August 29(Monday)

Looking squarely at the far-ahead future...

 

At today's party presidential election for the DPJ, Mr. Yoshihiko Noda, Minister of Finance, was decided upon as the next DPJ president.  Tomorrow at the Diet he will be designated Prime Minister.  Mr. Noda has placed emphasis on shoring up public finances and other such matters thus far, and in light of his calm demeanor I have great expectations for him in uniting the party as well.

 

I myself was able to move forward smoothly with the procedures for stepping aside, with the passage by August 26 of all three bills that I had set as targets enabling me to resign: the second supplementary budget, the Act to Promote Renewable Energies, and the Act on Special Provisions concerning Issuance of Government Bonds.  I intend to be engaged in the promotion of renewable energies as my life work even after I step down from office.

 

Actually, with regard to renewable energies, ultimately I would like to create a "Green Things" political party.  This is because I believe firmly that what will save the earth and what will save humanity is "green things"―plants.  Why?  It is manifestly apparent when you look at history from the earliest beginnings of the earth.

 

Do you know what comprises the atmospheres of Mars and Venus?  It is in fact about 95% carbon dioxide.  Moreover, it is said that when the earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago, the earth's atmosphere was also more than 95% carbon dioxide.  Yet that has declined to less than 0.04% in the present day.  Why?  Entirely through the power of plants.

 

First of all, plant life (algae) arose in the ocean, where it is difficult to be impacted by the sun's ultraviolet light, which acts potently to kill living organisms.  Through the carbon assimilation of the algae's chlorophyll, carbon dioxide is broken down into oxygen and carbon, and oxygen was diffused into the atmosphere.  The O3 ozone layer arose from that O2 oxygen, blocking out ultraviolet light.  Plants developed on land and huge forests formed, with carbon taking solid form in the form of coal and so on.  In this way the current atmosphere developed, with ample amounts of oxygen as a component.  It was against the backdrop of this kind of environment that we animals first became able to exist.

 

Until we came to burn coal during the Industrial Revolution, the energies used by humans also came from plants, for the most part.  One scholar has made the provisional calculation that "if we were to use only one-eighth of the portion of annual growth of the earth's plant life and, rather than leave it to decay, were able to convert it all to energy instead, it would cover the entire amount of energy currently used annually by the entirety of the world's population."  As this would only be utilizing the process of emitting carbon dioxide, the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would not increase through this process.  In this way, it is plants―that is to say, biomass energy―that have a potential even greater than that of wind or solar energy.

 

In order also to incorporate this into the reconstruction efforts after the earthquake disaster, first, 100 million yen has been allocated within the second supplementary budget to cover the exploratory investigation costs for ten biomass power-generating stations that would utilize the wood in the rubble from the disaster areas, and then in the future use the leftover wood resulting from forestry operations.  I would like full-fledged operations to be addressed within the third supplementary budget.

 

--- Here in my last entry I wrote about a topic I enjoy, and with this, "Prime Minister Kan's Blog" will itself come to an end.  There were occasions at which I wished to say more about my own personal thoughts, and I believe that I spoke as frankly as possible within the extent possible in light of my position as Prime Minister.  I would like to thank all my readers for following this blog this far.

August 29(Monday)

Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (5)
Recovery and reconstruction from the great earthquake disaster and transforming Japan's energy policy

 

As the final entry in this series looking back over the efforts of the Kan administration thus far, this article discusses the handling of the great earthquake disaster since March 11 as well as the reformulation of strategies on energy and the environment.

(Numbers in red are sequential throughout this series of articles.)

 

Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake

The government has been injecting manpower intensively since immediately after the great earthquake disaster occurred, including police, firefighting teams, the Self-Defense Forces, and the Japan Coast Guard, among others.  In addition to devoting its utmost efforts to relief and rescue operations for the disaster victims, the government has been implementing livelihood support for the victims.  In particular, on the day following the quake, Prime Minister Kan directed the Self-Defense Forces to increase its deployment preparations to a scale of 100,000 personnel, with the Self-Defense Forces engaging in the largest-scale disaster-related deployment operations in SDF history [48], of some 107,000 forces deployed at the peak.  The SDF played an absolutely critical role in operations ranging from lifesaving efforts to livelihood assistance for the disaster victims.

With regard to the disposal of rubble, removal is progressing steadily through the efforts of local municipalities against the backdrop of an extremely large amount of waste generated through the disaster.  The removal of rubble from locations near where residents conduct their daily lives has already been completed in over 90% of municipalities, with the remainder expected to be removed by the end of August [49].  In addition, there has been nearly full recovery of major lifeline infrastructure and transportation.

In order to ensure accommodation for the disaster victims, some 49,000 temporary residences have already been completed, and in combination with private-sector rented accommodation, approximately 110,000 residences [50] have been secured in total.

Moreover, in order to provide critical information to people who evacuated, the government developed a special public relations structure for the disaster-stricken areas [51], creating and distributing newspapers in poster format posted on the walls at evacuation centers, as well as handbooks and flyers, and also making use of TV, radio, Twitter, and other such means.

 

Efforts for Reconstruction from the Great Earthquake Disaster

To facilitate recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, the government also expeditiously implemented necessary fiscal measures [52], including a first supplementary budget on a scale of 4 trillion yen (submitted to the Diet on April 28; enacted May 2) and a second supplementary budget on a scale of 2 trillion yen (submitted July 15; enacted July 25), in addition to utilizing supplementary expenditures in series beginning three days after the disaster struck.

In addition, the administration established the "Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake" [53], which has convened 12 times since April.  On June 25, the Council compiled the report, "Towards Reconstruction - Hope beyond the Disaster."  The "Basic Act on Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake" was enacted on June 20 [54], and on the basis of this Act, the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake [55] was created on June 27.

In line with the recommendations made by this Council, on July 29, the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake approved the "Basic Guidelines for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake," [56] thereby clearly laying forth an overall vision of efforts by the national government for reconstruction.  This vision includes such elements as (i) the establishment of a system of "Special Zone for Reconstruction," (ii) the introduction of "Easy-to-use Grants," (iii) the scale of reconstruction operations and fiscal resources, (iv) various kinds of policies and measures for reconstruction, (v) reconstruction from the nuclear disaster, and (vi) a framework for reconstruction assistance.

 

Efforts towards Bringing the Nuclear Accident under Stable Control and Providing Compensation

In bringing the Fukushima nuclear accident under stable control, the government and relevant entities have been working together in line with the compiled "Roadmap," getting the circulation cooling system into operation and achieving stability in cooling the reactors while also restraining the release of new radioactive materials.  In this way, the objectives established in "Step 1" were successfully attained [57].

In light of this situation, efforts are now underway to achieve a cold shutdown, aiming towards the objective of "Step 2," namely that "the release of radioactive materials be controlled and the radiation dose be restrained significantly."

With regard to the nuclear disaster, an approach to revising the evacuation zones and other matters was decided [58], whereby an approach was coordinated that would promptly review directions covering evacuations and other situations upon a certain number of conditions being met.  In addition, through the provision of funds for the "Fund for the Health of Victims of the Nuclear Accident and Children," [59] established by the Fukushima Prefectural Government, the government is supporting long-term health management for the residents, as well as decontamination operations.

Regarding compensation for the nuclear disaster, "Midterm Guidelines for Determining the Scope of Damages from the Nuclear Accident" were formulated [60] in August.  In addition, the "Act to Establish Nuclear Damage Compensation Facilitation Corporation" was enacted [61].  In doing so, the government has prepared a framework for assistance that will achieve prompt and appropriate compensation for damages for the persons affected.

 

Raising Issues with a View to the Transformation of Japan's Energy Policy

The Kan administration has undertaken various efforts towards the transformation of Japan's energy policy on the basis of the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake.  In an address delivered at a meeting of the OECD, Prime Minister Kan announced a target of "increasing the share of renewable energy within our total electric power supply to at least 20 percent by the earliest possible timing in the 2020s." [62] At a July 13 Press Conference, he also clarified his thinking that Japan should aim to achieve "a society that is not dependent on nuclear power". [63]

Based on these statements, the government prepared an "interim compilation of discussion points towards the creation of innovative energy and environmental strategies" [64] and reviewed the approach taken within its current energy policy starting with an entirely blank slate.  It was decided that among other endeavors, the government would create scenarios characterized by a reduced dependence on nuclear energy and conduct an exhaustive verification study on nuclear energy-related policies, with a view to realizing a new optimal energy mix.

Further, the administration submitted to the Diet a bill to mandate the purchase by electric companies of electricity generated through the use of renewable energy sources at a certain price and for a certain period of time stipulated by the government (the Act to Promote Renewable Energies) and this bill was passed on August 26 [65].

 

Policies to Prevent Accidents at Existing Nuclear Plants

In consideration of the special circumstances that there is a high possibility of an earthquake of approximate magnitude 8 striking the Tokai region within the next 30 years, the Prime Minister made the judgment to request the suspension of operations at Chubu Electric Power Company's Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, in order to safeguard the peace of mind and safety of the public [66].

Moreover, the administration introduced safety assessments of nuclear plants modeled after the stress tests performed in Europe, and in addition to the safety checks performed by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) based on existing laws and regulations, the administration decided on a government policy under which comprehensive safety assessments based on new procedures and rules are to be conducted in a form that involves Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission [67].

Moreover, in May, the Cabinet decided to establish the "Investigation and Verification Committee on the Accidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company," [68] which will carry out a multifaceted investigation and verification of the nuclear accident from the point of view of the people through a transparent and neutral process.

Furthermore, a Cabinet Decision was taken to separate NISA's Nuclear Safety Regulation Department from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to create the "Nuclear Safety and Security Agency" (NSSA; provisional name) as an external agency affiliated with the Ministry of the Environment and to centralize within that Agency affairs related to nuclear safety regulations [69].

 

This five-part series has overviewed the matters in which the Kan administration has been engaged.  While many endeavors have been initiated, they are all still only part way to completion.  Through its website and other means, the Prime Minister's Office will continue in the future to work to convey to the public government policies in a manner that is easy to understand.

August 29(Monday)

"Final [Last Spurt] 'Until My Last Day as Prime Minister' ... Activities before Resignation and Beyond."

 

After announcing his resignation at the press conference on August 26, Prime Minister Kan headed to Fukushima. "This is my responsibility." Leaving an inscription of the phrase quoted from Buddhist priest Sokyu Genyu (a member of the Reconstruction Design Council) at one of the disaster sites he visited, even after stepping down the Prime Minister is intent on putting this phrase into practice.

 

 

<August 26  Announcement of resignation>

Prime Minister: I shall step down as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) as of today, and following the election of a new DPJ President, leave the post of Prime Minister.

 

The day following the announcement of his resignation, Prime Minister Kan headed toward... Fukushima.

 

<Interview>

Prime Minister: Given the seriousness of the matter, that in some places it might not be possible for people to return home for five, ten years or even longer, I thought it is my responsibility as the one serving as Prime Minister at the time of the March 11 earthquake to communicate about this [instead of leaving that task to the next Prime Minister]. This is why I came here.

 

<August 27  Governor Sato upon hearing the Prime Minister speaking at the Fukushima Prefectural Office>

Governor Sato: This was truly painful and grave news to the people in Fukushima Prefecture...

 

In the background of the Governor's words―the Prime Minister visited Fukushima six times since the disaster, and directly spoke to many people afflicted by the disaster.

 

<From Prime Minister KAN's TV No. 18―People directly speaking to the Prime Minister at an evacuation center in Fukushima>

Woman (crying): I want to go back home.

 

Man (speaking quietly): Please make Tomioka Town become as close [re-accessible] as possible. Right now, my house is now farther away to me than the United States.

 

<Interview>

Prime Minister: Everyone spoke of how strongly they wanted to return to their former life and go back to where they used to live. As I recall them speaking to me as such, honestly it was rather a painful task to convey such a report today to the Governor [that there are some places where people may not be able to return for an extended period of time].

 

<Going back to the announcement of resignation on August 26>

Prime Minister: I will continue to do my utmost on this problem [of the nuclear accident] until my last day as Prime Minister.

Being true to his words, just in the few days before leaving his post, the Prime Minister accomplished, with regard to the countermeasures for contamination by radioactive materials,

  • Establishment of an organization to direct the cleanup,
  • Finalization of the basic policy for the future,
  • Cabinet approval for the budget expenditure, and
  • Passage of the bill stipulating the national government's responsibility to clean up contaminated rubble.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister managed to bring about

  • Inauguration of a preparatory office for the reform of nuclear energy administration,
  • Passage of the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies,
  • The first meeting of the Council for Reconstructing Fukushima from the Nuclear Disaster gathering national and local government officials and other experts,

among other achievements. As such, steady progress is being made with regard to policies.

 

August 25 (Thu)   

  • Liaison Meeting for Measures against Radioactive Contamination launched

...A 'cross-ministerial' commanding center

August 26 (Fri)   

  • Basic Principles on Emergency Decontamination Works decided

...Reduce the radiation level by 50% in the next two years, etc.

  • 220 billion yen decontamination budget approved at the Cabinet meeting
  • Special Measures Bill on Environmental Pollution from Radioactive Materials passed

...National government will be responsible for cleaning up contaminated rubble, etc.

-----------------------------
 
August 26 (Fri)

  • Preparatory Office for Reform of Nuclear Safety Regulation Organization and Other Reforms established

...Preparation to launch Nuclear Safety and Security Agency (tentative name)

  • Bill to Promote Renewable Energies passed

August 27 (Sat)

  • Council for Reconstructing Fukushima from the Nuclear Disaster

 

<Interview>

Prime Minister: Each minister in charge, as well as officials engaged in various tasks at the site, are joining hands with me in doing everything we can until the very last moment of my Cabinet. "We see the next runners coming close to us, but let's keep running until we surely pass the baton to them." That is how they approach their work.

 

The Prime Minister left the following inscription on a message board at a volunteer center in one of the disaster areas.

 

<June 11  A volunteer center in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture
The Prime Minister inscribes a message on the wall―the message is "Live with Determination">

 

<Interview>

Prime Minister: As the Prime Minister who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake during his office and spearheaded various responses to the disaster, even after I step down it does not mean that my responsibility will be gone altogether. Although I will no longer be Prime Minister, I intend to visit the disaster areas every now and then as I have been doing, and listen to the people there and communicate messages to those who need them. That is what I am thinking.

 

So far 27 episodes of Prime Minister KAN's TV have been broadcasted. This is the 28th episode and will be the final one.

 

Prime Minister: I imagine that people who saw these episodes were able to gain a greater understanding of what activities I was engaged in and with what kind of conviction. I want to thank all the enthusiastic viewers from the bottom of my heart.

 

Thank you very much.