Ex-PM Kan shares Fukushima lessons in California

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told residents and activists near an ailing nuclear power plant in California on Tuesday how the Fukushima disaster changed his view of nuclear power.

"Only a nuclear accident could displace 40 percent the population...I concluded that the only way to contain this risk was to create a society that does not rely on nuclear power," said Kan at a symposium organized by Friends of the Earth, an environmental lobbying group.

In his first overseas public address on nuclear issues after stepping down as premier in September 2011, Kan stressed the importance of a global network for antinuclear activists and renewable energy advocates to share ideas and experience.

Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, also admitted he is ashamed of his former role as an apologist for exporting Japanese nuclear technologies to developing countries.

Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, retired nuclear industry executive Arnie Gunderson, and Peter Bradford, a law professor who worked at the NRC during the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, also offered their perspectives.

Jaczko said the accident showed that regulators' tendency to prepare for incidents based on the probability they would occur was insufficient to protect nuclear plants from a major disaster.

"We have to make the rules such that there will never be another evacuation from a nuclear accident," Jaczko said. On a trip to Japan, he had met a family forced to live in separate towns after the nuclear disaster.

Jackzo worried that four new U.S. reactors being built in Georgia and South Carolina will be started up before the NRC fully implements regulatory changes prompted by the Fukushima disaster.

San Diego county is home to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a two-reactor plant that has been offline since early 2012 when one of its new steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. sprung a leak.

Torgen Johnson, one of the event coordinators who lives near the plant, hoped the symposium will "open up the discussion so we don't forget what's still happening in Japan, and that it doesn't happen here."