Yoshihiko Noda has been selected as the new leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and therefore the prime minister of the country. He calls for the strong, independent regulation of nuclear power.
Formerly the minister of finance, Noda will take control on 2 September upon formal appointment by Emperor Akihito. He will replace Naoto Kan as Japan's sixth prime minister in five years.
Kan had spoken of his personal ideal of a future Japan that did not use nuclear energy but Noda never publicly concurred, instead concentrating his comments on regulatory reform and a reduction of dependence on nuclear.
A political vision outlined on Noda's website calls for the 'independence and empowerment' of a new nuclear safety regulator. Until now safety has been overseen by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), residing within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which also has the role of promotion of Japan's nuclear industry. This relationship, combined with links to industry, has become seen as too close, leading to a loss of confidence in NISA's decision-making and public information concerning the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.
|Yoshihiko Noda receives applause from his party and leadership rivals
after the announcement of his victory (Image: DPJ)
Noda has advocated a new independent institution reporting directly to the cabinet office, with the authority to instigate criminal investigation of any wrongdoing it may find. This is in line with the framework announced two weeks ago that would place the new regulator as an independent body under the Ministry of the Environment.
In line with a promise made in June, Naoto Kan stepped down from office once the Fukushima Daiichi site was stable and there was a plan for the return of evacuated residents. Before leaving he had time to draft and push through the Renewable Energy Promotion Act. He said that in retirement from politics his life's work would be the promotion of renewable energy.
Japan as a whole is poor in energy resources - one reason to turn to nuclear in the first place - and has long aimed to 'close' the fuel cycle, reprocessing and recycling uranium and plutonium in mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel. This reduces the volumes of high-level radioactive waste and makes more efficient use of uranium that has to be imported. Noda wants the national debate on nuclear energy to reach a concensus before making any decisions on the fuel cycle.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News