National

Meltdowns haven't killed anyone: LDP bigwig

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Sanae Takaichi has created a stir by saying the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns didn’t kill anyone and arguing the government should restart reactors nationwide given Japan’s scarce energy resources.

Delivering a speech in Kobe on Monday, Takaichi said the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant “has not claimed the lives of any people,” and argued the nation should “utilize nuclear power stations after securing the maximum possible safety.”

No deaths have been confirmed to be directly related to the massive quantities of radioactive materials spewed from the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s wrecked reactors since the March 2011 triple meltdowns.

However, hundreds of elderly people and hospitalized patients around the stricken complex were forced to evacuate because of the disaster, resulting in at least 70 deaths, according to the final report by the investigatory Diet committee on the crisis.

Takaichi’s remarks were heavily covered in media reports, forcing Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to try to defend her Tuesday by claiming certain parts of the speech were taken out of context.

“I saw the context, and I don’t think it’s a problematic remark,” Suga told a news conference Tuesday. “It is true (the three meltdowns) did not kill anybody.”

But when asked about the fatalities caused by the evacuation of elderly and hospitalized people, Suga admitted some of them had died and said “we recognize the vast damage.”

“It’s true some people died at evacuation places,” Suga said.

The LDP-led government has pledged to reactivate nuclear plants across the country once their safety is confirmed, based on new regulation standards that are set to take effect in early July.

Nuclear activists have also criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for helping Japanese firms to export nuclear power equipment and technologies at a time when all but two of the nation’s reactors are still suspended in view of the Fukushima crisis.

Scientists, including those at the U.N., generally agree they are unlikely to find a significant statistical increase in deaths from cancers in the coming years from the nuclear crisis, given the relatively low radiation exposure of residents near Fukushima No. 1.

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