LDP star Obuchi to lead nuclear debate via The Japan Times

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have hoped that Yuko Obuchi, a 40-year-old mother of two with an impeccable political pedigree, will provide an acceptable face for his nuclear power push when he appointed her industry minister last week.

However, say observers, Obuchi will have her work cut out convincing a public still badly scarred by the Fukushima disaster that it is safe to switch the country’s 48 atomic reactors back on.

“I, too, am raising children,” Obuchi told reporters shortly after being made the country’s first female minister of economy, trade and industry. “If people say they are worried, I think it is only natural. If you are a mother, I think it is a kind of feeling that everyone has. The central government must offer a full explanation to these sentiments.”

Naming a young mother to the job was “a cunning move by Abe,” said Greenpeace Japan’s Kazue Suzuki, because the implicit message is that if someone who has children says nuclear power is safe, it sounds more credible.


At her inaugural news conference, Obuchi repeated the Abe administration’s line that her policy would be “to reduce our reliance on nuclear plants by actively introducing renewable energy and thorough energy saving.”

Then she added, “We will restart (nuclear power plants) by making safety our priority.”

The new minister highlighted the importance of earning “the understanding of hosting communities” who may be hostile to the prospect of firing up their nearby reactors again, despite beefed up safety rules and — by domestic regulatory standards — a ferocious new watchdog.

Obuchi is expected to visit the crippled Fukushima plant in the coming days, as well as the Sendai nuclear power station in southwestern Kyushu, where two reactors are the most likely to be restarted in the coming months.

The new regulator might confirm that the units are safe as soon as next week. The regulator has received nearly 17,000 public comments since it announced the Sendai plant’s re-evaluation in July.

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