JAPAN | Angry Kaieda to quit after Kan shifts nuke stance

Posted on July 7, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 7 July 2011

Industry minister Banri Kaieda, left, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan (Asahi Shimbun photos)

A furious industry minister Banri Kaieda plans to quit, possibly in August, after being undercut by Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s demand for stress tests on nuclear power plants.

The already hobbled Kan will be further weakened if he loses Kaieda.

Ryu Matsumoto, minister in charge of post-quake reconstruction, was forced to resign over inappropriate behavior July 5.

“I will take responsibility when the time comes,” Kaieda told an Upper House Budget Committee meeting July 7, when asked about local governments’ opposition to the stress tests.

“I will step down,” he insisted, when a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan tried to back him up.

Kaieda plans to resign once approval of a bill to compensate victims of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is guaranteed, in addition to three bills Kan set as conditions for his resignation.

Kaieda, who was already angry at Kan for his unseemly determination to hang on to power, plans to step down even if Kan is still in office at that time. Kaieda, who is in charge of nuclear power policies, oversees the compensation bill.

Kaieda, following Kan’s orders, announced July 6 that the government will conduct additional safety evaluations, although the industry minister has repeatedly stressed current safety measures are adequate.

The abrupt change in policy was criticized by leaders of Saga Prefecture and the town of Genkai, who supported the restart of two reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant after being reassured by Kaieda.

Kaieda instructed electric power companies to take emergency safety measures for nuclear power plants on March 30 and June 8 and concluded that the measures taken were appropriate on June 18.

On June 29, he traveled to Saga Prefecture and Genkai town and persuaded locals to approve the restart of the two reactors, which have been shut down for regular inspections.

Now only a week later, Kan’s call for stress tests is an implicit rebuke and seriously damages Kaieda’s position with the local governments and residents.

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Posted in: JAPAN