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Former Japanese PM Naoto Kan: ‘Fukushima radically changed my perspective’ via DW

How has the Fukushima disaster changed Japan? Former PM Naoto Kan talks to DW about the influence of the nuclear industry lobby while criticizing the current government for its push to restart the idled nuclear reactors.

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In an exclusive DW interview, Naoto Kan talks about his views on government plans to restart nuclear reactors, what Japan can learn from Germany’s nuclear phase-out, and why Japan has no choice but to invest in alternative sources of energy.

DW: Four years on, what lessons should Japan learn from this disaster and have any of them been realized?

Naoto Kan: Unfortunately, I have the impression that neither the Japanese public nor the experts have learned the right lessons from the disaster. If the accident had been a bit more severe, we would have had to evacuate people within a radius of 250 kilometers for a long period of time. It would have also affected the Tokyo area, and thus an estimated 50 million people. Such colossal damage usually occurs only after a crushing defeat in war.

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Japan’s anti-nuclear movement seems to have been losing ground in recent months. What are the reasons for this and what do you urge the Japanese people to do?

The Japanese anti-nuclear movement has not lost strength in the past few months. Even today, opinion polls show that a large majority of the population wants to phase out nuclear power. It is because of this strong public opposition that the Abe-led government has so far been unable to restart nuclear reactors.

Unfortunately, nuclear energy failed to become a key issue during the three elections that have been held since the disaster, with economic issues taking center stage. Even though 60 to 70 percent of the population backs a nuclear energy phase-out, 60 to 70 percent of MPs support nuclear power. It is necessary for us to challenge this distortion and make MPs change their stance and truly represent public opinion.

There are many who argue that it would be too costly to simply give up the use of nuclear energy. What can Japan learn from Germany in terms of making the transition from nuclear energy to alternative sources of energy?

Claims by the nuclear power lobbyists that atomic energy is cheaper than oil or natural gas are simply false. This has already been acknowledged by many experts. As soon as you take into account potential compensation claims and the costs of permanently disposing of the nuclear waste, you will find that it is more expensive than oil or natural gas.

Japan faces a challenge in terms of nuclear waste disposal, says Kan

Both Germany and Japan have state-of the-art technology as far as energy production from renewable sources is concerned. Unfortunately, we in Japan began twenty years after Germany set up tariffs to regulate how this renewable energy is to be fed into the power grid. In Japan, this only happened after the Fukushima disaster.

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