New Japanese environment minister touts end of nuclear power

Share

On his final day in office, Japanese environment minister Yoshiaki Harada stunned environmentalists by announcing more than a million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station will have to be dumped in the Pacific.

A day later Japan inaugurated a new environment minister who, at his very first press conference, flew in the face of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to restart the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Shinjiro Koizumi took office yesterday and within hours revealed his intentions regarding the nuclear fleet, which comes under his ministerial purview.

“I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” said Koizumi of the reactors. “We will be doomed if we allow another nuclear accident to occur.”

Disaster

After an earthquake and subsequent tsunami battered the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station in early 2011 – causing a triple meltdown at the plant – Japan shuttered its 54 reactors. Plans have been in place to restart most of them, encouraged by Prime Minister Abe. The PM says the country’s reliance on 30% of its energy from nuclear ensures it can hit its carbon emission reduction targets. Any permanent closure of nuclear assets could mean a big push on solar and other renewables.

Many Japanese heavily oppose nuclear. Tuesday’s announcement wastewater may be dumped into the ocean immediately had fisheries voicing protest, for example. The decision to dump the waste is not final and will be reviewed by a panel of experts appointed by the government.

At 38, Koizumi is Japan’s youngest post-war minister and has been dubbed “a rising star” by Japanese media. He is the son of former PM Junichiro Koizumi and does not appear content to remain in the old man’s shadow, with political analysts predicting the new environment minister is on the path to becoming PM himself.