Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, says the country should shut down all its nuclear reactors to ensure there are no more Fukushimas.
Koizumi, who is the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said during his first news conference Wednesday that he wants to look into “how we will scrap [nuclear reactors], not how to retain them.”
Koizumi Jr. was appointed environment minister, which overseas Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, during a recent Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzi Abe, a notoriously pro-nuclear hardliner.
As indeed was Koizumi’s father, until the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, when massive earthquakes and tsunami triggered three nuclear reactor meltdowns and explosions, leading to the evacuation of 160,000 residents.
The former prime minister has since become a highly vocal opponent of nuclear energy.
Japan currently has six nuclear reactors in operation —a fraction of the 54 that were online before the March disasters that were then supplying almost 30 percent of the country’s electricity.
Japan’s government wants to increase reactor operation so that nuclear power to make up between 20% and 22% of the overall energy mix by 2030.
Despite each reactor having to go through multi-billion-dollar checks for relicensing under new safety standards, attempts to get more reactors online have been thwarted by protestors who believe nuclear power has no place in a country prone to major earthquakes and tsunami. Some nuclear plants have even been found to sit atop active geological faults.
Environment minister Koizumi’s belief that Japan can and should do without nuclear power is unsurprisingly dismissed by other atomic energy supporters in Abe’s government.
“There are risks and fears about nuclear power,” trade and industry minister Isshu Sugawara told reporters. “But ‘zero-nukes’ is, at the moment and in the future, not realistic.”