Kaieda takes flak, vows to stay on

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Industry minister Banri Kaieda denied Friday he intends to resign anytime soon after he said he would “take responsibility” for the administration’s flip-flop on whether to fire up idled nuclear reactors.

Responding during a Lower House plenary session to a question by a member of the Liberal Democratic Party on what kind of responsibility he plans to take, Kaieda said: “As industry minister, I will sincerely devote myself to tackle the issues that have to be solved now.

“I will decide the timing of my own course of action by myself,” he said, indicating he doesn’t plan to resign immediately.

The confusion over two reactors at the nuclear power plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, started when Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday abruptly ordered utilities to carry out “stress tests” to assess the safety of their nuclear facilities, forcing Kaieda to announce the plan to Saga Prefecture.

Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto on Thursday withdrew his decision to approve resumption of the reactors, which have been shut down for regular inspections and maintenance.

Kishimoto had given the go-ahead following Kaieda’s assertion, days before the stress test announcement, they were safe.

The sudden change in the central government’s position infuriated Kishimoto.

Kan apologized Friday morning for the confusion.

“I feel responsible for the delay or insufficiency of my order. I want to apologize for it,” he reportedly said after a Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, opposition forces criticized Kan during the plenary session for trying to stay in power as long as possible, with one opposition lawmaker accusing Kan of misgovernment.

But Kan said the LDP and New Komeito, the top two opposition parties, share responsibility for the current nuclear crisis because they pushed nuclear power when they were the ruling bloc.