09/12/2019, 13.30
JAPAN
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New Environment Minister to shut down nuclear reactors, pledges no more Fukushimas

Shinjiro Koizumi is among 13 new ministers brought in yesterday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a cabinet reshuffle. Many of Japan’s nuclear plants are closed due to strict safety regulations introduced after the tragedy. At present, Japan can count on six operating reactors.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan’s new Environment Minister, Shinjiro Koizumi (picture 1), wants to shut down nuclear reactors so that a catastrophe like Fukushima’s does not happen again.

The stance taken by the 38-year-old son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi risks causing controversy within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which supports a return to nuclear power under new safety regulations imposed after the 2011 disaster.

A successful lawyer considered by many to be a rising star in Japanese politics, Shinjiro Koizumi is among 13 new ministers brought in yesterday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a cabinet reshuffle.

Observers say that giving Koizumi a ministerial post reflects Abe's desire to boost public support for his administration.

The Prime Minister said he expects Koizumi to address global environmental issues, including maritime plastic pollution and climate change, "from a fresh perspective as a young" minister.

In the first press conference after his appointment, Koizumi spoke on various issues, starting with global warming.

"Countermeasures against global warming can't work without innovation," he explained. "By dealing with environmental problems, I believe innovations will occur one after another, which will create business opportunities."

The new minister also spoke about Japan's nuclear power plants, many of which are still closed due to the strict safety guidelines introduced after the Fukushima tragedy.

"I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them," he said. "We will be doomed if we let nuclear accidents recur.”

The young politician also said that Prime Minister Abe charged him with taking steps against plastic waste at sea, stressing that "this is an area where Japan can make contributions".

Koizumi also announced that today he was going to visit Fukushima Prefecture, in north-eastern Japan, to show the government's readiness to provide continued support to areas affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

The natural disaster was compounded by radioactive contamination following three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The incident forced 160,000 people to flee, many of whom have never returned home.

The incident is back at the centre of public debate after Koizumi's predecessor, Minister Yoshiaki Harada, two days ago said that the utility was running out of room to store the water, and that some of it would need to be dumped into the ocean.

The Fukushima disaster revealed serious regulatory and operational deficiencies in Japan’s nuclear plants.

Most nuclear reactors, which before Fukushima supplied about 30 per cent of the country's electricity, are going through a re-licensing process under new safety standards.

Currently, Japan can count on six operating reactors. Before the tragedy there were 54. About 40 per cent of these are being decommissioned.

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