Naoto Kan, Japan’s ex-Prime Minister, gave a hearing yesterday in front of a parliamentary panel appointed to investigate the Fukushima nuclear disaster that took place in March last year. His testimony is considered to be one of the most highly anticipated among those of other officials who have or who will be participating in the inquiry. Mr Kan resigned last September following criticism regarding the government’s handling of the incident, and his post has since been occupied by current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
According to Mr Kan, the nuclear accident was “caused by a nuclear plant which operated as national policy”. He also apologized for his “failure to stop it”, and said that Japan’s nuclear emergency preparedness law was “inadequate” in addressing a severe accident such as the one in Fukushima.
Mr Kan added that he was unable to release much information as the disaster was occurring because “there wasn’t much information [going] to [him]” from the plant’s operator TEPCO. Officials from the government regulatory agency, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), confirmed this, saying that there was poor communication and coordination between nuclear regulators, utility officials and the government.
Getting help from nuclear officials sent from government offices or the nuclear plant was difficult, and they offered little information during the course of the disaster. Mr Kan pointed out that NISA was particularly incapable in the situation. As evidence to the fact that the government did not handle the accident well, Kan’s former chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano testified previously that Japan rejected an offer from the US to supply nuclear experts.
Mr Kan concluded that “the safest nuclear policy is not the have any nuclear plants”.
Meanwhile, several nuclear plants have been urging Prime Minister Noda to approve their restarting in light of the upcoming surge in electrical demand as summer approaches. All of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors were switched off after the Fukushima disaster last year, and can only be reactivated if they pass tests which show that they can withstand natural disasters.
Report: Former Japanese leader: ‘I felt fear’ during nuclear crisis [28 May 2012, CNN]
Report: Japan power firm urges PM Noda to decide on nuclear plant restart [29 May 2012, Channel NewsAsia]
Report: Japan’s ex-PM: I was frightened by nuclear crisis [29 May 2012, AP]