Photo/IllutrationFormer Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi talks in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo. (Kazuyoshi Sako)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has criticized the Abe administration for its pro-nuclear energy stance and called for the policy to be made an election issue when Japanese go to the polls next year.

In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, Koizumi, 76, said, “It isn’t possible any more for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to end nuclear power generation. He did not try to do so, even though he could have.”

Among extremely rare remarks for a former prime minister and former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker to make, Koizumi also said he expects opposition parties to make ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power a key point for debate in the next Upper House election to be held in summer 2019.

Koizumi made his anti-nuclear stance clear in a news conference in 2013, seven years after he stepped down as prime minister.

Since then, he has repeatedly demanded that the Abe administration change its energy policies and bring nuclear power generation to an end.

Koizumi expressed disappointment at Abe’s response to that demand.

“When I met Prime Minister Abe, I repeatedly told him, ‘Don’t be fooled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (which is in charge of energy policies).’ But he only smiled,” Koizumi said.

“Though five years have passed (since I announced my anti-nuclear stance), Abe is still unaware (of the problems of nuclear power generation),” he added.

In April 2017, Koizumi assumed the post of adviser to the Federation for Promoting Zero-Nuclear Power and Renewable Energy, a national organization that aims to establish a nuclear-free society.

He is saying in his lectures held in various parts of the country that it is possible to terminate nuclear power generation.

He is also strengthening his moves to cooperate with opposition parties. On July 15, he gave a lecture in a political school run by his longtime foe Ichiro Ozawa, head of the opposition Liberal Party.

In response to the federation’s moves, four opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Party submitted bills to terminate nuclear power generation to the Diet in March.

However, the bills were not deliberated in the Diet due to opposition from the LDP and other parties.

Regarding the Upper House election to be held in summer 2019, Koizumi said, “Opposition parties should field a unified candidate in each single-seat constituency and make whether to terminate nuclear power generation a point in dispute. Then, there will be a possibility that they will win the election.”

The Abe administration adopted the fifth basic energy plan in a Cabinet meeting in early July, reaffirming its commitment to nuclear energy. The plan stated that nuclear power will meet 20 to 22 percent of the electricity consumption in Japan in fiscal 2030.

However, Koizumi strongly criticized the plan.

“To realize that percentage, (electric power companies) will have to operate about 30 nuclear reactors in total. But it will be impossible to do so. If they restart nuclear reactors despite there being no disposal sites, nuclear waste will increase again. I’m angry at such a situation,” he said.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Question: Are you convinced that it is possible to stop nuclear power generation?

Koizumi: Sooner or later, Japan can’t help but terminate nuclear power generation. The costs of solar and wind power generation will become lower and lower. Meanwhile, those of nuclear power generation will become higher and higher due to safety measures. It will not be profitable without the government’s support.

Q: The Abe administration is promoting policies for nuclear power generation.

A: (The influence of people seeking the promotion) is strong. The nuclear power industry has a wide range of companies under its umbrella. At present, it costs 1 trillion yen (about $9 billion) to manufacture only one nuclear reactor. Many companies are related to the manufacturing. As they are also placing their labor unions under their control, opposition parties cannot say their opinions strongly.

Q: In January, the federation you’re serving as an adviser for announced bills that are aimed at abolishing nuclear power generation.

A: It’s possible to terminate nuclear power generation. It’s better (for the government) to make abolition of nuclear power generation its policy.

Since the Fukushima nuclear accident (of March 2011), Japan has hardly operated its nuclear reactors. When I said, “zero nuclear power generation,” (in a news conference in 2013), I was told that it would be impossible to terminate nuclear power generation immediately. But nuclear power generation was zero for two years from September 2013 to September 2015.

Q: What moves will you make from now on?

A: The federation will make efforts so that the “flame” to achieve zero nuclear power generation will not be extinguished. As strongholds for the movement, (members of the federation) will make efforts steadily in various parts of the country. Then, their opinion will become a majority opinion and will be raised by politicians in the future. We’re doing (our activities) as a nationwide movement.

Q: Foreign Minister Taro Kono was advocating for a nuclear-free society, wasn’t he?

A: He was far sighted. (Since he became the foreign minister) he has become a little quiet. But that is inevitable as he is a politician. If an appropriate time comes, he will say that his belief is zero nuclear power generation.

Q: In June, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that it will decommission the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant. At that time, your second son (and LDP lawmaker) Shinjiro Koizumi criticized the company, saying that it was too late to make the decision. As for nuclear power generation, he said, “Now is the time to think about how to end it.”

A: He should have read my book. Such a way of saying is more thoughtful than I.

Q: Do you aim to become prime minister again?

A: I’m sorry. It’s better to leave it to younger people.