The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Democracy in Japan: Attempting to Harmonize Diverse Voices

Guest lecture by Mikiko Eto, Professor of Political Science, Hosei University


The disaster of nuclear plants at Fukushima, caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011, forced the Japanese government to revise the existing energy plan, according to which the proportion of nuclear power in the total energy would have been increased from the current ratio of 25% to 45% in 2030. To make up a new energy plan, the government introduced a participatory-style of democracy, called “national debates on options of energy mix”, to infuse people’s diverse voices into the plan. The national debates were composed of three schemes, i.e. public hearing, public comments and deliberative polling. The government also took into account citizens’ collective voices outside the formal national debates.

It became clear through the national debates, most Japanese no longer wished to have the country’s energy rely on nuclear power, and as a result, the Japanese government drafted a new energy plan to phase out nuclear power by 2040. However, the plan was not established as a government policy for two reasons. First, domestic and international oppositions to non-nuclear power forced the government to give up its nuclear-phase-out plan. The US opposition, specifically, was relevant to proliferation of nuclear weapons and Japan’s security. The second reason is the contradictory demands of Japanese people: namely, they wish to realize nuclear-free society, but they, at the same time, desire more economic growth which won’t be realistically achieved without nuclear energy. This Japanese example may provide an implication for well-functioning democracy.

Mikiko Eto is Professor of Political Science, Hosei University. Her main subject is gender in politics. She has done research on such fields as women’s representation, women’s movements, and civil society and gender. Her most recent publication is “Reframing Civil Society from Gender Perspectives: A Model of a Multi-layered Seamless World”, Journal of Civil Society, Vol.8: No.2, 2012, 101-121.

Venue: Meeting room, NIAS, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Copenhagen K

Time: 2 September, 1:00-1:45 PM