Update: According to the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho, Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s decision to shut down the Hamaoka power plant and compensate the victims of the Fukushima Daicihi accident has been well accepted by the Japanese people. However, the decision might not of itself be enough for the PM to keep his job.
TOKYO (majirox news) – Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan was not regarded as much more than a stop-gap leader of this country when he took over the helm from a lackadaisical predecessor a little less than a year ago.
Then the deities intervened in the shape of the Great Quake. The man who had, a moment earlier, been the object of declining expectations was all of a sudden propelled upwards simply by being there.
“The earthquake saved him,” remarked Eisuke Sakakibara, a former finance ministry official.
Kan said that plans to build more reactors in Japan in addition to the current facilities, should be put on hold.
“Along with the plant operator, TEPCO, the government bears a great responsibility for the nuclear accident as it has pursued a nuclear energy policy,” he said in a televised press conference on Tuesday. “As the one in charge of this policy. I wish to offer my apologies to the people.”
Additionally, Kan will not accept his premier’s salary until the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plan is over and pledged to review energy policy.
“In view of this position, I have decided to give up my annual allowance as prime minister from June, until we can see the prospect of a solution to the nuclear accident,” Kan said. He will keep his lawmaker’s salary.
TEPCO ‘s President Masataka Shimizu and other executive directors would return their remuneration for the time being.
Kan said atomic power must be made safer and Japan needs to seek safer ways to secure nuclear power. He reiterated the government would not turn its back on nuclear power.
Japan has a total of 54 reactors and 17 nuclear power plants. Currently 15 reactors are stopped due to the earthquake and 7 have not been restarted after maintenance. There will be a total of 42 reactors not operating after summer, leaving only 12 working reactors.
Nuclear power and fossil fuels have been two major pillars of the Japanese energy policy.
“ I think two more pillars are important because of climate change,” Kan said. “Japan will add renewables to its core energy sources, while aiming in creating an energy-saving society”
Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.
The current Japanese energy program targets that nuclear power will account for over 50 percent of the total energy supply, and renewables for 20 percent by 2030. Kan noted that this plan needs to be reviewed from scratch. “Better safety must be ensured in nuclear power while renewable need to be promoted.”
Kan’s move is reminiscent of his early years in politics in the 1970s, when he made a name by campaigning for Fusae Ichikawa, a celebrated suffragette of the l920s who emerged as a passionate advocate of women’s rights. Kan served for years as a gofer of sorts for the elderly lady.
His years of service let him be looked down on by conservatives but created a platform for him in politics.
Scott Stokes was the former Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times, The Economist and the New York Times. His upcoming book on Commodore Perry is published by Overlook Press of New York.