Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan has told the Japanese parliament to abandon nuclear power, and says he was partly responsible, as the head of government, for the nuclear disaster triggered by last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Mr. Kan spoke Monday to lawmakers, criticizing the role of the Tokyo Electrical Power Company and decades of lobbying by the nuclear power industry.
“TEPCO and the Electric Power Companies of Japan have dominated the nuclear power industry for the last 40 years. Through this nuclear clique and the rules they created, they expelled and isolated industry experts, politicians and bureaucrats who were critical, while the rest just looked on because of self-protection and an attitude of peace-at-any-cost. I'm saying this because I feel partly responsible.”
The former prime minister came under withering criticism in the days and weeks following the March 11, 2011 disasters that wrecked the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant northeast of Tokyo. Critics ripped the government for its unpreparedness in the face of disaster and for official Tokyo's widely perceived failure to provide clear information to a grief-stricken and battered public.
Mr. Kan compared the influence of the pre-disaster nuclear lobby to that of the World War Two-era military hold on Japanese society.
“This nuclear clique, which has been created by the vested interest, is similar to the former Imperial Japanese military. We have to totally destroy and eradicate the organizational structure of the vested interests and (the) influence it has on the public. I think this should be the first step in reforming the nuclear industry.”
Mr. Kan, who resigned in September, also said there was a lack of information gathering on the nuclear crisis in the days after the disasters, despite the presence of experts from the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Earlier this year, a comprehensive, independent report said the crisis at the Fukushima plant was made worse because the plant's six nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools were too close to each other, and that the same problem exists at other plants in Japan.
The report was based on interviews with 300 experts by 30 investigators, including academics, lawyers and freelance journalists. It said Japan was not ready to manage the crisis, and that blame stretched from the operators of the battered plant to the prime minister's office.
In addition to the Fukushima disaster, the 9.0 earthquake and accompanying tsunami destroyed large swaths of coastal northeastern Japan, killing 20,000 people.