Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan has conducted a nuclear energy disaster prevention drill.

Japan prime minister Naoto Kan participates in nuclear drill

Prime minister Kan (right) receives the proposal for public notification and instructions for a nuclear emergency situation

The Japanese government seems relatively unusual in carrying out an annual drill at the highest levels of government. Although there is no suggestion that the Japanese nuclear industry is particularly unsafe, it has had some high-profile setbacks. In 2007 it suffered from the Chu-etsu earthquake, which shut down all seven units of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. The 1999 accidental exposure of workers at the Tokaimura fuel facility killed two.

Kan succeeded Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister in June 2010.

The drill was based on a scenario in which the system to provide water to the nuclear reactor at Reactor No.3 of Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Shizuoka Prefecture broke down, and subsequently, cooling functions for the reactor were lost, causing the release of radioactive materials outside the station. The exercise was conducted jointly by the national and local governments alongside related businesses, among others.

During the drill, Akihiro Ohata, minister of economy, trade and industry, made a report on the accident and presented a proposal for public notification and instructions for a nuclear emergency situation. In response, the prime minister issued a declaration of a nuclear emergency situation and instructed the relevant local governments to provide information to local residents.

Then, as part of the drill, a meeting of the countermeasure headquarters for nuclear disasters was convened with the purpose of addressing the situation. Prime minister Kan, who served as the chair of the government countermeasure headquarters, said, “Securing the safety of residents should be the top priority, and we must get the situation under control as early as possible. I will decide the government’s basic policy and take emergency countermeasures. I ask for close collaborations among relevant ministries and agencies and people concerned in the disaster-hit region.”

Thereafter, the prime minister held a video conference with the chair of the local countermeasure headquarters, with the governor of Shizuoka prefecture, and with the mayors of Omaezaki City, Makinohara City, Kakegawa City, and Kikugawa City, and grasped the on-site situation. During the video conference, the prime minister quickly responded to requests for assistance and ordered the local countermeasure headquarters to promptly take necessary steps.