Former Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan:
"Danger posed by nuclear plants is tremendous"
Japanese former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was our guest speaker at the press club in Tokyo Wednesday August 29th 2012 with 180 people attending our press diner event, and over 60 journalists rushing to ask questions to the man who led Japan when the triple catastrophes crushed Tohoku, the northern part of the Japanese main island of Honshu with the earthquake, the tsunami and soon to come the nuclear accident.
"We could not control the reactors on March 11th and my question, Naoto Kan said, was to know when can we regain control?" "The danger posed by nuclear power plants is tremendous and so is the impact of radioactive material," he added. "On 15th March I called to Tepco and told president Shimizu any withdrawal is an unacceptable option, no possibility of withdrawal." "Hai Wakarimashita" (I understands yes) Tepco Shimizu told twice to Kan who also visited Tepco early morning of the 15th.
"Since 3/11, I made a 180 degrees change of position (about nuclear energy). No other accident has such potential of destruction of a country as nuclear energy. I asked myself what is the best way to safely control a nuclear plant? The only way is to create a society where we do not depend on nuclear energy like Spain, Germany, Denmark opted. Japan is to give a plan goal in September, we would have to try to reduce to ZERO as soon as possible, reduce the burden on the nation, because we also produce nuclear waste and we have to opt for renewable energy." Naoto Kan stated.
After Kan's speech, assigned by my colleague moderator Martin Koelling of Germany [on the right on the picture] I raised the first question to the event, asking Mr Kan if there is a danger threatening Japan, today, in regard to the Fukushima plants and especially with the dangerous potential of the unstable pool of building 4, containing tons of dangerous highly radioactive rods? An explosion due to a new natural disaster wouldn't be catastrophic I asked? Former Prime Minister Kan answered that "if the pool at building 4 is to collapse, then it will be a terrible accident."
Tepco people said they manage it by reinforcing the (destroyed) structures of the building. But Mr. Kan conveyed to the foreign (and Japanese) media gathered here that he personally believes there is a high danger for people's lives. And of course we, media, know that Tepco is always selective about describing the exact situation on Fukushima. (Example with the confusion by Tepco about the 1533 highly radioactive rods contained into the unstable dangerous pool of reactor 4.)
Prior to this question I commented to Mr Kan in introduction to my question that "because you forced Tepco people to stay on the plant after March 11th you certainly saved considerable number of lives and it would be natural that if you are asked and if you accept, you ought to receive the Nobel Peace Prize." At the end, when Kan thanked the audience and received our honorary membership of the press club and stated he'll be back "if I receive the Nobel prize" there was a thrill among the crowds gathered at the club, some sort of mixed feeling of emotion and pride and a touch of "Bel Esprit" sent by Kan.
Why I told him that? Simply because these are the words heard within foreign embassies in Japan nowadays with thankful messages sent to him for the high level of responsibility and leadership that Kan and his team exerted since the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident March 11th, 2011. What he did at least was to avoid the unbearable catastrophe and we hear more and more details about what exactly happened then and since. But what about next time and what about Noda's responsibility for the future of these islands?
As a final comment I would say that the club's event August 29th was very well balanced and moderated with a chance for anyone to ask a question, including tough specific ones, it was a very professional atmosphere compared to the invitation of ex-Tepco president Shimizu. At that time, there was considerable complaints made by our fellow colleagues of the press club whose questions were refused then, creating anger and disappointment among some of our Japanese members and colleagues of the Fccj.