Fukushima Watch: Former PM Kan Sets Out Vision for Nuclear-Free Japan
Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose term was marked by the earthquake and tsunami last year, furthered his reinvention as an anti-nuclear activist on Tuesday with a press conference to call for an end to nuclear power in Japan.
“After March 11, it’s fair to say I changed my thinking [on nuclear energy] 180 degrees,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
“When I saw that the country was in such a precarious situation, I thought, ‘What is a safe nuclear plant anyway?’ My conclusion was that safety is only possible in a society that doesn’t rely on nuclear power,” the 65-year-old former leader said.
Mr. Kan stepped down in August, barely a year after taking office and just five months after the March 11 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. His government was widely criticized for its handling of the crisis.
At what he said was his first formal press conference since resigning, Mr. Kan, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and no tie, maintained a serious demeanor — rarely smiling and pausing to think between his sentences.
But he held back from criticizing his successor as prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, for restarting two reactors in western Japan in July — the first to be brought back online since the accident at the Fukushima plant.
He said that his goal is to get parliament to pass a proposal — drafted by Mr. Kan and other lawmakers — to phase out nuclear power and increase Japan’s share of renewable energy from 10% in 2010 to 38% by 2025.
That goes further than three scenarios currently being considered under the government’s new long-term energy strategy: phase out nuclear power by 2030, cut it to 15% of the country’s energy supply or maintain current levels around 20-25%.
Still, Mr. Kan gave no sign of leaving the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to form his own party around the issue.
“What I have to do now is steer the DPJ…in the direction of abandoning nuclear power,” he said. “How to react to the accident that happened in Japan is something that transcends party lines.”
At a later meeting with anti-nuclear protesters, Mr. Kan told the crowd that he had spoken with Prime Minister Noda by phone earlier in the day.
“I told him that people here will probably say they want to meet him, and he told me that he would welcome meeting you.”
Mr. Noda “is listening” to the protesters, he said.