Junichiro Koizumi disputes current leader’s description of situation at stricken nuclear power plant as being under control
Junichiro Koizumi is supporting US sailors and marines who claim they developed illness after being exposed to Fukushima radiation while helping with relief operations.
Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has labelled the country’s current leader, Shinzo Abe, a “liar” for telling the international community that the situation at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is under control.
Koizumi, who became one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders during his 2001-06 premiership, has used his retirement from frontline politics to become a leading campaigner against nuclear restarts in Japan in defiance of Abe, a fellow conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) politician who was once regarded as his natural successor.
Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires in September 2013 that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was “under control”, shortly before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.
IOC officials were concerned by reports about the huge build-up of contaminated water at the Fukushima site, more than two years after the disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.
“When [Abe] said the situation was under control, he was lying,” Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo. “It is not under control,” he added, noting the problems the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), has experienced with a costly subterranean ice wall that is supposed to prevent groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors, where it becomes highly contaminated.
“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. He went on to claim that Abe had been fooled by industry experts who claim that nuclear is the safest, cleanest and cheapest form of energy for resource-poor Japan.
“He believes what he’s being told by nuclear experts,” Koizumi said. “I believed them, too, when I was prime minister. I think Abe understands the arguments on both sides of the debate, but he has chosen to believe the pro-nuclear lobby.”
After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said he had “studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power, and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies”.
Abe has pushed for the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors, while the government says it wants nuclear to account for a fifth of Japan’s total energy mix by 2030. Just three of the country’s dozens of nuclear reactors are in operation, and two will be taken offline later this year for maintenance.
Koizumi, 74, has also thrown his support behind hundreds of US sailors and marines who claim they developed leukaemia and other serious health problems after being exposed to Fukushima radiation plumes while helping with relief operations – nicknamed Operation Tomodachi (friend) – following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In 2012 the service personnel launched a lawsuit accusing Tepco of failing to prevent the accident and of lying about the levels of radiation from the stricken reactors, putting US personnel at risk.
Most of the 400 plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that was anchored off Japan’s north-east coast while helicopters flew emergency supplies to survivors of the tsunami, which killed almost 19,000 people.
Medical experts, however, said the sailors would have received only small, non-harmful doses of radiation; a US defence department report published in 2014 said no link had been established between the sailors’ health problems and their exposure to low doses of Fukushima radiation.
Koizumi, who met several of the sick servicemen in San Diego in May, plans to raise $1m by the end of next March to help cover the sailors’ medical expenses.
“I felt I had to do something to help those who worked so hard for Japan,” he said. “That won’t be enough money, but at least it will show that Japan is grateful for what they did for us.”
Despite his opposition to Abe’s pro-nuclear policies, Koizumi was complimentary about his performance as prime minister during his second time in office in the past decade.
“As far as nuclear power is concerned, we are totally at odds,” Koizumi said. “But I think he’s reflected on the mistakes he made during his first time as leader and is doing a much better job second time around.”
In political longevity terms, Abe’s performance could hardly be worse. He resigned in September 2007 after less than a year in office, following a series of ministerial scandals, a debilitating bowel condition and a disastrous performance by the LDP in upper house elections.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi poses for photos as he arrives for a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. Koizumi is raising money for the hundreds of American sailors who say they got sick from radiation after taking part in disaster relief for the 2011 tsunami that set off the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.
Former Japan Premier Accuses Abe of ‘a Lie’ on Fukushima Safety
Koizumi says situation at Fukushima plant not under control
After previously backing nuclear power, Koizumi now opposes it
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi blasted current premier Shinzo Abe’s stance that the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is under control.
“It’s a lie,” an impassioned Koizumi, 74, told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. “They keep saying it’s going to be under control, but still it’s not effective. I really want to know how you can tell a lie like that.”
A spokesman for Abe’s office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment.
More than five years after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, the operator — Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. — continues to struggle to contain the radiation-contaminated water that inundates the plant. Tepco is using a frozen “ice wall” to stop water from entering the wrecked facility, but still about 300 metric tons of water flows into the reactor building daily, mixing with melted fuel and becoming tainted, according to the company’s website.
Company spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said by e-mail that a process to bolster the ice wall is beginning to have an effect, adding that the company believes no underground water is flowing into the sea without being treated. All radioactive materials are under measurable limits, he said.
Koizumi was speaking at an event to publicize his campaign to raise money to help U.S. servicemen who say they contracted radiation sickness while working on the cleanup after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and meltdown.
The former prime minister backed the use of nuclear power during his years in office from 2001-2006, but now says he regrets that he had been ignorant about its risks and is campaigning for its abolition.
“When I was prime minister, I believed what they told me. I believed it was a cheap, safe and clean form of energy,” Koizumi said. “I’m now ashamed of myself for believing those lies for so long.”
Koizumi also blasted Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, saying that its chief, Shunichi Tanaka, gave permission to restart the Sendai reactor in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu despite having reservations about its safety.
The authority wasn’t immediately available to comment outside of business hours.
Local courts and governments have been one of the biggest roadblocks to restarting more reactors, crimping Abe’s goal of deriving as much as 22 percent of the nation’s energy needs from nuclear by 2030.
The Otsu District Court earlier this year made a surprise decision that restricted Kansai Electric Power Co. from operating two reactors in western Japan only weeks after they’d been turned back on.
On March 10, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the disaster, Abe said that Japan can’t do without nuclear power.
‘No Perfect Source’
Just three of the nation’s 42 operable reactors are currently online. Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and 2 reactors, which restarted last year, are facing opposition from the region’s new governor, who has twice formally demanded that they be temporarily shut for inspection.
“There is no perfect source for electricity,” Dale Klein, an adviser to Tepco and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an interview in Tokyo last week. “If there were a perfect source, we wouldn’t be having our energy debates. Wind has its problems, solar has its problems, coal has its problems. But at the end of the day, we need electricity. And I think nuclear is an environmentally viable way to produce electricity.”
Koizumi contested claims by Abe’s administration that the nuclear watchdog is imposing the world’s most stringent safety standards in the earthquake-prone nation. “If you compare the Japanese regulations to those in America, you realize how much looser the Japanese regulations are,” he said.
“Abe knows the arguments on both sides, but he still believes the arguments for nuclear power generation,” Koizumi added.
Abe’s Fukushima ‘under control’ pledge to secure Olympics was a lie – former PM
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” in his successful pitch three years ago for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games “was a lie”, former premier Junichiro Koizumi said on Wednesday.
Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular premiers during his 2001-2006 term, became an outspoken critic of nuclear energy after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi plant, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Abe gave the assurances about safety at the Fukushima plant in his September 2013 speech to the International Olympic Committee to allay concerns about awarding the Games to Tokyo. The comment met with considerable criticism at the time.
“Mr. Abe’s ‘under control’ remark, that was a lie,” Koizumi, now 74 and his unruly mane of hair turned white, told a news conference where he repeated his opposition to nuclear power.
“It is not under control,” Koizumi added, citing as an example Tepco’s widely questioned efforts to build the world’s biggest “ice wall” to keep groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.
“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. Experts say handling the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water stored in tanks on the Fukushima site is one of the biggest challenges.
Koizumi also said he was “ashamed” that he had believed experts who assured him that nuclear power was cheap, clean and safe and that resource-poor Japan had to rely on nuclear energy.
After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said, “I studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies.”
All Japan’s nuclear plants – which had supplied about 30 percent of its electricity – were closed after the Fukushima disaster and utilities have struggled to get running again in the face of a sceptical public. Only three are operating now.
Abe’s government has set a target for nuclear power to supply a fifth of energy generation by 2030.
The meltdowns in three Fukushima reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air. More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns.
Despite dwindling momentum, Koizumi pursues anti-nuclear goals
While Japan’s once-charged anti-nuclear movement struggles to retain its momentum five years after the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi remains doggedly determined to attain his goal of ending the country’s reliance on atomic energy.
On Wednesday, he renewed his pledge to help ill U.S. veterans whose conditions they claim are linked to the release of radioactive plumes from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Koizumi, who is opposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear stance, said it was an “outright lie” when Abe said during Tokyo’s final presentation for the bid to host the 2020 Olympics that the contaminated water situation at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is under control.
Koizumi also said Japan can be put on a sustainable path without atomic power.
“The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first,” Koizumi told an audience of more than 180 who had gathered for his news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “Japan can grow if the country relies more renewable energy.”
As part of his anti-nuclear push, the 74-year-old former leader set up a fund in July to help U.S. sailors with conditions such as leukemia that they say was caused by radioactive fallout from Fukushima No. 1. He said the fund has raised about ¥40 million so far, with a goal of topping ¥100 million by next March 31.
In May, Koizumi visited Carlsbad, California, to speak to several veterans with health conditions who had taken part in Operation Tomodachi while aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Those veterans had provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Tohoku region after quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, at the request of the Japanese government.
“After talking to the sailors, I thought it would not be enough for me to simply say ‘I’m sorry’ and leave,” Koizumi said, explaining the impetus for setting up the fund.”Words alone would not be enough and I thought that I had to do something.”
Currently, about 400 U.S. veterans are taking part in a class-action lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the stricken plant. The lawsuit says that some suffer from leukemia, testicular cancer and thyroid problems, or have experienced rectal and gynecological bleeding.
However, a 2014 report by the U.S. Defense Department determined that there was no causal relationship between radiation exposure during Operation Tomodachi and their illnesses.
Koizumi noted that while expressing sympathy for the veterans, a Foreign Ministry official had even said that there was nothing the Japanese government could do.
“I’m not a doctor, but using common sense one can infer their conditions were caused by radiation, since strong and healthy sailors just don’t find tumors or suffer from conditions like nasal hemorrhages,” Koizumi said.
He was a backer of nuclear power while leader between 2001 and 2006.
But Fukushima changed all that.
After the disaster, he became one of the most outspoken opponents of atomic energy, calling the often-repeated mantra of “clean, safe, cheap” nuclear power a lie.
With the shift, he set up a foundation with former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 2014 to call for an immediate phasing out of nuclear power to be replaced with a renewable energy policy.
Yet, Abe’s government sees nuclear energy as a key plank in his bid to export infrastructure and hopes to restart the nation’s reactors so that nuclear can supply 20 to 22 percent of Japan’s electricity by 2030.
Currently, two reactors at the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and one reactor at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture are operating.
On Wednesday a request by Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono to suspend power generation at the Sendai plant was snubbed by operator Kyushu Electric Power Co.