Japan under fire for nuke plan
More than 170,000 people rally and demonstrate to protest against nuclear power plants in Tokyo on July 16. Japanese react to the nuclear strategies as one reactor in western Japan is restarted earlier this month and another is set to resume soon. EPA photoJapan’s government came under fire yesterday over its handling of public hearings on nuclear energy policy, threatening to dent already sagging support for the ruling party ahead of elections following last year’s March 11 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The latest furor follows July 16’s massive rally in Tokyo against nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, an issue now so contentious that lawmakers and analysts say it could trump taxes as the focus of lower house elections, which must be held by September 2013 but could come sooner.
“This gives the impression that they haven’t learned anything,” Reuters quoted Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, as saying after news that power companies’ employees were among the few chosen to speak at hearings on changes to energy policy after Fukushima, the world’s worst atomic disaster in 25 years. It was an echo of a scandal just one year ago, when Kyushu Electric Power sought to sway public opinion at a hearing on restarting reactors in southern Japan. In a sign of the growing discontent, more than 100,000 anti-nuclear protesters marched in Tokyo on July 16, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, already struggling as his Democratic Party unravels over plans to hike sales taxes to curb public debt.
The rally was the biggest since Noda said last month Japan needs to restart idled nuclear reactors to protect jobs and the economy. The government is considering three options for its medium-term energy portfolio, reduce nuclear power’s role to zero as soon as possible, aim at a 15 percent share by 2030, and seek a 20-25 percent share by the same date.
Public hearings on the future energy mix are being held around the country, with nine representatives chosen by lottery to speak at each event. The public can comment via the Internet or fax, while a random sample will be surveyed through a process called “deliberative polling,” in which views are solicited after group discussions with experts and policymakers. The Fukushima disaster forced around 150,000 people to flee their homes, many never to return. Some committed suicide after seeing their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government would be looking at how to improve the hearings.
In another development that could fan public concerns about nuclear safety, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said the government would review seismological data for nuclear plants to assess whether any are built on active fault lines.
Government offices to be moved from Tokyo
Japan is considering a plan to transfer some government facilities in case Tokyo is devastated by a tsunami, according to Russian channel RT. The Central Disaster Prevention Council has recommended the country’s major cities, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Sendai, as suitable substitutes because they already have some governmental facilities.