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2011年7月12日 (火)

社説:論調観測 耐性試験 原発の安全、内閣の危機

(Mainichi Japan) July 11, 2011
Time to focus on nuclear power plant issue, not political battles
社説:論調観測 耐性試験 原発の安全、内閣の危機

Ideally, life would be safe, comfortable and prosperous, all at once.

If it is far too difficult to realize all three simultaneously, however, we must close our eyes to some things and place priority on others.

In response to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda's announcement last month that the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture was confirmed safe enough to resume its operations, many major Japanese newspapers were skeptical, with the Mainichi arguing that "discussion on nuclear safety was still lacking," the Asahi Shimbun newspaper calling on the government to "not rush to restart nuclear reactors," and the Tokyo Shimbun declaring that a "premature resumption of operations would be problematic."
Meanwhile, the Sankei Shimbun spoke from the standpoint of concern for power shortages, saying: "We welcome the fact that we are heading in the direction of restarting the Genkai plant."

Since then, the Kan administration has done an about-face, announcing the decision to conduct stress tests on all nuclear power plants and bringing the relaunch of operations at the Genkai plant back to square one.

Reacting to the news, a Mainichi editorial said: "Though questions remain about the circumstances that led to the decision, at least it is a step toward confirming the safety of the nation's nuclear power plants."

The Sankei, however, criticized the government's change in policy, demanding that it "stop messing around with the issue of resuming nuclear power plant operations."

Both arguments make sense, considering the tone of the two dailies up until then.

What has complicated the respective newspapers' arguments is the pathetic state of communication within the Cabinet, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan taking the lead in the policy reversal and Economy Minister Kaieda, who lost face in the process, hinting at his own resignation.

"Even if there is value to the proposed stress tests, the lack of consistency among government officials as exhibited by Kan and Kaieda only leads to the public's distrust toward the government," a Mainichi editorial posited.

The Asahi similarly pointed out that "Even if leaders show a good direction, politics will not move forward if they cannot properly advance an initiative and the team falls apart.

It means the end of an administration." The Yomiuri Shimbun, meanwhile, harshly suggested: "Everyone in the political world should find a way to bring an end to the Kan administration as soon as possible."

It is not as if criticism toward the prime minister is a recent development, but the confusion over the safety of nuclear power plants emerged as Kan was already being chastised from both opposition parties and ruling coalition members for recruiting upper house legislator Kazuyuki Hamada from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and the prime minister was being pressured to take responsibility for appointing Ryu Matsumoto to the post of reconstruction minister -- a rocky tenure that ended with Matsumoto's resignation on his ninth day on the job.

It should be pointed out, however, that going back a bit in newspaper editorials, one sees that some papers -- including the Mainichi -- have condemned mere criticism of the prime minister without offering an alternative figure to take his place.

Four of the most recent Japanese prime ministers only served for about a year each.

One after another, they started off with high ratings but soon found themselves awash in criticism.

In addition, we now see no end in sight to the ongoing nuclear crisis, and rebuilding efforts in disaster-stricken areas have yet to take off.

One gets the sense that the consumer habit of seeking things that prove useful right now and throwing out everything that does not fulfill that desire right away, is having an effect in various arenas.

Shouldn't we be focusing and deliberating the issue of resuming nuclear power plant operations?

It's unfortunate that everything gets mired in politics.

(By Kazuhiro Nozawa, Editorial Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年7月10日 東京朝刊


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