Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

I visited Fukushima three times after the nuclear accidents. I met a chief of a village, a mayor of a city, and families who had evacuated from the village and the city near FUKUSHIMA Power Plants. We held KIBOW Fukushima on August 3 to share KIBOW with the leaders in Fukushima. I am feeling that the situation in Fukushima is clearly getting better day by day.

The Fukushima nuclear power reactors have successfully been stabilized with the automatic cooling system furnished. Subsequently, the radiation level in Fukushima has drastically been reduced. The Japanese government will start allowing residents to go back to their homes, step by step. As far as we know, nobody has been exposed to strong radiation, and it is said that nobody will die due to radiation from the reactors.

However, the mood of the public had been negative towards nuclear energy, partially because of Prime Minister Kan’s attitude, and partially because of strong anti-nuclear activists who scared people by emphasizing fear without objective scientific data. Very few politicians or leaders voiced their opinions, as they were afraid of losing electoral votes.

The mood was so unbalanced that, asserting a pro-nuclear opinion leads to bitter criticism by the general public and mass media.

Thoughtless policy change to retreat from nuclear energy and depend heavily on renewables like wind and solar would do harm to the economy of Japan. Germany may be able to do it simply because they have vast natural resources of coal, and the fact that they can buy electricity from France. In Japan, we import 100% of our oil, coal, and LNG. We cannot buy electricity from other countries, as we are isolated by the sea.

The most active advocate against nuclear energy was Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank. He announced the Mega Solar Project in early May. He’s met with political leaders like Prime Minister Kan and prefectural governors. He is a powerful leader with more than one million followers on Twitter.

But Mr. Son’s attitude seems insincere to me because he approached politicians, taking advantage of his political power to stressed anti-nuclear sentiment to the Japanese public. He thereby directed attention toward his business interests in renewable energy. When I criticized him on Twitter, he tried to label me as a pro-nuclear activist. Then he proposed we have a one-on-one public debate with no time limit on the length of discussions.

On August 5, for three and a half hours from 8:00pm to 11:30pm straight, Mr. Son and I debated Japan’s energy policy in front of over 300 people live and millions more online. I made it clear that I am completely positive on renewables, but we need nuclear to ensure a stable and reliable energy supply. That is the most important thing for us to rebuild and transform Japan. Mr. Son’s objections were harsh.

I am sure that the debate influenced Japan’s future course. Some anti-nuclear minds were changed, and after the debate and some people afraid to share their pro-nuclear opinions now feel they can speak freely. In fact, a Jiji Press poll carried out just after the debate revealed that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s proposal to create a society not reliant on nuclear power was NOT supported by 47.7 % of the public, exceeding the 40.2 % who backed the idea. So it was a great success for me.

We seem to have another Prime Minister again. This is going to be the fifth after Koizumi stepped down in September 2006ーone PM per year. This time, however, I’ll be happy to see Mr. Kan leave. I think he’s been our worst prime minister since World War II. After he steps down, and as Mr. Son quiets after the debate, I predict that Japan will restore its nuclear power gradually with cautious communication and safety assured. This is what we need for the future of Japan.

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