July 2011

July 31(Sunday)

"The next era" (7): The participation of 'the people' will decide our future course

 

I have just attended the first session of the "The People's Energy and Environment Council," which was held in the city of Chino, Nagano Prefecture today.  While this meeting shares the same name as the "government's" "Energy and Environment Council" that met the day before yesterday, this "people's" meeting enjoyed the participation of a wide variety of persons ranging from researchers to heads of local municipalities to politicians, among others.  Three of the four experts participating in the "Prime Minister-Experts Open Forum on Natural Energy" that was convened at the Prime Minister's Office last month are cited as the original promoters of this "People's" Council, with very thorough discussions taking place in a large lecture hall at a university.

 

I delivered a ten-minute address, during which I discussed such topics as:

  • the fact that my fundamental approach to nuclear power changed after experiencing the March 11 TEPCO nuclear accident in Fukushima;
  • the fact that under the government's "Energy and Environment Council," there has been an "interim report" oriented towards reducing the degree of dependence  on nuclear power, and that finally a first step has been taken towards forming a policy in concrete terms that is congruent with my thinking; and
  • the necessity of fundamental reform of our nuclear energy administration.

 

I stated that in particular, fundamental reform is necessary insofar as the current Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is constituted in a way that it is possible for the interests of corporations to be given priority at times over the safety of the citizens, just as the Pharmaceutical Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Welfare at the time of the problem of AIDS contracted through contaminated blood products.

 

From a standpoint free of constraints from the past, moving forward with fundamental reforms to nuclear and electrical power administration will require thoroughgoing information disclosure as well as strict scrutiny conducted by 'each individual' citizen.  Moreover, for a transformation of Japan's energy structure, it is in fact critical to have participation in electricity generation and electricity conservation by 'each individual' household.  Just as the name of today's Council meeting says, what will determine the form of the energy of the next era is nothing other than the power of "the people."  Let's make headway on this together.

(Website linked from this post is provided in Japanese only)

July 26(Tuesday)

The second supplementary budget and the Basic Policy for Reconstruction

 

Yesterday, the second supplementary budget was passed by the Diet.  The Cabinet is pressing ahead steadily in handling the work that needs to be done.  The two major undertakings of "recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster" and "bringing the accident at the nuclear power plant under stable control" are moving forward without interruption.

 

Continuing with this, today, the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake deepened its discussions on the Basic Policy for Reconstruction regarding the scale of the projects as well as the framework for fiscal outlays.  We will compile the Basic Policy within July and finally link it to discussions on the third supplementary budget for full-fledged reconstruction.  While some criticize this as "late," if you view this with a non-emotional eye, since the earthquake disaster struck in March, work has been progressing steadily, with the first and second supplementary budgets passed in sequence, and next, the Basic Policy, which will serve as the basis for the third supplementary budget, to be decided shortly.

 

As Ms. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, often says, it is not simply the reconstruction of society's "hardware" buildings and so on that requires budget allocations and policy measures.  We will also be engaged in "reconstruction of the heart" for each individual affected by the disaster and "reconstruction of kizuna (bonds among people)" that have been disrupted in society.  Not politics, but policies.  Now, the most important thing is to keep the people who have been affected by the disaster firmly in mind and dedicate all our energies to this situation.

July 22(Friday)

The key question: Who exactly will check the safety?

 

Yesterday, the structure for checking the safety of nuclear power plants moved forward considerably in concrete terms.  I received a report that the method and the implementation plan for the comprehensive safety assessments (the so-called "stress tests") have been formulated by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).

 

With regard to the current matter, a great amount of inconvenience has been given to the people concerned, in that "the Prime Minister's instructions regarding the necessity of conducting stress tests were slow in coming."  However, the essence of the matter lies in the issue of "whether or not it is acceptable to have only NISA―which is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has been promoting nuclear power plants―decide the safety standards related to the resumption of nuclear plant operations and on its own pass judgments on adequate achievement of those standards."  While I regret the confusion regarding the arrangements, the issue of the structure is a more important matter.

 

In the near future, it will be necessary to undertake a fundamental review of safety standards and the system, but until that time we cannot sit idly by.  For the immediate term, we must move forward on the actual safety checks through the involvement of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), an independent entity, in addition to NISA.

 

As a point of fact, the succession of events leading up to yesterday's decision on the implementation plan has been "receipt of request from NSC (July 6) → submission of a draft plan by NISA → instructions from NSC to strengthen the draft plan → revisions by NISA → NSC confirms the draft plan as appropriate (yesterday)."  While it has not been widely reported, the core matter regarding the issue of "whether or not it is acceptable for NISA to decide matters by itself" will in fact be cleared without waiting for changes to the system.

 

In addition, publicly disclosing the safety standards in advance has enabled us to take advantage of checks by a wide range of expert eyes.  The next step is to explain this safety assessment implementation plan to the local governments, and after that, the electrical power providers will be instructed to implement the plan.

 

As for the results of the assessments, which will require one or two months, upon receiving reporting from the electrical power providers, procedures will be followed whereby first NISA, and subsequently here again the NSC, will confirm adequacy in meeting the standards.  Upon receiving the judgment of experts from these multiple institutions, four Cabinet members, including myself, will consult, and after hearing the views of the local community, a final decision will be taken.

 

While this is a cumbersome process, these procedures are necessary for the safety and the peace of mind of the Japanese people.

July 22(Friday)

No. 25 [Nuclear Power] Moving on to Step 2 - Prime Minister's Dialogue with the People Engaged in the Work to Stabilize the Nuclear Power Station

 

Step 1 of the Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station compiled by the Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was completed as planned. The Prime Minister visited the site to directly meet the people working there who made this happen and gave them words of appreciation and encouragement. Listening to their needs, the Government will join together with these people as we embark upon Step 2.

 

 

<At J-Village, where the people engaged in the work to stabilize TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station are stationed (July 16)>

<The Prime Minister encourages the members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)>
Prime Minister: I believe that we have come so far thanks to your self-sacrificing sprit and efforts.

 

<17th meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (July 19)>

Prime Minister: I convened the meeting in this form as we have just completed Step 1.

 

The Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is updated once a month.
Every month the mark that shows current progress has moved steadily to the right, and on July 17 the conclusion of Step 1 was finally reached. This means that the "stable cooling" of the reactors has been achieved.

People working at the site are risking their lives to realize the plans in the Roadmap.
These people are stationed in the facility called J-Village, where the Prime Minister has already visited twice to provide his encouragement. The first visit was three weeks after the occurrence of the incident.

 

<First visit to J-Village (April 2)>

SDF member A: There are three tents. Each used for decontamination.

 

Prime Minister: There is one lane for the SDF and for TEPCO...

 

SDF member B: Two lanes. They are extremely advanced decontamination facilities.

 

<Hearing an explanation about internet teleconference>
TEPCO staff: It is currently connected to eight other locations. We leave it on all the time. We gather there even at night whenever something happens.

 

<The system is connected to TEPCO head office, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Fukushima Prefectural Office, etc., all the time; the TV monitors display each location>

 

<The Prime Minister sends his message to each location>
Prime Minister: Thank you truly for your hard work. In order to bring the nuclear power station under control by all means...

 

Three months after giving these words of encouragement...

 

<17th meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (July 19)>

Prime Minister: "Things have progressed this far with regard to Step 1 thanks above all to the people working really hard at the site. I visited the site myself last Saturday (on July 16) for the second time and I think their efforts are truly remarkable."

 

<Second visit to J-Village (July 16)>

<Giving words of encouragement to the SDF members>
Prime Minister: I am looking forward to seeing you deliver results and be acknowledged for rebuilding Japan stronger than ever and for engaging on the frontlines of this struggle.

 

There the Prime Minister also met for the second time with Mr. Masao Yoshida, General Manager of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, who has been at the forefront of the work to stabilize the nuclear power station since March 11. During the meeting...

 

General Manager Yoshida: Oh, an earthquake! This is what frightens us.

 

Prime Minister: Aftershocks are frightening.

 

On top of aftershocks, there is now another phenomenon that impedes the work...

 

General Manager Yoshida: In this heat, since as many as 3,000 people are working at the site even today, precautions must be taken against heat stroke and injuries.

 

People working at the site also appealed directly to the Prime Minister.

 

Medical staff: The protective suit is really stifling. Even when it is cool like in this room, you will be drenched in sweat the moment you start moving around in it.

 

Person 1 working at the site: Now everyone starts working early, before it gets hot. Most of us come to work at four in the morning.

 

Person 2 working at the site: It takes quite a lot of time to go and have a radiation check, and there are so many people...

 

Person 1 working at the site: It would be very helpful if something like a health check center could be established around here.

 

Prime Minister: The Government will do all it can to respond to the situation. Thank you for your continued cooperation.

 

<After face-to-face talks, the Prime Minister stands up and shakes hands with the people working at the site>

From now on, the people at the site are moving on to the next target - Step 2.
They will step up efforts to prevent the spread of radiation damage and aim to achieve a stable condition in the nuclear reactors known as "cold shutdown" within the next three to six months. The all-out efforts will continue.

 

July 21(Thursday)

Achieving "Step 1" in stabilizing the nuclear accident and the path ahead

 

Yesterday, the second supplementary budget bill for the reconstruction of all areas struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster passed the House of Representatives.  I hope that this bill is enacted swiftly and that this will assist the people in the disaster areas.

 

Previous to this, in the late afternoon of the day before (the 19th), I convened a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, at which time I received reports from Minister for Nuclear Incident Economic Countermeasures Banri Kaieda and Minister for the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accidents Goshi Hosono that the "Step 1" objective had been achieved in the Roadmap for bringing the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident under stable control.

 

It has been a little over four months since the accident occurred.  Efforts to bring the situation under control through the national government's collective engagement are moving steadily forward.  The nuclear reactor's circulation cooling system, which has been a source of concern due to minor ongoing problems, has begun operating, and the injection of nitrogen into the containment vessel has succeeded in suppressing the risk of a hydrogen explosion by some remote chance.  The amount of radiation released into the atmosphere is also estimated at one two-millionth of the amount released immediately after the accident, and thus decreasing with absolute certainty.

 

Even now, I often think back on the days immediately following the accident.  I had a sense of tense urgency regarding what might become of Japan and the sensation of a chill running down my spine.  There were many individual decisions that had to be made on a moment's notice regarding one serious aspect arising after another.  When I think of the situation at that time, my true feelings are "it's such a relief we got this far," but this has been the result of the dedicated efforts of the several thousand people working at the accident site and the many other persons who have been involved, more than anyone.  As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I have renewed once more my feelings of gratitude, along with my wishes that they continue their efforts safely into the future.

 

In the "Step 2" that is to come, the government must make concerted efforts even beyond those it has made thus far.  In addition, as a result of the distribution of radiation-contaminated beef, a sense of anxiety towards the safety of food has also been spreading.  Through suspending shipments and conducting necessary inspections in a thoroughgoing manner, we will keep a watchful eye so that this issue does not fall through the cracks of the compartmentalized areas of administration among government ministries and agencies and ensure a system that does not allow problematic food items to be distributed.

 

When I was attending the meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters the day before yesterday, I called on all those present to "redouble their efforts while being mentally prepared for the fact that the road ahead will also certainly not be smooth."  Our battle with the nuclear accident is far from over, including the issue of people still under evacuation returning to their homes.

July 19(Tuesday)

Please read this! Recommendations from the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake

 

On June 25, recommendations from the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake were compiled and presented to Prime Minister Kan by Council Chair Makoto Iokibe.  These recommendations were compiled through a total of 12 council sessions beginning on April 14 upon the conclusion of very intensive discussions among the council members which at times lasted more than five hours.  Have you already read these recommendations?

P201107191
Photo 1:  Council Chair Iokibe presenting the report containing the recommendations to Prime Minister Kan

 

The recent great earthquake disaster did more than inflict great damage upon the people in the disaster-struck areas; it was an event that fundamentally changed for all Japanese the values upon which they have relied until now.  The recommendations call for the importance of mutual assistance, taking up the word tsunagu- meaning "connecting" or "linking"- as a key word.  It argues that through linking the disaster areas with other areas and the current generation with future generations, the recovery and reconstruction of the disaster areas will come to be perceived as an issue for all people of this era living in this world.

 

The passion and hard-hitting debates of the council members who assisted with the formulation of the recommendations

Most of all, it was the passion of council members that produced these recommendations.  I have heard that one member even went so far as to state, "If my remarks cannot be accommodated, I will resign my position on the council."  Council members with impassioned ideas to connect the council with the people of the disaster areas, who were overwhelmed with worry and bewildered in the disaster zones, exchanged their sincere thoughts in a straightforward manner.  All throughout, the work to compile a single set of recommendations was not a result of preestablished harmony by any means, but rather the result of hard-hitting debates each time they meet.

 

P201107192
Photo 2:  Atmosphere of the discussions of the Reconstruction Design Council

 

"Hope in the midst of tragedy"- An overview of the recommendations

The destruction came all of a sudden, The time was 2:46 pm (5:46 am GMT) on March 11, 2011. The ground shook, the seas rose and people fled in confusion.... After the instant of horror that was the earthquake and tsunami came a further terror, which we had no means to control. This was the genesis of an unprecedented situation. Thus it was that the certain "something" that has sustained Japan throughout the post-war years came crashing down around our ears....

 

From this kind of prologue, the recommendations begin, with the subsequent main section listing various issues faced by the disaster areas and Japan, as well as future directions for forthcoming efforts.

 

The recommendations incorporate in a comprehensive way, first, blueprints for revitalizing daily life, including approaches to regional development and community revitalization and the future course of the regional economy and of industry, all grounded in this disaster, then efforts towards reconstruction from the nuclear disaster and associated issues, and then thoughts regarding "open reconstruction," discussing each of these in a concrete and easy to understand manner.

 

Let us look concretely speaking at major points indicated within the recommendations.

 

Point #1:  In disasters involving enormous tsunamis, the approach of "disaster reduction," which minimizes the damage at the time of the disaster, is important.

 

The recent earthquake dramatically changed our awareness towards disaster management that we had considered common sense.  It is impossible to provide protection against enormous tsunamis of the type that occurred in the recent disaster through frontline defense alone, focused on tsunami breakwaters, coastal dikes and tide barriers. The recommendations point out the importance of "disaster reduction," in which even if there is impact from a disaster, human lives are saved and the economic impacts are reduced as much as possible, with damage minimized.  Moreover, it argues that it is important to undertake an all-out mobilization of various types of policies and measures, including among other aspects "hard" infrastructure that facilitates evacuation and also regulations regarding land use, while also emphasizing "soft" countermeasures such as disaster prevention education based on the fundamental concept of "escape".

 

Fig1
Figure 1:  Image of policies and measures related to the development of areas and communities undertaking tsunami disaster prevention

 

Point #2:  The disaster-affected regions vary in their topographical, industrial, and other circumstances.  Key points for reconstruction-related policies and measures have been presented for each of the five representative area models.

 

The essential points of reconstruction-related policies and measures to be pursued for each of the five types are indicated below.

 

Type 1:  Regions with urban functions located in low-lying areas that were almost entirely affected by the tsunami
 → While the goal is to transfer to higher ground, in light of the critical nature of fisheries and other industrial activities, it is also necessary to utilize level ground.

Type1

 

Type 2:  Regions where low-lying areas were affected and areas on high ground escaped damage
 → While a concentration towards, and effective utilization of, the urban areas situated on higher ground should be the priority, since the transfer of everything is extremely difficult, it is necessary to utilize low-lying areas after enhancing its safety.

Type2

 

Type 3:  Regions built on hills running down to the coast with few low-lying areas and settlements
 → The fundamental principle is the transfer of residences and so on to higher ground.  Low-lying areas should be sited only for industrial functions, with land use regulations introduced to restrict the construction of residences there.

Type3

 

Type 4:  Coastal plains
 → Rather than preparing enormous storm surge barriers along the coast, combine the new preparation of dykes both along the coast and in inland areas (having the function of dual lines of embankments) together with regulations regarding land use

Type4

 

Type 5:  Inland areas and regions that were damaged due to liquefaction
 → In addition to advancing "countermeasures to prevent disaster reoccurrence" for disaster-impacted housing and land for residential use, move forward with assistance for recovery of land for residential use and so on

 

Point #3:  In order to draw out to the greatest possible extent the capabilities of the municipalities, the "special zone" measures should be employed, established for a limited geographical area and time period.

 

For example, there is a recommendation that with regard to fisheries, which are important from the perspectives of regional economies and employment, fishery operators should on their own initiative collaborate with private enterprises and, insofar as utilizing the funds and the wisdom of the private sector is also effective in the revitalization of the fishing industry, a special zone should be utilized in order to create a mechanism that has its basis in an understanding of the region and enables corporate fishery operators from the local area to acquire fishing rights which are not subordinate to fisheries cooperatives.
In addition, the recommendations state that it is necessary to have a mechanism for easy-to-use block grants having a high degree of freedom under which it is possible to develop various types of policies and measures necessary for reconstruction.

 

Fig2
Figure 2:  Image of the "special zone" measures

 

Point #4:  As for fiscal resources for recovery and reconstruction, the burden should not be passed on to the next generation.  The matter should be examined from various dimensions as a temporary tax increase, centered on core taxes.

 

Regarding fiscal resources for reconstruction, the recommendations say that the generations alive today should act in solidarity and line up resources through burden sharing, rather than passing the burden on to the next generation. On that basis, the recommendations indicate that, as a measure for temporary tax increases during the period when demand for reconstruction is high, a multifaceted examination should be conducted in a prompt manner, centered on core taxes, with concrete measures to be taken.

 

Point #5:  The nuclear accident should be brought under stable control at the earliest possible time, under the responsibility of the national government.

 

As for the nuclear disaster, the recommendations state that, under the responsibility of the national government, Japan should bring the nuclear accident to a stable condition at the earliest possible time and undertake in a thoroughgoing manner a full accounting of the causes of this incident and verification of the appropriateness of the response, in order to gain international confidence.  Moreover, through accurate information provision and continual information disclosure, Japan should bestow peace of mind and trust upon the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese people as a whole while restoring international trust towards Japan.

 

Urging responses towards Japanese food products and other goods that are grounded in a scientific basis

P201107199
Photo 3:  Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (May 21-22)

 

Point #6:  It is important that reconstruction be "open reconstruction"

 

Reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas does not stop at the disaster areas themselves; instead, the disaster areas' creative acts will spread throughout Japan and furthermore to countries around the world.  The recommendations appeal for reconstruction to be "open reconstruction" of this nature.
For example, the recommendations indicate that by bringing about a sustainable, environmentally advanced region in Tohoku in a manner that leads the world, Japan will stand at the very forefront in the resolution of environmental issues and should constitute a model among mature advanced economies for the disaster reconstruction process.

 

Fig3
Figure 3:  Image of a sustainable, environmentally advanced region (a "smart community")

 

Transitioning the recommendations into implementation, without neglecting a single word or line

... These "recommendations" have been conceptualized with the wish that the people in the disaster-affected regions will join together, united by tragedy, and, supported by nationwide unity and assistance, will shine the light of "hope" on the disaster-affected regions.  We strongly urge the government to take these "recommendations" with the utmost seriousness and to implement them conscientiously and expeditiously.

 

The recommendations close with the two sentences above.  The government will work to the best of its ability to bring about the contents of these recommendations.

 

July 18(Monday)

Fantastic!

 

This Women's Soccer World Cup victory is the best gift imaginable to the Japanese people and to the people in the disaster-stricken areas. In Ms. Homare Sawa and her teammates I once again feel the mighty inner strength of Japanese women.

 

The Japanese athletes are relatively small in stature compared with their non-Japanese colleagues. All of us received courage through the battle of "Nadeshiko" Japan, who engage in their hard-fought contests with plays that yield not even an inch and fight to the finish even when they are the underdogs, never giving up.

 

Representing the government on my behalf, Mr. Kan Suzuki, Senior Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology responsible for sports and a very avid soccer fan, went to Frankfurt to support the team. The "Nadeshiko" team will return to Japan tomorrow and will be visiting the Prime Minister's Office. I will convey my most sincere congratulations and thanks to them for producing this superb result.

July 17(Sunday)

Conversing with the people working at the nuclear accident site

 

Yesterday, I visited Fukushima in order to hear the views of the people engaged in the work to bring the nuclear accident to a stable state as well as to hold discussions with the mayors and other leaders of the municipalities that have been evacuated around the nuclear plant.

 

Several thousand people―not only TEPCO employees but also people connected with affiliated companies, general contractors, and so on―are engaged in work at the nuclear accident site. I take my hat off to the people on site for their dedicated efforts. Thanks to them, the work to stabilize the situation has progressed substantially, with "Step 1" of the process being completed roughly according to schedule and the transition to "Step 2" expected to be possible the day after tomorrow (the 19th).

 

In the course of approximately 30 minutes of speaking with them, I expressed my gratitude, saying, "The fact that the nuclear reactors are being brought under control to a significant extent is due to your dedicated work, and for that I would like to extend my most sincere appreciation. I believe that Japan is being saved through your efforts." I was truly pleased at having the opportunity to speak with the workers directly in this way and convey my feelings of gratitude. Naturally, I pledged that as the government we would continue our greatest possible efforts, including improvements in the working environment.

 

It was during these conversations that I heard once more that the biggest concern regarding the work environment is heat stroke. They say that because body temperature rises due to the radiation-protective equipment worn, there is no other choice but to begin work extremely early in the morning and allocate the hottest time in mid-day to recuperation. I also received a request from the medical personnel responsible for monitoring the health of the people going to the accident site, that the backup system be reinforced. I will handle this thoroughly.

 

My discussions with the heads and chairpersons of the twelve municipalities in the vicinity of the nuclear plant were also very meaningful. I heard once more the strong request that people wish to return to their homes at the earliest possible time. I will spare no effort in working towards this goal.

 

Surrounding the nuclear accident, there is an urgent need to respond while taking a bifocal view, addressing one by one issues such as these that are 'immediately at hand,' while at the same time determining a course for nuclear energy 'over the long term.' From this latter perspective, at the press conference held four days ago, I indicated that we should "achieve a society that is not dependent on nuclear power." While some have criticized the fact that I laid out my personal thinking before a decision was taken on government policy, it is only natural that the person at the helm first indicate a direction forward.

 

The year before last, in his speech delivered in Prague, President Obama spoke of his idea to "seek... a world without nuclear weapons" and showed the 'direction towards which the world should work in the future'. In the same way, my having declared that we will 'aim to realize a society in the future where we can do without nuclear power stations' was a statement of the Prime Minister's thinking regarding the 'direction towards which Japan should work in the future.'

 

Having experienced the accident of March 11, I have come to believe that as the Cabinet and as the party, full-fledged discussions are necessary on our overall energy policies, including our nuclear energy policies. I welcome the fact that since my statement the other day, debates on the pros and cons of this have become lively on a number of fronts. Now is the time for us to actively engage in material discussions.

July 14(Thursday)

"The next era" (6): Towards a society that does not rely on nuclear power

 

At yesterday's press conference, I indicated my fundamental stance that "we will aim at a society that does not rely on nuclear power.  We will reduce our degree of dependence on nuclear power in stages and in the future realize a society that is able to get along without nuclear power."

 

I also stated candidly at this press conference that, having experienced the earthquake disaster and nuclear accident of March 11, my own way of thinking about nuclear power has changed.  Until then, my view had been one of "utilizing nuclear power while paying adequate attention to safety."  However, the week after the earthquake disaster, as I stayed even overnight at the Prime Minister's Office working to bring the situation under control, was truly a spine-chilling time for me in determining how to keep the nuclear-related damage from spreading.  Once a nuclear accident spreads, as in the current case, it is impossible to avoid wide-scale evacuations and long-term impacts.  In considering the magnitude of the risk of an accident, I came to believe that we should aim to create a society that does not rely on nuclear power.

 

While there have been some doubts concerning my remarks at yesterday's press conference, insofar as a concrete path forward was not clearly set out, in the comments submitted through the Prime Minister's Office's website, on Twitter, and elsewhere, I have been receiving a great response supporting my remarks.  I consider it important to first of all set forth a clear direction in this way, and in the future it will be necessary to have fully-fledged discussions on the concrete path forward.

 

Discussions finally began today at the Diet on the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies, an important first step in this "concrete path forward."  I am strongly determined to bring this bill into enactment.  In addition, with regard to a long-term course further into the future, the Energy and Environment Council was already launched at the end of June.  Chaired by the Minister for National Policy, this Council seeks to formulate innovative energy strategies.

 

Furthermore, today Minister for National Policy Koichiro Gemba stated during questioning at the Diet that the Energy and Environment Council will put forth its views on "stability in electrical supply and demand in the near future," at roughly the end of this month.

 

How shall we transition smoothly to this "next era" in which we can get along without nuclear power?  The work that will bring this into concrete form is now moving ahead, one step at a time.

July 13(Wednesday)

"No. 24 [Conversion] Ushering in a New Era! Bill to Promote Renewable Energies"

 

Starting July 14, deliberations will begin on the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies. What changes will this legislation bring to the energy structure of Japanese society? This installation will explain the basics of the basics.

 

 

<"Energy Shift Now!" Meeting (June 15)>

<Actress Ms. Miyuki Matsuda>
Ms. Matsuda: You are the only person who can drive this change right now. I earnestly ask for your leadership on this. (Applause from the audience)

<A letter of request seeking the enactment of the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies during the current Diet session is handed to the Prime Minister>

 

<Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the OECD, Paris, France (May 25)>

Prime Minister: Madam Chair, Japan will now review its basic energy plan from its basis and is set to address new challenges!

 

This year in May, the Prime Minister declared Japan's "new challenges" on the international stage.

 

Prime Minister: We will engage in drastic technological innovation in order to increase the share of renewable energy in total electric power supply to at least go beyond 20% by the earliest possible in the 2020s!

 

Excluding hydroelectric power generation, renewable energies currently account for just 1% of total electric power supply. A key driver for vastly expanding this ratio is precisely the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies.

 

Breakdown of Electric Power Supply (FY2007)

Natural gas 282.2 billion kWh (28%)
Nuclear power 263.8 billion kWh (26%)
Coal 260.5 billion kWh (25%)
Petroleum 135.6 billion kWh (13%)
Hydroelectric power 78.4 billion kWh (8%)
Renewable energies 10.0 billion kWh (1%)
(excluding hydroelectric power)      

Source: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, "Energy Supply and Demand Structure in 2030"

 

It used to be that electric power had to be transported from afar from large power generating stations.
Today, solar panels and other devices have made privately-owned power generation technologically feasible. Nevertheless, the still high installation costs and lack of stability have prevented its widespread adoption.
Against this backdrop, the new bill will allow electric power companies to purchase privately generated power at fixed prices. This is expected to increase the number of households and other entities utilizing privately-owned power generation with a sense of assurance, advance the mass production and research of solar panels and other devices, decrease costs significantly, and furthermore, increase stability.
Ultimately, it will allow Japan to realistically reduce its dependence on nuclear power and other non-renewable energy sources.
This bill will, indeed, be the entry point to the energy reform with the public's participation!

 

<"Energy Shift Now!" Meeting (June 15)>

<Ms. Takako Momoi, NPO Kiko Network>
Ms. Momoi: This legislation has been much anticipated by us, citizens, for many decades.

 

<Singer Ms. Tokiko Kato>
Ms. Kato: I sincerely pray for its enactment.

 

"Energy Shift Now!" is a public meeting that seeks to convert Japan's energy supply to renewable energies. At this meeting attended by a range of influential people and Diet members, the Prime Minister said...

 

Prime Minister: The choice is not between fossil fuels and nuclear power. The job of specialists or politicians is to create options. This bill will be a step forward for the development of options, and I would like this bill to be passed no matter what it takes!

 

In 1980, politician Naoto Kan wrote the following in one of the policy documents from the election which he first won.

 

<From a policy document>
Nuclear power stations continue to pose high risks. The development of naturally existing renewable energies, including solar, wind, and geothermal, ought to be promoted.

 

<Open Forum>

The Prime Minister currently holds open forums using the Internet. Here, too, opinions are exchanged on energy policy with a variety of influential people.

 

<Former coach of the Japan national soccer team Mr. Takeshi Okada (at the Prime Minister's Office)>
Mr. Okada: We are borrowing nature from our descendants. Something we are borrowing should not be destroyed, dirtied, or damaged.

 

<Musician Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto (via video)>
Mr. Sakamoto: The technology is already out there. We just haven't been putting it to use. If we put our minds to it, we can definitely do it.

 

<Film director Mr. Hayao Miyazaki (via mobile video)>
Mr. Miyazaki: Please pass the natural energy bill. Whether you are quitting or not quitting, keep urging and making appeals to the people.

 

Prime Minister: This is an issue which I must tackle based on my responsibility as Prime Minister. At the same time, I will be thoroughly engaged in this issue for as long as I live. Thank you very much for your contributions today.

 

July 12(Tuesday)

The essence of the problem behind the introduction of stress tests

 

Yesterday marked the fourth month since the great earthquake disaster struck. During this time, I have dedicated myself in my own way to recovery and reconstruction and also responses to the nuclear accident. Yet I am unable to convey adequately my true intentions regarding my words and actions. On reflection, I feel that I am not quite fully conveying my personal thoughts on account of my being overly conscious of my position as Prime Minister.

 

With regard to the recent introduction of stress tests for each of Japan's nuclear reactors, yesterday a consensus opinion of the Cabinet was compiled. I had given instructions for the 'formulation of rules in a way acceptable to the public' and I feel that we succeeded in compiling a document that makes progress in this regard. This was not by any means a conclusion reached lightly, but rather a conclusion that was reached by starting from the viewpoints of 'safety and peace of mind.'

 

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) is situated within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and we must resolve at an early time the contradiction of having the same entity 'promoting' nuclear power and 'checking' it. This is something that we already declared within a report submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international organization, and not something that was brought up just now out of the blue. Grounded in this thinking, naturally the decision to restart each nuclear reactor and other matters cannot be left to only NISA in its current form. The cornerstone of this recent policy decision is that, even if that is in fact the procedure under the existing legal system, the reality is that we should involve the Nuclear Safety Commission, an independent entity. In parallel with this decision, review work has already begun on a re-examination of the "form" to be taken by nuclear energy-related regulations and administration, which is the crux of the issue.

 

At the same time, the government must ensure another form of 'peace of mind,' namely, shouldering responsibility for electrical power supply in the near term. For this reason I have given instructions to take up considerations such that a concrete policy can be put forth in the near future regarding policies for ensuring electrical power supply as well, including the further utilization of companies' in-house power generation and innovative means of energy conservation. To review from a blank slate the Basic Energy Plan we have had in place until now, and over the medium to long term to introduce renewable energies and promote energy conservation and to break away from our dependence on nuclear power each day, to what extent can I transform such clear-cut 'resolve' into concrete 'form'? Today I will once again give it my all in engaging in these matters.

July 6(Wednesday)

The second supplementary budget, and my expectation for Mr. Hirano, new Minister for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake

 

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, we approved a bill that would create an approximately 2 trillion yen second supplementary budget, which is needed to finance the immediate expenditures of recovery work following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The budget allocates funds for many urgent items, including compensation payments related to the nuclear incident, an increase in the Government's contribution to the livelihood rehabilitation assistance being provided to disaster victims, and measures to tackle the double loan issue. Priority was given to speed rather than scale when formulating this budget.

 

One example of the measures which required immediate action is the provision of funds for the installation of ice machines and other equipment at port facilities (19.3 billion yen). When I visited the Kamaishi fishing port on June 11, I was told in person that even if fishing was resumed, caught fish could not be transported to market without ice to chill them. I answered that I would do whatever needs to be done to quickly set aside funds for equipment purchases, and asked that the people of the port start doing any work they could. I promised them a quick response. This exchange, which was also recorded for Prime Minister KAN's TV, directly led to the allocation of additional funds in the draft second supplementary budget.

 

The advantage of visiting affected areas is that I can get a direct sense of their real needs. This time, when I visited the Kamaishi fishing port, I was accompanied by Mr. Tatsuo Hirano, a member of the House of Councillors from Iwate.

 

Yesterday, I appointed Mr. Hirano to the post of Minister for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, replacing Mr. Ryu Matsumoto, who resigned as a means of taking responsibility for his inappropriate remarks and actions. Mr. Hirano has been working on the front lines of recovery and reconstruction assistance to date as the Secretary-General of the Team in Charge of Assisting the Lives of Disaster Victims. I have high expectations that he will continue to work hard in his new position.

July 1(Friday)

Increasing Research Funds for Hepatitis B

 

A few days ago, I met with the plaintiffs' group for lawsuits over hepatitis B and apologized to them. At that time, the patients strongly requested that therapeutic drugs be developed that could cure hepatitis B. Immediately on the spot, I instructed the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare to begin work on this.

 

It is important that we start actual work as soon as possible in order to swiftly move this issue forward. That is why today, I asked physician and Parliamentary Secretary of Health, Labour and Welfare Dr. Mitsunori Okamoto to visit my office to explain to me the direction of research on hepatitis B and discussed related topics with them.

 

About 2 billion yen is budgeted this fiscal year for the ongoing "Seven-Year Strategy for Hepatitis Research" and other related programs. It goes without saying that for patients, nothing could be more desirable than to propel research forward and develop a cure for hepatitis B by increasing the funding in this area.

 

Furthermore, taking a rather long-term perspective on the issue, I do not believe that increased funding for hepatitis B research will pose a problem to the reality of  Japan's current difficult fiscal situation. By advancing research, we can lower the incidence rate of the disease and prevent those who have it from becoming worse. In doing so, the amount of money for the settlement package to be paid out to patients by the national Government can be minimized overall (the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimates the total cost of settlements to be up to 3.2 trillion yen over the next 30 years). I have instructed relevant parties to see to it that funding for research into the treatment of hepatitis is increased.

 

I wrote two days ago on this blog that, "demonstrating the phrase 'starting line' through concrete actions is the duty of the government, starting today." We have now taken the first step toward this.

July 1(Friday)

"No. 23 [Settlement] Hepatitis B Litigation: The Prime Minister's Apology, and the Way Forward"

 

Most Japanese people can probably recall participating in group vaccinations during their childhood. As a consequence of the long neglect of the Government to prevent the reuse of needles during these vaccinations, many people were infected with the hepatitis B virus. The Prime Minister met with such patients...

 

 

June 28: Meeting with plaintiffs' groups in the litigation over hepatitis B
<Ms. Mieko Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Taniguchi: The physical suffering and the suffering of discrimination and bias were hell.

 

Prime Minister: It truly breaks my heart.

 

<Mr. Shigeyasu Yamamoto, leader of the Hiroshima plaintiffs' group>
Mr. Yamamoto: Dreams do come true. The fact that I was able to meet with you today is proof of that.

 

Prime Minister: On behalf of the Government of Japan, I express my heartfelt apology to all victims and patients.[The Prime Minister walks to the front of the podium and bows deeply to the leaders of the plaintiffs' groups.]

 

   Because the Government long neglected to stop the reuse of needles
   during group vaccinations,
   many people were infected with the hepatitis B virus.
   Over 700 people nationwide have now filed suits against the Government in relation to this.

   Five years ago,
   the Supreme Court ruled for the first time
   that the Government was liable for this problem.
   On January 11 of this year,
   the Sapporo District Court proposed a settlement offer.
   Two weeks later...

 

<January 24, PM's Policy Speech>

Prime Minister: We will respond constructively to the findings (settlement offer) of the court in the litigation over hepatitis B and, with the understanding of the public, seek a settlement at an early date.

 

   At the outset of the current Diet session,
   the Prime Minister showed enthusiasm toward resolving this issue.
   Discussions have advanced toward reaching an agreement.

 

<June 28: Signing ceremony for the basic agreement>

   On June 28, following the signing ceremony for the basic agreement
   to reach a settlement with plaintiffs' groups,
   the Prime Minister met with and directly apologized
   to around 130 plaintiffs and other people.

 

Prime Minister: Moving forward, I promise that we will implement the basic agreement with integrity, including payouts for the settlement package and for the costs of health examinations.

 

<Ms. Kyoko Okada, leader of the Tokyo plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Okada: What we really want is to hear an apology from those who neglected the problem.

 

<Mr. Shigeyasu Yamamoto, leader of the Hiroshima plaintiffs' group>
Mr. Yamamoto: I have a request to make, although I understand that it is a difficult one. Through a top-down approach, I want you to instruct those below you to make hepatitis B a curable illness. I want you to commit to its treatment and research.

 

Prime Minister: I promise you that we will exert even greater effort to eliminate the (hepatitis B) virus and prevent its onset. We will put further effort into research for this.

 

<Ms. Tomomi Takahashi, leader of the Hokkaido plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Takahashi: Can we trust you, Prime Minister Kan?

 

Prime Minister: I will do everything in my power to ensure that specific compensation is provided.

   The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimates
   that about 400,000 people qualify for compensation,
   which is expected to total up to 3.2 trillion yen over the next 30 years.
   Securing the financial resources for compensation is also a significant challenge.

 

<Ms. Mieko Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Taniguchi: I ask that the Government make sure that any tax increases are not seen as the fault of hepatitis B patients (given the need to secure funds for compensation)!

 

   That same day, the Prime Minister received
   a calendar from "Orange Support,"
   a student group supporting the plaintiffs.
   The day the Prime Minister delivered his apology,
   June 28, is marked on the calendar.
   However, this doesn't mean that
   the suffering of each victim ended on June 28.

 

<Ms. Makiko Koike, co-leader of the Osaka plaintiffs' group>
Ms. Koike: [With her voice shaking, she says to the Prime Minister] Even after I die, my children will continue to be victimized. My daughter has placed her life at risk by postponing medication in order to have children. Please don't forget the depth of the damage this has caused. It has altered the lives of affected parents and children forever.

 

Prime Minister: Today's basic agreement is the starting line for a resolution to this issue. I believe this.

 

<The Prime Minister is joined by Ms. Taniguchi, leader of the national plaintiffs' group, in front of the podium>

[The Prime Minister shakes hands with Ms. Taniguchi using both of his hands and bows deeply]
Ms. Taniguchi: We're counting on you. (Applause from the audience)