Naoto Kan, the former Japanese prime minister who has become a vigorous campaigner against nuclear power, yesterday called on members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who share his convictions to state them openly. Leader of the nation on March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake struck northeast Japan and triggered the second-worst nuclear accident in history, Kan stepped down in August of that year and has since travelled the globe promoting his vision of a world that does not require nuclear energy. Even though he is no longer in government, after his Democratic Party of Japan suffered a drubbing in a general election last December, Kan continues to push his belief that humankind cannot completely control nuclear energy and that we therefore need to harness power from renewable sources to ensure our future. Many people in Japan share that opinion, he believes, including a substantial proportion of the LDP. But they are being prevented from speaking their minds, he charges. "I would say that more than 50 per cent of LDP members share my position on nuclear energy," Kan said during a speech in Tokyo. "And if that is so, I hope to be able to encourage them to express their thoughts in public." He singled out Taro Kono and Seiichiro Murakami, both of whom are long-standing and fairly senior members of the party, for having spoken against Japan's reliance on nuclear energy in contravention of the LDP's official line. Other party members, he says, along with the majority of the media, academics, regional leaders and Japanese society at large, have been cowed by the all-pervasive power of the companies, politicians, industrial bodies and other vested interests that make up the "nuclear village". "To me, the reason they say nothing is quite clear," he said. "It is the influence of the 'nuclear village', which means that anyone who speaks out against nuclear energy comes face-to-face with a system that stops them from rising through the ranks of their organisation. "Unfortunately, that system is still in place today." Kan believes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is part of the problem and has started legal action against him for comments made on Abe's personal blog during the 2012 campaign. Abe accused Kan of intervening on March 12, the day after three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, to halt the use of sea water to cool the overheating reactor vessels. The message on Abe's blog demanded that Kan apologise to the people of Japan for threatening their safety and that he resign. The following day, the right-wing Yomiuri and Sankei newspapers printed stories based on Abe's comments, further reinforcing his accusations. "What was written was very different from the truth," Kan said. "Reports by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co since then confirm this did not happen. I never gave an order for the seawater to stop being used." Kan asked Abe to remove the claim from his website on "repeated occasions", he said, but nothing had happened. He has since filed defamation charges and court proceedings have begun.