The Fukushima accident shocked the world. But for years Mizuho Fukushima, the leader of Japan’s Social Democratic party, had warned of just such an accident. Now the country is listening to its most famous anti-nuclear campaigner. “Leaders have kept the truth hidden from citizens, but Japan is changing”, she says. Fukushima finally proved Mizuho Fukushima right. Fukushima, the leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, is also the country’s most famous anti-nuclear campaigner: she has spent three decades in politics trying to end nuclear energy. One year after the accident with which she – by a ironic twist of fate – shares a name, Fukushima is steering the country away from the clean but dangerous energy source.
The Fukushima accident forced Japan to rethink nuclear power, and now the government has decided to phase it out. Was the Fukushima accident, in a way, good for Japan?
The Fukushima nuclear accident should never have happened. Irrecoverable radioactive damage continues to spread and we never know when it will end. Japan should have realized that this kind of accident could happen and abandoned nuclear power before it happened. I regret the fact that our party didn’t have enough influence to help make such policy changes. Now that this accident has happened, Japan must immediately halt the operation of every nuclear power plant and move toward decommissioning them. Moreover, we should put every effort into promoting alternative energy based on natural resources.
Can Japan prevent a future nuclear accident?
First of all we need to properly investigate the causes of the Fukushima incident. Then, based on the latest intelligence on earthquakes, we need to review current earthquake-prevention designs, as well as safety guidelines. However, since Japan is such a small country with frequent earthquakes, the Fukushima nuclear disaster proved that the country is not suitable for operating nuclear power plants. As a result, we have no choice but proceed with decommissioning the current plants.
How do you rate the authorities’ response to the accident, and the reconstruction effort afterwards?
I don’t think that the administration has dealt with the accident with a strong determination to save human lives. This is evident from the fact that the crucial information regarding nuclear meltdown and System for Prediction of Environmental Dose Information (SPEEDI) was not promptly released. The administration deserves sharp criticism for this.
What’s alternative to nuclear power?
Even if we phase out nuclear power, the government predicts that other means of power generation could sustain Japan’s current level of energy consumption. The main source would be thermal energy. My party proposes the creation of an energy-supply system comprised entirely of renewable energy sources: we should keep developing wind, geothermal, and solar power. Of course, we should also encourage people to reduce their electricity consumption, and we should also promote a subsidiary program to purchase natural energy. And my party suggests making the power grids, which are currently owned by electric power companies, available to the public.
But globally, power consumption is booming, which is why many countries like nuclear power. Should we all get used to using less energy?
Electric power companies have incessantly advertised and glorified the life full of electric appliances. As a result, we’ve become used to living a life of extreme dependence on electricity. It’s crucial that we reexamine our current lifestyles and adopt a policy of saving and reducing electricity. And we need further energy-saving measures as well. For example, electric appliances should be made more energy-efficient.
Do you see any similarities between the Hiroshima atomic bomb and Fukushima?
Yes. One is that an immense number of people were exposed to intolerable levels of radioactive materials, which will continue to affect them. Another similarity is that radiation-based infections are spreading among many people and will be passed on to subsequent generations. Of course, the fact that the citizens became victims of a state policy is another similarity.
What has Japanese society learned from the Fukushima accident?
It has become obvious that the government authorities, electric power companies, scholars and mass media have promoted the construction of nuclear power plants while concealing the plants’ negative impact from the citizens of Japan. Leaders have kept inconvenient truths hidden, educated schoolchildren only about the advantages of nuclear power generation, and falsely assured the citizens that they’re safety through an enormous number of TV advertisements. I’m certain that the people of Japan have learned that unless we have a decisive break with nuclear power, there will be no future for Japan.
What should happen next?
Once a nuclear disaster occurs, its aftermath will extend beyond human imagination; we will never know the extent of the damage. We don't know for how long it will affect us, and how it will affect our children’s future. Now that it has become obvious that humans can’t adequately keep nuclear power under control, we should start building a society with less dependence on nuclear power. The good news is that increasing number of people are becoming aware of the alternatives and are taking initiatives. Japanese society is starting to change, as it well it should.