Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, who is also a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), came under fire Tuesday for saying that if Japan leaves all its nuclear reactors offline, it would be tantamount to the nation committing mass suicide.
Sengoku, a close ally of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, made the remarks during a speech to supporters in Nagoya on Monday. "We have to consider what it means to try and live without nuclear reactors. In a way, failing to restart the reactors is like committing mass suicide," he said, according to Fuji TV.
Fifty-three of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors have now been closed down for routine maintenance and none have been restarted. The 54th reactor, in Hokkaido, is scheduled to go offline for maintenance on May 6.
The official DPJ line is that Japan needs to reduce its dependency on nuclear power, which once provided 30% of its electricity, but that two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture should be restarted, as it is the minimum required for Japan to avoid power shortages in the summer.
Sengoku is no stranger to controversy. In November 2010, he hit the headlines when he was pressured into apologizing after dubbing Japan's Self-Defense Forces "an instrument of violence."© Japan Today