said the accident could have jeopardized state functions, and that he is convinced that the safest way forward for Japan is to end its nuclear power generation.

"The panel plans to compile a report on its investigation by next month at the earliest, and submit it to the heads of both chambers of the Diet.
May 28, 2012 - Updated 10:23 UTC (19:23 JST)"

You have to think- "wow!", reading that.  Absolutely extraordinary for the top politician to - change his mind, and speak straight out like that.  Hopeful, I would have to say.

It will be interesting to see how much that statement penetrates in Japan.  It's getting coverage internationally, at least; the NYT has picked it up.

The NYT article adds several points not covered by the NHK; perhaps as a matter of differing translations.  My favorites:

"the country should discard nuclear power as too dangerous, saying the Fukushima accident had pushed Japan to the brink of 'national collapse.' "

"In his testimony, Mr. Kan said that Japan’s plant safety was inadequate because energy policy had been hijacked by the “nuclear village” — a term for the power companies and pro-nuclear regulators and researchers that worked closely together to promote the industry."

“It is impossible to ensure safety sufficiently to prevent the risk of a national collapse,” Mr. Kan said. “Experiencing the accident convinced me that the best way to make nuclear plants safe is not to rely on them, but rather to get rid of them.”

The current Prime Minister is still intending to restart the now 100% off-line nuclear plants, and keeps pushing.  The people of Japan are resisting- but that "nuclear village" has huge power.  Perhaps Mr. Kan's speaking out so clearly can help.  There is international momentum now that the people of Japan can point to - Switzerland and Germany are now committed to total shutdown of their nuclear generators.  So the voices of sanity in Japan don't have to go it alone.

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