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Japan's main opposition leader seeks end to nuclear power after controversial remark

Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks during a press conference at the Diet building on March 11, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), expressed his intention to aim for the elimination of nuclear power in Japan on March 11 -- the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami -- after earlier stating it was no easy task.

    Edano's declaration appeared to be a response to criticism over his recent comment that "ending nuclear power is not easy." Edano told reporters at the Diet, "It has been demonstrated during these 10 years that Japanese society is viable without operating nuclear power plants. I intend to make a society that does not depend on nuclear power permanent."

    Following the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011, the hurdle for reactivating nuclear power stations was raised, and power plants under the jurisdiction of TEPCO have been out of operation since the No. 6 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture was halted for regular inspections in March 2012. Concerning such circumstances, Edano said, "We must not revert to the era of 10 years ago. I'm determined that this (the 10th anniversary of the 2011 disasters) is the day to begin our path towards a society that does not depend on nuclear power."

    On its party platform, the CDP has presented a goal of "achieving a zero nuclear energy-dependent society as soon as possible," but Edano has refrained from using the expression "zero nuclear power" out of consideration for the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which includes the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Workers Unions of Japan.

    Edano said in a February interview with the Nishinippon Shimbun daily that "at the very least, we cannot declare an end to nuclear power unless we decide on the location to store spent nuclear fuel." His remark on March 11 seems mindful of those in and outside the CDP who are pushing for the elimination of nuclear power.

    (Japanese original by Kenta Miyahara, Political News Department)

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