Fukushima nuclear accident
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, following a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 which claimed nearly 19,000 lives. It is the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and only the second disaster to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Ex-Japanese leaders Koizumi, Hosokawa join anti-nuclear tide
Japan's flagging anti-nuclear movement has been given a boost after two former prime ministers spoke out in favour of phasing out atomic power following the disaster in Fukushima.
Flamboyant former premier Junichiro Koizumi has in recent weeks called on his one-time protege and the nation's current leader Shinzo Abe to abandon nuclear power. Yesterday, he repeated those pleas as another former premier, Morihiro Hosokawa, said he too favoured an end to reliance on nuclear power.
"Prime Minister Abe should use the power given to him to do what the majority of the people want," Koizumi said in a speech at the Japan Press Club. "It can be achieved. Why miss this chance?"
Polls have shown the majority of the public, worried over potential health risks from radiation, prefer to shift away from the nuclear plants that provided nearly a third of Japan's power generation capacity before the Fukushima accident.
Their support could help reinvigorate the anti-nuclear movement, which has lost some of its vitality nearly three years after the Fukushima accident.
"I can't understand why they want restarts of the nuclear plants when there is no place to discard the nuclear waste," Hosokawa said in an interview published in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.
"It would be a crime against future generations for our generation to restart nuclear plants without resolving this issue."
Koizumi said that with Japan's nuclear plants all offline for safety checks it would be easiest to begin the phase-out soon.
Abe favours restarting the nuclear plants under safety guidelines revised after multiple meltdowns in Fukushima following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, contending that resource-scarce Japan cannot afford not to. His government is drawing up a national energy policy that will likely reverse a commitment by the previous government to phase out nuclear power over the next two decades.
Koizumi emphasised his concern over the lack of a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste in the densely populated, land-scarce nation.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse