Japan should nationalize the operation of nuclear plants following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Dai-Ichi station in Fukushima, a candidate to replace Prime Minister Naoto Kan said.
“When we consider the risk of atomic energy, I don’t think private companies can bear the burden,” Sumio Mabuchi, a former adviser to Kan on the nuclear accident, said yesterday in an interview at his office in Tokyo. “I think at least Tokyo Electric must separate” its nuclear operations.
Mabuchi, 50, a former land and transport minister, is seen as a possible candidate to replace Kan when he steps down, Atsuo Ito, an independent political analyst, said in a phone interview. Kan, 64, pledged yesterday to gradually phase out nuclear energy and last month said he’d resign and pass his responsibilities to a “younger generation” after making progress on containing the nuclear crisis.
Kan will probably resign in August, Mabuchi said, declining to say whether he hoped to become prime minister.
“Kan talked about a younger generation and each DPJ lawmaker must think seriously about that,” he said. “I’m one of them.”
Opinion surveys show mounting dissatisfaction toward Kan, with 70 percent of respondents in an Asahi newspaper survey published July 12 saying he should step down by the end of August. The same study showed his personal approval falling to 15 percent from 22 percent last month. At the same time, 77 percent said they were in favor of phasing out nuclear energy in Japan, up from 74 percent.
The Asahi phone survey of 1,920 voters on July 9 and 10 didn’t provide a margin of error.
The nuclear disaster at the Dai-Ichi plant began after a magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11 cut power to reactors. The world’s worst atomic accident in 25 years has displaced about 50,000 households after radiation leaked into the air, soil and sea.
Mabuchi said Japan shouldn’t raise taxes to pay for rebuilding after the disasters, which the government estimates will cost around 16.9 trillion yen ($213 billion). Kan’s reconstruction panel proposed last month to raise some levies to avoid adding to the world’s largest public debt.