(Mainichi Japan) July 26, 2011
Blaming everything on Kan won't solve nuclear issue
In his presentation "Tsuzuri Katakyoshitsu," rakugo storyteller Ryutei Chiraku IV pokes fun at himself with the saying, "It's all my fault that the postboxes are red and the telegraph poles are high."
Strange as it seems, this phrase is exactly the kind of thing we are hearing during debate in Japan's Diet now.
The March 11 disaster and nuclear crisis, the political strife, the strong yen, the budget deficit are all Prime Minister Naoto Kan's fault.
"If Kan would only quit, everything would be solved," politicians in both the opposition and ruling parties seem to be thinking.
Kan, meanwhile, keeps his eyes low when he makes rebuttals, and it sounds as if he is making excuses.
With the Fukushima nuclear crisis raging on, politicians should be questioning Japan's national policy of promoting nuclear power.
So why aren't the main parties facing up to the issue and debating the risks of nuclear power plants?
Why is it always the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party that take issue with these risks? リスクを追及するのはなぜ、いつも共産党と社民党なのか。
Surely this is a scientific issue, not a matter of ideology.
The lack of debate was recently highlighted over the issue of Vietnam's order of Japanese nuclear power plants.
Last year Japan received orders from Vietnam for two nuclear power plants.
It was Kan's top deal for the nation.
Now, however, Kan has moved toward abandoning nuclear power in his homeland.
In a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee on July 20, a lawmaker from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) posed the question, "Is it all right to export dangerous nuclear power plants?" 先週２０日の衆院予算委で、自民党が「危ない原発を輸出していいのか」と追及した。
Kan explained the background to the deal, but sidestepped the question, saying, "We need to debate this within the context of our energy policies and growth strategies."
This dialogue was an example of an intelligent question and a silly answer, but the lawmaker posing the question didn't provide any view on the issue either, and as a natural consequence the debate sank into superficiality.
Balancing the nation's role as an economic superpower built on exports, and moves abandoning nuclear power is an issue of great magnitude.
Ideally Kan should clearly explain the issues, but one cannot say he is incompetent or insincere just because he has been slow.
If Japan's leader were "Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda" or "Prime Minister Yoshito Sengoku" or "Prime Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki" would we then receive a clear explanation?
The answers to nuclear problems do not come simply by changing the face of the prime minister.
If politicians are to question nuclear power plant exports to Vietnam, they must go to the root of the issue and settle the question of what, exactly, is dangerous.
Scientists are divided over the risks associated with nuclear power plants, but the diagnosis of the insurance industry is said to be uniform and objective.
Masaji Shinagawa, 86, the former president of Nipponkoa Insurance Co. and a current company adviser, as well as a permanent executive secretary of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, gave his opinion on the issue in the May issue of the journal Sekai, in an article titled, "Nuclear Power and Damage Insurance."
"The nuclear power industry can only exist in a framework separate from that of regular economic business, including from the perspective of damage insurance," he stated.
The reason for this is that nuclear disasters can't be tested, and so even in a worst-case scenario, the damages remain unpredictable.
The damage caused by a nuclear plant disaster spreads not only through the air and through society, but also spreads over time, damaging the genes of subsequent generations.
Building nuclear power plants may be on the same scale as jumbo jets or huge tankers, but the elements are completely different.
Proponents of nuclear power say, "All we need to do is improve safety," but just what are the standards for safety, and what exactly can be considered safe?
And how will spent nuclear fuel -- something we found out about through the Fukushima nuclear crisis -- be dealt with?
What are we to do with a nuclear fuel cycle that has no upside?
What is to become of Japan's Monju sodium-cooled fast reactor?
Has the handling of spent nuclear fuel been settled in the contract with Vietnam?
There are mountains of issues that should be debated in the Diet, but politicians have tended not to focus on them.
Because they say Kan has already declared that he will resign.
As the opposition thinks that Kan will resign soon, it has put more energy into shaking up the ruling administration than in getting to the main issues.
Kan's perseverance is one of his merits.
The view earlier proposed by Keisen University professor Toru Takeda that Kan is playing the clown, giving the public time to think, is funny, but the Diet is clearly wasting time.
I want politicians to debate the risks of nuclear power rather than talking about Kan.
(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年7月25日 東京朝刊