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Ex-leaders revive no-nukes crusade

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Three months after his defeat in the Tokyo gubernatorial race, former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa has teamed up once again with fellow ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to renew their effort to abolish nuclear power, even as the central government takes steps to revive it.

On Wednesday, the pair, joined by prominent scholars and activists, launched a council against nuclear power called Japan Assembly for Nuclear Free Renewable Energy.

“The Japanese people have a spirit sturdy enough to overcome even the most adversarial situations,” Koizumi said at the launch. “It’s a wonderful idea to create a country that relies on renewable energy and I am confident that we can make a better society.”

Donald Keene, an American-born scholar of Japanese literature who obtained Japanese citizenship a year after the March 11 disasters, is among the founders.

In February, the two retired prime ministers joined forces to steer the central government away from nuclear power generation, via Tokyo’s gubernatorial election.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is the third-largest shareholder of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants as well as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex, which is currently undergoing inspection by the Nuclear Regulation Authority for reactivation.

But the pair’s anti-nuclear platform in the race wasn’t enough to prevent former health and welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe from winning. Masuzoe had the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally, New Komeito.

There has been wide speculation that Hosokawa and Koizumi will attempt to influence regional elections by putting up or endorsing anti-nuclear candidates.

Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled No. 1 nuclear power plant, will elect a new governor in October, for instance. In Shiga Prefecture, Gov. Yukiko Kada, who has just announced she will not seek re-election in July, signed an agreement last year with plant operators in neighboring Fukui Prefecture, home to 15 nuclear reactors, requiring the operators gain public approval to build any new atomic power plants.

But Hosokawa and Koizumi said they would stay away from politics, whether on the local or national stage, and denied they would even support any anti-nuclear candidates in political campaigns.

“We are pushing for a national campaign for the zero nuclear option,” Hosokawa said after the launch event. “We do not wish to become involved in any political activities.”

Even if they were to involve themselves in any such elections, it remains to be seen how much sway the Koizumi-Hosokawa alliance would have. Governors cannot veto a decision to bring a reactor back online, for instance. What governors do have the power to do, however, is withhold permission to build a nuclear power plant on a new site.

Last month, the Abe government authorized a new Basic Energy Plan that specifies the importance of nuclear energy as a long-term source of electricity. It was a complete reversal of the pledge to phase out atomic power made by the Democratic Party of Japan government in power at the time of the Fukushima meltdowns.

Under the new plan, reactors taken offline after the Fukushima No. 1 disaster will be restarted following safety inspections by the NRA, and the possibility of building new plants has not been ruled out. Abe hopes to see the Kawauchi nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture restarted this summer.