Minister's plan falls by the wayside
Of 25 members of the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee, only about eight are opposed to nuclear power generation.
Why this imbalance?
Actually, there was an attempt at the industry ministry to aim for an evenly balanced membership. But the resignation in September 2011 of industry minister Yoshio Hachiro, 64, put an end to that.
"I wanted at least half the members (of the subcommittee) to be critical of the nation's nuclear energy policy, and said so to senior officials at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy," Hachiro recalled during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in his room of the Lower House members' building.
He was met with stiff resistance, he said, but felt confident he could have his way.
"But just before I was going to announce my decision, I had to step down (as minister)."
His resignation was the result of media reports to the effect that he had jokingly threatened to infect reporters with radiation upon his return from the no-entry zone in Fukushima Prefecture.
"That was the media's interpretation, and it became a big deal," Hachiro said. "The resignation was my own decision. The last thing I wanted was to cause trouble to the just-inaugurated Noda administration."
However, speculation persists to this day that Hachiro was actually pressured into stepping down to block his attempt to balance the subcommittee membership.
At the time, he was just about to start selecting members of the Fundamental Issues Subcommittee. Senior ministry officials told Hachiro that they were preparing to launch the subcommittee. He pointed out to the officials that at panels previously set up, their conclusions were almost predetermined when the ministry secretariat selected panel members.
"The officials admitted that was the case, and told me that they'd already selected 15 of the 25 members of the subcommittee, including Akio Mimura as chairman," Hachiro recalled. "And I was informed that 12 members were in favor of nuclear power generation, and three were against."
Hachiro stood his ground and instructed the officials to at least aim for a balanced membership.
"Given the present state of affairs (after the Fukushima disaster), we shouldn't create a subcommittee whose decision is too foreseeable," he argued. "We need a subcommittee that can present diverse opinions."
One official remarked, "We could perhaps have one-third of the members from the anti-nuke camp, but no more."
Hachiro shot back, "No, I will not settle for only one-third. I insist on 50-50. I will select the members myself."
"The officials agreed to leave (the selection of members) to me," Hachiro said.
He consulted people within and close to the Democratic Party of Japan and compiled a list of candidates. But before he could present the list to the ministry, he was forced into resigning.
In passing on his duties to his successor, Yuko Edano, 47, Hachiro wrote a memo to remind Edano that half the subcommittee members must be opponents of nuclear power generation.
"But the subcommittee ended up with only about eight such members," Hachiro said. "Things didn't turn out as I instructed."