Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kan - Nuclear Mentality To Blame

The grip of the nuclear lobby in Japan before the Fukushima disaster was akin to that of the military in the run-up to World War II, the prime minister at the time of last year’s catastrophe said Monday.
At a parliamentary inquiry into the world’s worst atomic crisis in 25 years, Naoto Kan said the lion’s share of the blame for the tsunami-triggered disaster lay with the state for its unquestioning promotion of nuclear power.
“The nuclear accident was caused by a nuclear plant which operated as national policy,” Kan said.
“I believe the biggest portion of blame lies with the state,” said the former premier, who has come out strongly against the technology since the Fukushima disaster in March last year.
But, he said, the “nuclear village”—a term critics often use to refer to the pro-atomic lobby of academics and power companies—had blinded the government in a way analogous to the rise of the powerful military elite that led Japan into the vicious colonialism that precipitated World War II.
“Before the war, the military came to have a grip on actual political power… Similarly, plant operator TEPCO and FEPC (Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan) held sway over the nation’s nuclear administration over the past 40 years,” Kan said.
“They ousted experts, politicians and bureaucrats critical of nuclear energy from the mainstream. Many others they sidelined so that they could maintain the status quo.”
Kan, who stepped down in September after just 15 months in charge, said the only way to ensure that a disaster like Fukushima did not happen again was for Japan to abandon nuclear technology.
Kan’s appearance, like that of many former ministers called to give evidence before the panel, was an opportunity for the ex-premier to give a detailed public account of his actions in the days and weeks after the tsunami struck.
Kan came in for intense criticism for creating a distraction when he visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant the day after the waves hit, as emergency workers were grappling with what would become full-blown meltdowns.
His administration was also lambasted for providing too little information to the public, apparently withholding computer models that showed how radiation from the venting reactors might spread.
Tens of thousands of people were later evacuated from an area around the plant after it began spewing radiation. Many have still not been allowed home, with some areas expected to be uninhabitable for decades.
TEPCO, one of the world’s largest utilities, whose tentacles of influence reach well inside Japan’s huge government bureaucracy, has also been criticised for ignoring warnings about the potential dangers from quake-generated tsunamis.
At the hearing Monday, Kan attacked the company for its failure to keep the government informed about the accident.
“I was thinking it was a battle against an invisible enemy,” he told the hearing.
Kan’s public testimony came after a private panel probing the accident said in February the former premier’s aggressive involvement had averted a worse crisis.
That panel said it was Kan who ordered TEPCO, which refused to co-operate with the February study, to keep men on site.
Experts concluded that if the premier had not stuck to his guns, Fukushima would have spiralled further out of control, with catastrophic consequences.
Kan’s then-top government spokesman, Yukio Edano, testified on Sunday.
Asked about Kan’s visit to the Fukushima plant, Edano said the prime minister had gone to the site because the industry watchdog Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and TEPCO had seemingly “backtracked and wavered.”
“We had this awareness that someone who is more important than a vice industry minister (who was already at the scene) should go and take hold of the situation,” Edano said.
© 2012 AFP

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fujimura Admits to Hatoyama Mistakes

By Daniel Rea

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura acknowledged Tuesday that the policy of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatomaya's administration concerning the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture was inconsistent.

Hartoyama's administration found no consistent policy during his 9 month tenure as Japanese Prime Minister from September 2009 to May 2010. 

Hatoyama first hinted that the 2000 Forces Agreement between the US and Japan would have to be totally scrapped. Then in November 2009 after US Sec of State Hillary Clinton talked to he Japanese counterpart Hatoyama then insisted that the US Marines in Okinawa would be allowed a four year transition period. After February 2010, Hatoyama again vacillated saying that US Marines would be allowed to half their forces with an expansion at Camps Schwab and Courtney.

"It's a fact that there were discussions at one point within the Cabinet on whether the U.S. base should be relocated within or outside the prefecture," Fujimura said at a press conference.

He said the government confused residents in the prefecture.

Fujimura stressed that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration has been consistent in its relocation policy and is following proper procedures on the issue.

Hatoyama resigned as PM in May 2010 due in large part to his DPJ losing confidence in his leadership, with Okinawa being a large reason for their loss of trust in Hatoyama and his cabinet advisors. Japan has had 7 PMs in the last 6 years.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Al Qaeda Plot Busted

The FBI is investigating an explosive device that could have been used by a suicide bomber on an airliner, and which was seized when the United States and its partners thwarted a plot believed linked to al Qaeda, U.S. officials said on Monday.

They said no plane was actually at risk.

They said the device was a redesigned model of the bomb used by the so-called "underwear bomber", who failed to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. That plot originated in Yemen.
President Barack Obama was first informed about the latest plot in April and has received regular updates, Caitlin Hayden, deputy National Security Council spokeswoman, said.  "This device has the hallmarks of previous AQAP bombing attempts," a counter-terrorism official said on condition of anonymity, referring to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"The plot was disrupted well before it threatened American or U.S. allies, the official said, adding that no airliner had been at risk from this device.

The FBI said it was in possession of the device and was conducting technical and forensic analysis on it.