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Koizumi hopes son will push for abandonment of nuclear power

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gives a speech in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Sept. 15.
September 16, 2019
HITACHI, Ibaraki Prefecture–Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he hopes his son in his new position in the Cabinet will wean Japan from nuclear power and expand the use of natural energy.
In a speech here on Sept. 15, Koizumi said he was happy that his son, Shinjiro, 38, was appointed environment minister, his first Cabinet post, last week.
“He has studied things more than I did,” Koizumi said. “The environment is the most pressing issue. I want him to abandon nuclear power and turn Japan into a nation that can develop on natural energy.”
Koizumi also reiterated that he made a mistake when he promoted nuclear power when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006.
Pro-nuclear advocates had said that nuclear power was safe, low-cost and clean, but Koizumi said the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011 “proved all three ‘virtues’ false.”
He said Japan has abundant natural energy and should seek a path that does not rely on nuclear power.
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September 26, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Koizumi says Japan must say ‘no’ to nuclear energy

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks about his zero nuclear power proposal during a Dec. 12 interview in Tokyo.
January 17, 2019
When he was prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi championed the use of atomic power to generate electricity.
Then the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster struck, triggering a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Koizumi, in office from 2001 to 2006, and widely regarded as one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders, started reading up on the nuclear issue, and had a change of heart.
Koizumi, 76, published his first book by his own hand titled “Genpatsu Zero Yareba Dekiru” (We can abolish all nuclear plants if we try) in December. It is available from Ohta Publishing Co.
In it, he lambasts consumers for lacking a sense of crisis and simply believing a serious accident like the Fukushima disaster will never happen again in Japan during their lifetime.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Koizumi said it was “a lie” to claim that nuclear power is “safe, low-cost and clean,” although that is precisely what he espoused when he held the reins of power.
* * *
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Question: An opinion poll by The Asahi Shimbun in February 2018 showed that 61 percent of people oppose the restart of idle nuclear reactors, and yet, reactors are successively being brought back online. What is your view about this?
Koizumi: Many people still support the zero nuclear power generation policy. When I teamed up with Morihiro Hosokawa, (a former prime minister), who ran for the Tokyo governor’s election (in 2014), to call for abolition of nuclear power facilities, voters on the streets showed a positive reaction.
But now many people do not realize how dangerous nuclear reactors are. They probably believe a nuclear accident will never occur again while they live because of all the attention that has been paid to safety since the Fukushima crisis.
However, in the 2012 report compiled by the government’s panel to investigate causes of the disaster, the panel’s chair said, “Things that are possible happen. Things that are thought not possible also happen.”
In other words, there are no totally safe technologies.
Q: Many people seemingly believe that they have no choice but to accept nuclear power because it costs less than other types of electricity generation and electricity rates are cheaper. Do you agree?
A: The argument is doubtful. Nuclear power is relatively cheap just because the government covers part of the costs. Nuclear plants cannot be operated without assistance from the government. Private financial institutions would not extend loans to operators of nuclear facilities if the state did not provide guarantees.
Were it not for governmental support and taxpayers’ money, nuclear power would be more expensive than other kinds of energy.
Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) currently accounts for 15 percent of total power production in Japan. The percentage is much higher than before the Fukushima crisis. Even if costs slightly increase, citizens would accept the zero nuclear policy.
Q: Is it really possible to replace all the nuclear reactors with other sorts of power plants?
A: No reactors were operated for two years after the Fukushima disaster. But no power shortages were reported during the period. That means Japan can do without nuclear plants. It is a fact.
Q: During your tenure as prime minister (between 2001 and 2006), it emerged in 2002 that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had concealed problems at its nuclear facilities. Didn’t that cause you to lose your trust in nuclear power even then?
A: No. Power supply is important and the risk of power failures could damage the economy. It was then said to be difficult to replace (nuclear plants that produced) 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with other power sources.
As there were few facilities to generate power based on renewables at the time, I believed nuclear reactors were essential. I simply trusted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which said “nuclear energy is safe, low-cost and clean.”
But that was a big lie.
Although some people argued “nuclear plants are dangerous” even before the Fukushima crisis, I was deceived by the ministry and did not take their words seriously.
I did some soul-searching and decided I ought to spread the word that Japan can do without nuclear plants.
Q: You said “deceived.” Are you working to rectify your past mistake?
A: Yes. I am touring across Japan as I am keen to share my thoughts with many people.
Q: The issue of nuclear plants and their safety has hardly featured in recent national election campaigns. What’s your take on this?
A: The construction of a nuclear reactor is estimated at 1 trillion yen ($9.28 billion) now. Building reactors requires many materials, so many companies are involved in the nuclear power business.
Many tiny, small and midsize companies benefit from nuclear plants. Many of them insist that abolishing nuclear power would throw people out of work.
Some labor unions that support opposition parties are engaged in the nuclear power generation industry, though the (main opposition) Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan says it is in favor of the zero nuclear power policy.
Q: What do you think is important in realizing a nuclear-free society?
A: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists nuclear plants are essential, so many lawmakers remain silent about the issue. But there are lawmakers even in the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party who support the zero nuclear power policy.
If Abe declares the state will abolish all nuclear plants, the situation will drastically change. Both ruling and opposition parties can cooperate over the issue.
Why hasn’t the government set dream-inspiring goals to promote solar, wind and geothermal power generation?
Q: Could you explain the words in your book that “it is regrettable and irritating that I was deceived”?
A: When meeting with Abe, I always tell him, “Be careful not to be deceived by the economy ministry.” But he just smiles a wry smile and does not argue back.
He should not miss the current political opportunity that he has the upper hand (to change the government’s conventional nuclear energy policy).
Q: Do you talk with your son and Lower House lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi about the issue of nuclear plants?
A: He knows my opinion all too well. He is still young, so he should do what he wants after gaining power.
(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Takashi Arichika.)

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Bill calling for “immediate halt” to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, far right, speaks at a press conference at the House of Representatives First Members’ Office Building in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 10, 2018, to announce the bill for a nuclear free, renewable energy plan. Sitting on the far left is former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa.
Junichiro Koizumi-led group pitches bill calling for ‘immediate halt’ to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power
A group advised by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday unveiled details about a bill calling for an “immediate halt” to Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to prevent a recurrence of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The group is seeking to submit the bill to an upcoming Diet session in cooperation with opposition parties.
Sporting his signature leonine hairdo, Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers in recent memory, made a rare appearance before reporters with his unabated frankness, lashing out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his persistent pro-nuclear stance.
“You may think the goal of zero nuclear power is hard to achieve, but it’s not,” Koizumi said, adding that he believes many lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party support nuclear power passively out of respect for Abe, but that they could be persuaded to embrace a zero-nuclear policy under a different leader.
“Judging from his past remarks, I don’t think we can realize zero nuclear power as long as Abe remains in power. But I do think we can make it happen if he is replaced by a prime minister willing to listen to the public,” Koizumi told a packed news conference organized by Genjiren, an anti-nuclear association for which he serves as an adviser along with Morihiro Hosokawa, another former prime minister.
Claiming that the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant exposed the “extremely dangerous” and “costly” nature of atomic power — with a means of disposing of spent fuel still not in sight — the bill drafted by Genjiren calls for Japan’s “complete switch” to renewable energy.
Specifically, it demands that all active nuclear reactors be switched offline immediately and that those currently idle never be reactivated. It also defines the government’s responsibility to initiate steps toward a mass decommissioning and to map out “foolproof and safe” plans to dispose of spent fuel rods.
The bill sets forth specific numerical targets, too, saying various sources of natural energy, including solar, wind, water and geothermal heat, should occupy more than 50 percent of the nation’s total power supply by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
That Japan has experienced no mass power shortage following the shutdown of all 48 reactors in the wake of the 2011 crisis, except for a handful since reactivated, is in itself a testament to the fact that “we can get by without nuclear power,” Koizumi said.
A 2017 white paper by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry shows Japan’s reliance on nuclear power has plunged to a mere 1 percent after the Fukushima meltdowns. The vast majority of Japan’s power is supplied by sources such as liquefied natural gas, coal and oil.
Although the controversy over nuclear power has rarely emerged as a priority in recent parliamentary debates, the creation of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan may herald a breakthrough.
Later Wednesday, Genjiren pitched the bill to the CDP in a meeting with some of its members, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was in power when the Fukushima crisis erupted.
The CDP seeks to submit its own “zero nuclear power” bill to a regular Diet session slated to kick off later this month, positioning itself as a clearer anti-nuclear alternative to Abe’s ruling party than its predecessor, the Democratic Party.
The DP, which until recently held the most seats among opposition parties in both houses of the Diet, had failed to go all-out in crusading against nuclear power under the previous leadership of Renho, who goes by only one name.
At a party convention last March, Renho balked at adopting an ambitious target of slashing Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to zero by 2030 after reportedly facing resistance from party members beholden to the support of electricity industry unions.
In a preliminary draft unveiled Wednesday, the CDP’s bill-in-the-making called for ridding Japan of nuclear power “as soon as possible.”
 
Civic group proposes bill for Japan to exit nuclear power
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A Japanese civic group of activists, scholars and former politicians proposed a bill Wednesday to promote the country’s use of renewable energy and exit nuclear power in the hope of gaining the support of ruling and opposition parties.
“We will definitely realize zero nuclear plants by winning the support of many citizens,” former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who serves as the group’s adviser, told a press conference.
Koizumi, whose remarks still carry influence among the public, and former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa have been campaigning against the resumption of nuclear reactors taken offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Hosokawa is also an adviser to the group.
The leader of the group, Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, later exchanged views with officials of the anti-nuclear Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force in the House of Representatives. The group is urging lawmakers to submit the bill to the Diet’s ordinary session to be convened on Jan. 22.
The government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is promoting the restart of idle nuclear reactors.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a separate press conference Wednesday the government’s stance to bring reactors back online once they clear safety reviews of the Nuclear Regulation Authority “will not change.”
“We will also seek to lower the dependence on nuclear power as much as possible by maximizing the use of renewable energy and the thorough implementation of energy-saving measures,” the top government spokesman said.

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January 11, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Leader of Japan Turns Nuclear Foe

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TOKYO–William Zeller, a petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy, was one of hundreds of sailors who rushed to provide assistance to Japan after a giant earthquake and tsunami set off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Not long after returning home, he began to feel sick.

Today, he has nerve damage and abnormal bone growths, and blames exposure to radiation during the humanitarian operation conducted by crew members of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Neither his doctors nor the U.S. government has endorsed his claim or those of about 400 other sailors who attribute ailments including leukemia and thyroid disease to Fukushima and are suing Tokyo Electric, the operator of the plant.

But one prominent figure is supporting the U.S. sailors: Junichiro Koizumi, former prime minister of Japan.

Koizumi, 74, visited a group of the sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May, breaking down in tears at a news conference. Over the past several months, he has barnstormed Japan to raise money to help defray some of their medical costs.

The unusual campaign is just the latest example of Koizumi’s transformation in retirement into Japan’s most outspoken opponent of nuclear power. Though he supported nuclear power when he served as prime minister from 2001-06, he is now dead set against it and calling for the permanent shutdown of all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which were taken offline after the Fukushima disaster.

I want to work hard toward my goal that there will be zero nuclear power generation,” Koizumi said in an interview in a Tokyo conference room.

The reversal means going up against his old colleagues in the governing Liberal Democratic Party as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who are pushing to get Japan, once dependent for about one third of its energy on nuclear plants, back into the nuclear power business.

That Koizumi would take a contrarian view is perhaps not surprising. He was once known as “the Destroyer” because he tangled with his own party to push through difficult policy proposals like privatization of the national postal service.

Koizumi first declared his about-face on nuclear power three years ago, calling for Japan to switch to renewable sources of energy like solar power and arguing that “there is nothing more costly than nuclear power.”

After spending the first few years of his retirement out of the public eye, in recent months Koizumi has become much more vocal about his shift, saying he was moved to do more by the emotional appeal of the sailors he met in San Diego.

Scientists are divided about whether radiation exposure contributed to the sailors’ illnesses. The Defense Department, in a report commissioned by Congress, concluded that it was “implausible” that the service members’ ailments were related to radiation exposure from Fukushima.

To many political observers, Koizumi’s cause in retirement is in keeping with his unorthodox approach in office, when he captivated Japanese and international audiences with his blunt talk, opposition to the entrenched bureaucracy and passion for Elvis Presley.

Some wonder how much traction he can get with his anti-nuclear campaign, given the Abe administration’s determination to restart the atomic plants and the Liberal Democratic Party’s commanding majority in parliament.

Two reactors are back online; to meet Abe’s goal of producing one-fifth of the country’s electricity from nuclear power within the next 15 years, about 30 of the existing 43 reactors would need to restart. (Eleven reactors have been permanently decommissioned.)

A year after the Fukushima disaster, anti-nuclear fervor led tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo near the prime minister’s residence to register their anger at the government’s decision to restart the Ohi power station in western Japan. Public activism has dissipated since then, though polls consistently show that about 60 percent of Japanese voters oppose restarting the plants.

The average Japanese is not that interested in issues of energy,” said Daniel P. Aldrich, professor of political science at Northeastern University. “They are anti-nuclear, but they are not willing to vote the LDP out of office because of its pronuclear stance.”

Sustained political protest is rare in Japan, but some analysts say that does not mean the anti-nuclear movement is doomed to wither.

People have to carry on with their lives, so only so much direct action can take place,” said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Anti-nuclear activism “may look dormant from appearances, but it’s there, like magma,” he said. “It’s still brewing, and the next trigger might be another big protest or political change.”

Some recent signs suggest the movement has gone local. In October, Ryuichi Yoneyama was elected governor in Niigata, the prefecture in central Japan that is home to the world’s largest nuclear plant, after campaigning on a promise to fight efforts by Tokyo Electric to restart reactors there.

Like Koizumi, he is an example of how the anti-nuclear movement has blurred political allegiances in Japan. Before running for governor, Yoneyama had run as a Liberal Democratic candidate for parliament.

Koizumi, a conservative and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, may have led the way.

Originally, the nuclear issue was a point of dispute between conservatives and liberals,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer and leading anti-nuclear activist. “But after Mr. Koizumi showed up and said he opposed nuclear power, other conservatives realized they could be against nuclear power.”

Since he visited the sailors in San Diego, Koizumi has traveled around Japan in hopes of raising about $1 million for a foundation he established with another former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, an independent who has previously been backed by the opposition Democratic Party, to help pay some of the sailors’ medical costs.

Koizumi is not involved in the sailors’ lawsuit, now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Tokyo Electric is working to have the case moved to Japan.

Aimee L. Tsujimoto, a Japanese-American freelance journalist, and her husband, Brian Victoria, an American Buddhist priest now living in Kyoto, introduced Koizumi to the plaintiffs. Zeller, who said he took painkillers and had tried acupuncture and lymph node massages to treat his conditions, said the meeting with Koizumi was the first time that someone in power had listened to him.

This is a man where I saw emotion in his face that I have not seen from my own doctors or staff that I work with, or from my own personal government,” said Zeller, who works at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. “Nobody has put the amount of attention that I saw in his eyes listening to each word, not just from me, but from the other sailors who have gone through such severe things healthwise.”

Koizumi, whose signature leonine hairstyle has gone white since his retirement, said that after meeting the sailors in San Diego, he had become convinced of a connection between their health problems and the radiation exposure.

These sailors are supposed to be very healthy,” he said. “It’s not a normal situation. It is unbelievable that just in four or five years that these healthy sailors would become so sick.”

I think that both the U.S. and Japanese government have something to hide,” he added.

Many engineers, who argue that Japan needs to reboot its nuclear power network to lower carbon emissions and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels, say Koizumi’s position is not based on science.

He is a very dramatic person,” said Takao Kashiwagi, a professor at the International Research Center for Advanced Energy Systems for Sustainability at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “He does not have so much basic knowledge about nuclear power, only feelings.”

That emotion is evident when Koizumi speaks about the sailors. Wearing a pale blue gabardine jacket despite Japan’s black-and-gray suit culture, he choked up as he recounted how they had told him that they loved Japan despite what they had gone through since leaving.

They gave their utmost efforts to help the Japanese people,” he said, pausing to take a deep breath as tears filled his eyes. “I am no longer in government, but I couldn’t just let nothing be done.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/SDI201701026164.html

January 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Japan’s government should stay out of U.S. sailors’ lawsuit against Tepco

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Anti-nuclear village voice: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attends a press conference in Carlsbad, California, in May with former U.S. soldiers who have sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. for damage to their health they believe was caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The author of this column, Brian Victoria, who acted as translator for Koizumi during the trip, is seated on the left.

Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

Let me first acknowledge that after four long years of silence, the Japanese government has finally taken a position regarding the lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the U.S. by more than 450 American sailors, marines and civilians who were on board the USS Reagan and accompanying military ships off the coast of Tohoku after 3/11.

These young people experienced serious health problems resulting from, they allege, radiation exposure while participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military’s humanitarian rescue mission launched in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and subsequent multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

While the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of the suit is welcome, the unconditional support it has given to Tepco is a matter of deep concern. Even now, U.S. service personnel find themselves prevented from seeking justice because Tepco, with the support of the Japanese government, is doing its utmost to ensure the case will never be heard in an American court.

The Japanese government submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3. An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief is one presented by a party not directly involved in the suit in the hope of influencing the outcome. The brief contains two points:

1. “The Government of Japan has developed a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”

2. “Damage claims brought in tribunals outside of Japan threaten the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.”

Examining the first point, if the Japanese government truly had “a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims,” there would be no need for the U.S. service members’ lawsuit. Yet, as you know, the Japanese government and its subsidiaries have, to date, not paid a single yen to any non-Tepco-related victim of radiation exposure from Fukushima No. 1. This includes, as of March this year, a total of 173 children from the prefecture who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer, 131 of whom were confirmed to have had cancer.

If the Japanese government will not admit that the suffering of its own children was caused by radiation exposure, how confident can young Americans be that the apparently radiation-induced injuries they experienced will be recognized as such, let alone compensated for, in Japan?

Further, at least seven of these previously healthy young Americans have already died and many others are too ill to travel to Japan even if they could afford to, let alone reside in this country during lengthy legal procedures, which typically take years to resolve. This is not to mention the prospect of expensive legal costs, including for court fees, hiring Japanese lawyers, translation of relevant documents, etc. And let us never forget, Prime Minister, it was the Japanese government that requested the assistance of these American military personnel.

As for the second point above, I agree the U.S. military personnel’s lawsuit threatens “the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.” For example, if a U.S. court were to ascribe the plaintiffs’ illnesses to radiation exposure, how could the Japanese government continue to claim that none of the many illnesses the children and adults of Fukushima presently experience are radiation-related? The American service personnel truly serve as “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to demonstrating the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Moreover, this canary is out of the Japanese government’s ability to control.

Let us further suppose that an American court were to award $3 million per person as compensation for the deaths, currently standing at seven, of the military personnel who were irradiated. By contrast, the Japanese government continues to deny compensation, for radiation-induced illnesses let alone deaths, to its own citizens. This would surely impact the “viability” (not to mention reputation) of the Japanese government in its ongoing denial of radiation-related injuries to non-Tepco employees.

Let me close by noting that there is one Japanese political leader who has accepted personal responsibility for the injuries inflicted on American service personnel. I refer to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who, after meeting with injured servicemen and women in San Diego in May, initiated a fund to meet as many of the medical needs of these sailors and marines as possible.

Fortunately, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary Japanese, he has already raised $700,000 toward his $1 million goal. With tears in his eyes, Koizumi explained that he could not ignore the suffering of hundreds of formerly healthy young Americans who willingly put themselves at risk in order to render aid to the Japanese people.

Prime Minister Abe, I call on you to end the Japanese government’s unconditional legal support of Tepco. Further, if the Japanese government has a conscience, please immediately provide medical aid and compensation to the hundreds of American victims of Operation Tomodachi.

BRIAN VICTORIA

Kyoto

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/02/voices/japans-government-stay-u-s-sailors-lawsuit-tepco/#.WBywcSTia-c

November 4, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan Political Pulse: A helping hand following radiation misfortune

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Recently former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 74, was seen talking to 62-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Their encounter was recorded on a photo page of the Sept. 29 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.

The scene was Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo, where they had attended the Sept. 15 funeral of former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Koichi Kato and were waiting for their cars to arrive. For about 90 seconds the “master and disciple” stood side by side. Below are the details of Koizimi’s comments and the prime minister’s reaction, which didn’t appear in Shukan Bunshun.

Koizumi: “Why don’t you totally eliminate nuclear power plants?”

Abe: (Faint smile, bow)

Koizumi: “Having zero nuclear power plants is cheaper. Why don’t you understand such a simple thing? It’s all lies, what the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is saying. The things advocates of nuclear power plants are saying — they’re all lies. Don’t be fooled.”

Abe: (Wry smile, bows again, and with head kept low heads to official vehicle)

Koizumi is currently pouring his efforts into a fund to support those who say they were affected by radiation during “Operation Tomodachi,” a U.S. Armed Forces operation to support Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Over 400 soldiers from the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier and accompanying ships complained of ill-health after helping in rescue efforts following their urgent dispatch to the seas off Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Some of them are said to have died from causes including leukemia.

The aircraft carrier fleet worked intermittently in a radiation plume from the stricken power plant between March 13 and 17, 2011. After returning home from Japan, a stream of soldiers developed ailments including brain tumors and thyroid cancer. The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the Japanese and U.S. governments acknowledged that they had been exposed to low-level radiation, but do not accept a causal relationship between exposure and their illnesses.

Koizumi learned that some soldiers had left the military at a young age, had no insurance and couldn’t pay their medical fees. It was in May this year that the former prime minister traveled to the United States and directly inquired about their circumstances.

Former soldiers earlier filed a lawsuit against parties including TEPCO, and oral arguments over whether jurisdiction of the case should lie in Japan or the United States were heard in an appeals court in California on Sept. 1. At the time, a Japanese government adviser is said to have supported an agent for TEPCO, stating that radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military.

Koizumi, who read a note on the hearing (carried in the Sept. 9 issue of the magazine Shukan Kinyobi), responded immediately.

“This is embarrassing. They were relief efforts for Japan, right? The American judge is said to have been appalled,” he was quoted as saying.

On July 5, Koizumi appeared in a news conference with figures including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 78, and Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, 61, an adviser at The Johnan Shinkin Bank, to announce the start of fundraising activities to help the U.S. soldiers. Koizumi himself approached the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) but was turned away on the grounds that TEPCO is a member of the federation.

Reinforcements have nevertheless appeared on the funding front. Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 75, posed the following question: “Mr. Koizumi, will you come to Osaka and give a lecture? I’ll assemble 1,000 people. With a fee of 10,000 yen per person, that’ll bring in 10 million yen.”

When Koizumi appeared at the lecture in August, 1,300 people turned up. The same style of lecture is due to be held in Tokyo on Nov. 16, organized by the head of a group of managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the president of a solar power generation company provided 10 million yen.

Through these efforts, the total has climbed to 50 million yen. Koizumi apparently hopes to amass 100 million yen by next spring.

The connection between radiation exposure and the development of illness is delicate. There’s a possibility of developing cancer, but there are doubts about whether a person would suddenly die, experts say.

On Sept. 7, Koizumi spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district. He was asked if it was responsible to talk about damage from radiation exposure without presenting scientific evidence.

Below is the gist of his reply:

“I’m no longer a member of the government. I’m a civilian. There are people who are actually suffering. It’s common sense for me to support them.”

Fundraising and service instead of criticism; denial of the perception of saying, “Radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military” to protect nuclear power policies … I support this form of common sense from our former prime minister. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161003/p2a/00m/0na/021000c

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment