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Tue Dec 17, 2013, 07:01 AM Dec 2013

5 Japan exPMs Nakasone, Hatoyama, Koizumi, Noda, & Kan oppose nuclear

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 11, Issue 50, No.3, December 16, 2013.
Just Gas? Smart Power and Koizumi’s Anti-Nuclear Challenge

Andrew DeWit

Japan’s former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro has repeatedly called for current Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to make an explicit decision to get out of nuclear power. Koizumi’s full-scale press conference on this matter, held on November 12 in front of 350 journalists, shook up the Abe cabinet. It continues to do so, judging by the tendentious commentary it continues to attract. Koizumi forced the cabinet to address an item they clearly wanted to finesse for the time being.1 But the substance of Koizumi’s over hour-long event has not yet received the attention it merits. This article puts Koizumi’s talk in context, showing that his position is shared by all the former Japanese prime ministers, including Nakasone Yasuhiro. Most important, contrary to the claim that Japan’s choice is either gas or nuclear, Koizumi highlighted the ongoing deployment of radical efficiency and renewable energy as the proper path forward. And the accelerating rollout of smart cities across Japan suggests that Koizumi and his colleagues are standing on the right side of history.

Koizumi’s motives for speaking out continue to be the subject of speculation in the Japanese media, including a paranoid claim that he must be in hock to the US shale gas lobby.2 But one of Koizumi’s most fervent supporters is PM Abe’s own wife, Abe Akie, a significant political figure in her own right and one very knowledgeable about energy alternatives.3 Koizumi’s anti-nuclear position is also not a sudden development or apparently one driven by pecuniary self-interest. Koizumi has been publicly mooting his concerns about nuclear power since at least 2012, and during early August of 2013 went on a fact-finding mission (with the nuclear engineers of Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi) to Germany and Finland.4 Koizumi also alienated the 80 establishment firms, including prominent members from the nuclear village, grouped in the Centre for International Public Policy Studies set up in March of 2007 with YEN 1.8 billion of their funding and Koizumi as chairman.5

Nor is Koizumi the odd-man-out, at least in the league of present and former PMs. Rather, Abe is: former Prime Ministers Nakasone Yasuhiro, Hatoyama Yukio, Noda Yoshihiko, and Kan Naoto have all also expressed opposition to nuclear power and declared that that Japan must pursue alternatives. Nakasone's statement was especially surprising, because he was one of the father's of Japan's nuclear effort. Yet at a June 26, 2011 "Solar Economy Kanagawa" conference held in Yokohama, Nakasone declared that "nuclear power damages humankind" and called for a large-scale cultural shift to harvesting energy while co-existing with nature.6

So Koizumi's opposition to the nuclear village’s agenda is consistent with the mindset of other former prime ministers once they were out of the bubble of policymaking dominated by vested interests and concerns about their income streams. What makes Koizumi’s position stand out is the fact that he is enormously popular, even though he left the office of Prime Minister seven years ago. PM Abe is indeed Koizumi's protegé, and leads a party in which there are already widespread misgivings about the commitment to restarts and talk of new reactor construction.7

One core argument of the narrative that would dismiss Koizumi’s intervention as “emotional” is that it offered no alternatives. This assertion is nonsense. ...
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