JAPAN | Kan’s energy speech draws praise, skepticism, resignation

Posted on July 14, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 14 July 2011

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s speech Wednesday in which he expressed his idea for a society not reliant on nuclear power drew high praise from environmentalists, while victims of the March 11 disaster expressed skepticism.

The mayor of a southwestern Japan town hosting the Genkai nuclear power plant, meanwhile, said it will now be difficult for him to approve its reactors’ restart after Kan called for the eventual withdrawal from nuclear power. He said he feels “resigned.”

Kiko Network, a civic group, said, “It will be remembered as a day when a major shift in energy policy was made as (Kan) became the first among successive prime ministers to declare the idea of ending reliance on nuclear power.”

The group earlier presented an estimate that Japan can ride out summer peak electricity demand through power conservation even if all nuclear reactors are stopped.

Greenpeace Japan said, “It is a logical policy when we place priority on safety and a sense of security for the generations to come following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

But a 46-year-old self-employed man in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, a town damaged by the March 11 disaster that hosts a nuclear power plant, said, “How far can I trust the words of a prime minister resigning soon?”

Kenichi Fukono, 62, a temp staff in the city of Minamisoma, who had to evacuate from a region near the Fuksuhima plant, said, “Since the days just after the accident, the government has not been so sensitive about people in Fukushima Prefecture. No matter what the prime minister says, I just cannot believe it.”

A utility worker in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, host to a nuclear power plant, said, “I understand the prime minister’s idea about withdrawing from nuclear power but what does he have in mind about securing replacement power. I also find it difficult to understand why he had to say it at this point in time.”

Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto told Kyodo News he feels “resigned” about the situation, saying, “We cannot defy the premier and say that only we will resume.”

Kishimoto made his remarks soon after Kan made clear in his latest news conference that Japan should aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear power in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The mayor criticized the premier for being “inconsistent” in his past remarks regarding whether or not to restart the reactors.

“He is simply saying things that would make him look good,” said Kishimoto, who earlier this month approved the restart of two reactors suspended for regular checkups in line with the industry ministry’s request.

Kishimoto later retracted his approval after the government’s flip-flop on the issue.

The two Genkai reactors would have been the first to resume operations since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis.

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