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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

CABINET INTERVIEW

Tanaka questions no nukes by '30s goal


Staff writer

Japan's only realistic energy mix combines the pursuit of green sources of power with continued use of nuclear reactors that have passed safety checks, new science and education minister Makiko Tanaka said, questioning the administration's goal to scrap all reactors by the 2030s.

News photo
Makiko Tanaka

"It's not easy to change all the energy sources to green energy, like what Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said. It costs a lot of money as well as time," Tanaka, 68, said in an interview with The Japan Times and other media Friday. "If Japan wants to keep up its economic standards and live as a cultured nation and not bother (other nations), (nuclear energy) is needed."

Although her ministry does not manage nuclear power plants, it oversees the trouble-plagued Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

"Nobody on Earth thinks that nuclear power is great after seeing the March 11 disaster. . . . Risky plants should be stopped. And, of course, we cannot build a new nuclear reactor. . . . But nuclear energy also has a plus side to it, such as uses in the medical field," Tanaka said. "What we have to do is to conduct further research on reactors and other equipment that can survive quakes . . . and at the same time develop green energy."

On bullying, Tanaka, a mother of three, said schools need to nurture people who can respect each other's differences by letting them see the realities of life.

She suggested taking children to funerals to make them think about death and also let them see jails to learn the consequences of committing a crime.

"By making them learn to be responsible members of the community, I believe bullying can be curbed not only at school but in society," Tanaka said.

Bullying came under the spotlight following the suicide of a tormented junior high school boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, last October. The boy jumped to his death after being severely bullied by his classmates. Official attempts to deny any bullying had occurred later backfired.

Following the Otsu case, the ministry conducted emergency surveys at schools to grasp the extent of bullying. The ministry is currently checking the results, but as of Oct. 1 it had learned that some 75,000 bullying cases were recognized by schools between April and September. On the criticism leveled at boards of education that have tried to cover up bullying, Tanaka said ineffective ones need to be reformed.

"I've heard there also are boards that work effectively. It depends on the individual boards; those with problems need new members," she said.

Tanaka, the daughter of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, was first elected to the Lower House on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket in 1993. In 1994, she served as director general of the Science and Technology Agency under Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

She was appointed foreign minister in 2001 by Junichiro Koizumi, but her outspokenness effectively led to her sacking in 2002. She joined the DPJ with her husband, Naoki Tanaka, in 2009.



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