by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 6, 2011
Japan's former premier Naoto Kan feared Tokyo would be rendered uninhabitable by the Fukushima nuclear crisis, he said in an interview published Tuesday in which he recalled the "spine-chilling" thought.
He added it would have been "impossible" to evacuate all of the 30 million people in the event of a mass exclusion zone encompassing Tokyo and the Kanto region, and said that this risk made nuclear power a too dangerous option.
"Deserted scenes of Tokyo without a single man around came across my mind," he told the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, describing his thoughts as the nuclear emergency deepened in the days after the March 11 quake and tsunami.
"It really was a spine-chilling thought," he said.
Kan officially stepped down a week ago amid criticism over his handling of the aftermath of the March 11 triple disaster -- a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago.
The towering wall of water battered cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, 220 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, triggering reactor meltdowns and spewing radiation into the environment.
The disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people around a 20 kilometre radius and in some pockets beyond the plant, with many activists and scientists calling for a wider exclusion zone.
Japan is struggling to bring the crippled reactors to a state of cold shutdown by a January target.
After the calamity, Kan declared a shift in the country's energy policy towards renewables.
His successor Yoshihiko Noda has suggested Japan will eventually phase out atomic power generation in the resource-poor nation and Asia's second-largest economy.
"I thought nuclear plants were safe as they were supported by Japan's technology. But I changed my mind after the experience of the March 11 disaster," he said.
"Japan wouldn't stand as a country if the uninhabitable zone (around the crippled Fukushima plant) had to spread out to 100 or 200 kilometres.
"Evacuating 100,000 or 200,000 people is a really grave situation, but if 30 million people were to be subjected, evacuating them all would be impossible.
"When I think of safety not being outweighed by risk, the answer is not to rely on nuclear."
Kan, a one-time environmental activist, pledged to boost alternative energy sources to 20 percent of the nation's energy mix by the 2020s, pushing through a law on promoting renewable energy in parliament immediately before resigning.
Alternative energy sources currently make up about nine percent, most of it hydroelectric power.
Under Japan's previous energy plan atomic power had been set to meet over half of demand by 2030, up from about one third before the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.
In a separate interview, Kan told the liberal Asahi Shimbun daily that the government had run a simulation of a widened evacuation zone up to 300 kilometres around the Fukushima plant, which would affect Japan's capital and the entire Kanto region.
"When you think of the chances of an accident that could make half the country uninhabitable, you cannot possibly take that risk, even if it was once in a century," he said.
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Greenpeace seeks nuclear action from next Japan PM
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 29, 2011
Greenpeace on Monday called on Japan's incoming prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to take steps to protect children from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, boost renewable energy and phase out atomic power. The environmental group urged the new government to delay the September 1 opening of schools in Fukushima city, northwest of the stricken plant, arguing that radiation in the air and soil spel ... read more
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