MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Tokyo that any attempts at reform will face stiff resistance from the country's powerful nuclear energy establishment.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)
ANTHONY KUHN: No more Fukushima, protesters chanted in downtown Tokyo last weekend, referring to the nuclear plant damaged by the tsunami. The government has acknowledged that public anger against nuclear power is growing.
NORIYUKI SHIKATA: We have to be creative in terms of aggressively promoting new energy policy.
KUHN: Noriyuki Shikata is director of Global Communications for the Prime Minister's Office. He says that Prime Minister Naoto Kan wants a thorough reassessment of energy policy.
SHIKATA: I think, you know, he's trying to make the case that the future policy may not be the extension or continuation of the current policy. There may be a drastic policy change.
KUHN: Purdue University political scientist Daniel Aldrich says that in recent decades the nuclear power industry has come up with various ways to overcome such resistance.
DANIEL ALDRICH, Host:
These range from, for example, literally middle school curricula being written by bureaucrats that emphasize safety and necessity of nuclear power plants, to $20 million a year in money that flows to host communities, to all kinds of rewards for local mayors and city executives who cooperate with citing plants.
(SOUNDBITE OF NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AD)
KUHN: Taro Kono, a lawmaker with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, says Japan's energy has been hijacked policy by the nuclear power lobby.
TARO KONO: We've been depending on the nuclear energy so much. It's not the policy choice. It's because of those bureaucrats and the power company and the politician got some vested interest in promoting nuclear.
KUHN: Andrew DeWit, a political scientist at Tokyo's Rikkyo University, argues that nuclear power's biggest backers are its customers in heavily polluting industries. And these companies, he says, have prevented the rise of cleaner and more innovative industries.
ANDREW DEWIT: There are very real institutional reasons that new finance capital hasn't flowed into those areas. It's been locked up by the structure of interests that were able to make their reproduction, their survival, the paramount policy goal.
KUHN: But, says Taro Kono, those interests have so far succeeded in co-opting DPJ reformers.
KONO: The change of the government did not discontinue the policy; rather, it has enhanced. It took the DPJ in the circle. So everyone's guilty and everyone has to admit their guilt in this and, well, we have to start over.
KUHN: Andrew DeWit says that the current crisis could possibly cause a split between the nuclear lobby and the manufacturers whose factory lights have been dimmed. Those companies might say...
DEWIT: Hey, you guys promised us cheap power. You said that renewables would be intermittent and costly and that's why we wouldn't use them. And then you said that nuclear was the way we could have cheap, uninterrupted power. Well, that ain't happening. So maybe you guys were wrong.
KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Tokyo.
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