HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged Saturday in Hiroshima to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and lowering Japan’s reliance on nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which he said has caused concerns about radiation-induced health risks.
“Japan will reduce its level of reliance on nuclear power generation with the aim of becoming a society that is not dependent on nuclear power,” Kan said in his speech during a ceremony to mark the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city.
The accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant “caused the release of radioactive materials, thus generating tremendous concern in Japan and around the world,” Kan told the ceremony attended by representatives from 66 countries including James Zumwalt, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Japan will work hard toward “bringing the incident to a close as quickly as possible and preventing health hazards,” Kan said, adding that he “deeply” regretted “believing in the ‘security myth’ of nuclear power.”
The world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant was the center of attention at this year’s ceremony, along with the abolition of nuclear weapons and support measures for atomic-bomb survivors.
Kan also said, “It is Japan’s historical responsibility to the world to tell future generations about the horrors of nuclear weapons,” referring to the launch of a government website where the experiences of atomic-bomb survivors have been translated into many languages.
Envoys from countries such as France, Britain and Russia attended the ceremony.
In his peace declaration, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “The Japanese government should…quickly review our energy policies and institute concrete countermeasures to regain the understanding and trust of the people” regarding nuclear power.
Matsui stopped short of explicitly calling for the end of nuclear power generation.
“From the common admonition that ‘nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist,’ some seek to abandon nuclear power altogether. Others advocate extremely strict control of nuclear power and increased utilization of renewable energy,” Matsui said.
Matsui, who in April became the first Hiroshima mayor born to an atomic-bomb survivor, related the experiences of two atomic-bomb survivors — a man who was 13 and a woman who was 16 at the time of the bombing — in the declaration.
Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs, read out a message from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. “We recommit ourselves to pursue this goal (a world free of nuclear weapons) with all the reason, passion and imagination we can summon.”
The total number of atomic-bomb survivors from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings stood at 219,410 as of March, around 8,000 less than the year before.