Foreign Policy Blogs

Three Nuclear Policy Officials Fired

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration announced Thursday that it would fire three senior policy officials over allegations that the government had grown too friendly with the nuclear power industry.

The three officials that the Trade and Industry Minister, Banri Kaieda, canned were Kazuo Matsunaga, Vice Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry; Nobuaki Terasaka, head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency; and Tetsuhiro Hosono, head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

Three Nuclear Policy Officials Fired

Left to right: Tetsuhiro Hosono, Nobuaki Terasaka and Kazuo Matsunaga (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

I see this act as a mostly symbolic reaction to allegations that the government allowed conflicts-of-interest in regulating the nuclear sector, such as manipulating public opinion by holding town hall-like meetings where plants in the audience asked prearranged questions favoring the nuclear industry.

The true source of the problem is amakudari (literally “descended from heaven”). Amakudari are former officials who obtain private-sector jobs post-retirement in areas they formerly regulated. These amakudari use ties they maintained from their former public employment days to lobby for their current companies.

On one hand, it is understandable that government and businesses occasionally swap employees–after all, there are only so many experts in specialized fields. On the other hand, it leads to blatant conflicts-of-interest, as explained above.

I think if Tokyo really wants to prevent such scandals, they need to crack down on amakudari–perhaps by enforcing a set time period between when a government employee retires and when they are allowed to take private-sector jobs in their former field. I suspect the reason Tokyo doesn’t crack down on amakudari is because officials secretly hope the lucrative post-retirement jobs will still be available when their turn comes.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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