Pro-reactor incumbent's political capital high; public in right mood

Koizumi calls on Abe to ditch nuclear power

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has abundant political capital and should declare an end to nuclear power, as the public mood for such a decision couldn’t be better, predecessor Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday.

“Nobody has had more favorable conditions to achieve a nuclear-free option than Abe,” the popular ex-prime minister said in a rare news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. “For first time in a long time, the Japanese are ready to support a project and I want him to use his strong political clout.”

Tuesday’s event was Koizumi’s first official press conference since the Mainichi Shimbun reported in late August his call for Japan to immediately cease its reliance on atomic energy.

Over 350 reporters and club members attended the 90-minute speech and question-and-answer session, when Koizumi demonstrated his trademark no-nonsense style.

Koizumi, 71, said Abe is in a better position to accomplish a nuclear-free Japan, unlike when he dissolved the Lower House in 2005 to achieve the postal system privatization. Back then, Koizumi faced fierce opposition from both his Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition camp.

“Now the opposition camp advocates a nuclear-free society, and only the LDP opposes it. But I think 50 percent of LDP lawmakers favor scrapping atomic energy,” said Koizumi. “LDP lawmakers cannot voice opposition to nuclear power because Abe is promoting it. If Abe decides to scrap nuclear power, no one in the party will protest.”

While Koizumi was prime minister, he, too, supported nuclear power. But he said the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake made him realize it was wrong to believe atomic energy is a source of clean and cheap energy, because nuclear power is uncontrollable.

He also noted Japan has no viable way to process or dispose of radioactive waste.

Koizumi was especially critical of an Oct. 8 editorial by the pro-nuclear Yomiuri Shimbun, which criticized his stance by saying it is the fault of politicians that Japan cannot find sites to dispose of nuclear waste.

“We have not been able to find nuclear waste disposal sites for the last 10 years,” Koizumi said. “It is too optimistic and irresponsible for them to say that politicians should be responsible for not having a clear prospect (for radioactive waste sites) especially after the earthquake.”

Koizumi has reportedly not met with Abe to talk about this issue. But Abe, who served as his chief Cabinet secretary and subsequent successor, has rejected going nuclear-free, saying it is irresponsible to chart such a course when energy costs are surging.

Koizumi may be retired but he still commands popularity. A recent Asahi Shimbun poll found 60 percent of respondents support his views, while 25 percent oppose them.

  • Mary Anne Hanna

    Nuclear free. It would be great for oil companies. Bad idea.

    • philippesama

      Argument inadmissible. humanity can and must renounce the nuclear energy AND the carbonaceous energies. It’s survival of the species is at stake.

      • Mary Anne Hanna

        I don’t agree. Why are there thousands of nuclear power plants operating in the world? Why is there none operating in Japan, not just the one with the accident? It seems like it is politics to me. Which is worse oil spill or nuclear plant accident. It seems like Fukushima accident was preventable. Yes it is terrible if there is an accident, that’s “if and when it happens”. It seems we have to make sure it does not happen. I understand that we have to deal with the waste. But as the technology improves these will be gradually solved. Until other clean technologies improve I think we should maintain the operation with great caution of course. It may turn out it is not necessary to shut down the nuclear power plants after all.

  • Tarana

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    My lovely greeting to Japanese from Azerbaijan.

  • What a nonsense statement. Abe has more support only because he has stimulated economic activity. That requires more power, and less flexibility/capacity to mothball nuclear capacity. It also ignores the huge cost of oil & coal to power the ‘substitute’ generating capacity, which is not even environmentally sound. Koizumi is a cheap populist who rode on the back of Western prosperity. What’s his claim to fame? To have danced with Richard Gere, and to have introduced a tax. Politics needs less political middlemen attempting to extort some political franchise by appealing to the lowest common denominator – people’s greed or their fear. His privatisation of Postal Savings did nothing to engender competition or financial literacy in the Japanese population. What does it matter who owns the postal savings? The reason why a disposal site cannot be found is because its an extortion-based process. Reason has to be the standard of value; not ‘numbers’.

    • Steve van Dresser

      A means of disposal of nuclear waste, whether from disasters or from “normal” operations, should have been developed long before the first nuclear reactor was put on line. Now we have accumulations of highly radioactive nuclear spent fuel building up at every nuclear power plant in the world and the industry is still saying it okay because someday we’ll figure out what to do with it.

      The spent fuel pools at Fukushima contain far more radioactive material than all the stuff released by Chernobyl. One more “natural” disaster, and the whole planet is at risk. But the industry just says “build us a temporary place to put the radioactive waste and someday we’ll take care of it.” How long will we let them keep kicking the can down the road. The nuclear waste can could explode at any moment.

  • Christopher Glen

    Japan is really caught between a rock and a hard place on this one. The best solution would be to phase out nuclear power while promoting thermal energy

  • Nuclear energy is a double edged sword, on one hand it provides like no other. On the other, it poisons the land and it’s people when accidents occur.

    Japan, like Iceland, has great opportunities for supplementing energy needs with Geothermal Electricity. Although currently it only accounts for 0.1 of energy production in Japan.

    They could ramp this up for a fraction of the cost it takes to clean up a broken nuclear power-plant. (Although, not too far or we will suffer the same fate as Krypton ;)

    Nuclear is long term bad news and Japan was mad to have it in the first place. Each country should look to the best way to generate energy from their own geology.

  • HvacNews

    When you can take a class trip to Fukushima with a bus load of children, sit on the shore with your back to the reactor and enjoy a pleasant lunch; then nuclear plants should come back on in Japan. That should be about one million years from now.