I’ve been talking with quite a few Japanese about their opinion about the current nuclear crisis in the Fukushima I power plant, and I’ve been asked if the public opinion concerning nuclear power has changed in Japan. While I cannot answer that question in general, I’m going to briefly summarize my impression from the conversations I had.
Obviously everyone is concerned. If the topic comes up (e.g. because the TV shows something about Fukushima I don’t understand and I ask), it is not unlikely to turn into a lengthy discussion. People are starting to doubt the security of nuclear plants near (or at least not very far) from their homes, leading to remarks like “What if a big earthquake hits around here?” When there was a detailed report about the nuclear power debate in Germany on TV yesterday, my host family here in Nagoya paid close attention and was impressed by the demonstrations. I don’t think there’s a big debate yet, but it might start after the current crisis is under control. I am not sure it will, though, because people seemed surprised (in a positive way) when I told them that we often discuss politics in my family.
Lack of accurate and complete information is a big problem. One person expressly told me today he thinks that the government might not tell the truth. When I showed the radiation data published by the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology) around later, everyone was very curious, and relieved to see that the level around here is normal. Apparently they didn’t know this data was available. For Sendai, the Tohoku University Environment & Safety Office is also publishing measurements taken at the Tohoku University Cyclotron and Radioisotope Center (Aobayama campus).
I think Yukio Edano got it right when he said the following:
“The immediate issue is to ensure trust and confidence by giving information to the Japanese people and the world without hiding anything.”
Now the government has to live up to this statement, and force TEPCO to do the same.