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3 Top Japanese Nuclear Officials to be Axed Amid Crisis

submitted by Janine Rees

The Mainichi Daily News - August 5, 2011


Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda speaks during a budget committee meeting at the upper house of the Diet in Tokyo on Thursday, July 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Industry minister Banri Kaieda said Thursday he plans to sack three top officials in charge of nuclear power policy to hold them responsible for the handling of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The three officials are Kazuo Matsunaga, vice minister for economy, trade and industry, Nobuaki Terasaka, head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and Tetsuhiro Hosono, head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

Kaieda said he will reveal details later. The minister, who has expressed his intent to resign to take responsibility for confusion over the stalled restart of nuclear reactors, did not specify when he will do so and only said, "I will decide on my own."

Kaieda said he wants to "put new life" into the ministry with the reshuffle and that he has conveyed the plan to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The ministry and its nuclear safety watchdog have drawn criticism for their handling of the nuclear accident, including for delays in public announcements, power supply problems, and recently for alleged attempts to manipulate public opinion in favor of nuclear power.

Kaieda indicated, however, that recent revelations that the safety agency was involved in a spate of scandals in which utilities tried to fake public support at state-sponsored symposiums to promote nuclear power was not a direct reason behind the shakeup.

He said he had been considering the step even before the media began reporting about the agency's roles in the staged events last Friday.

Political experts said Kan is believed to be supportive of the reshuffle as he too has shown distrust in the ministry over its resistance to reforming the nation's nuclear power and electricity policies.

Matsunaga joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the predecessor of METI, in 1974. He became vice minister, the ministry's top bureaucrat, in July last year after taking up such posts as chief of the Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau.

Terasaka joined the ministry in 1976 and was appointed head of the nuclear safety agency in July 2009 after serving as director general for commerce and distribution policy.

Hosono took the helm at the energy agency in August last year. He joined the ministry in 1976 and has served as Japan Patent Office commissioner.

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