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Japan to fire three top nuclear officials

Reuters/Tokyo Electric Power

Japan is to purge three top energy officials in continuing fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Economy Minister Banri Kaieda told reporters that he is planning sweeping staff changes in his ministry, which promotes and regulates the nuclear industry.

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The reshuffle aims to “breathe new life” into the ministry in the aftermath of the disaster, Kaeida said Thursday.

The removal of Vice-Minister Kazuo Matsunaga, who is the energy agency’s director general, Tetsuhiro Hosono and Nobuaki Terasaka, the director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, was earlier reported by the Asahi newspaper.

Asked if they are among those to be fired, Kaieda replied, “It's OK for you to think that.”

Kaieda has been at odds with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has called for a nuclear-free Japan and criticised the ministry for close ties to the energy industry, for several months. Recently he burst into tears when questioned by MPs.

Since the 11 March disaster, the ministry has come under in for criticism for its long-time promotion of nuclear power and for seeking to manipulate public opinion by planting questions at open talks.

The nuclear safety agency, which should regulate but not promote nuclear energy, says it will create a third-party panel to investigate the question-planting charges.

Kan is planning to split the watchdog agency away from the ministry following a UN atomic agency report’s call for "regulatory independence and clarity of roles". It would become part of the environment ministry, according to a proposal drafted by Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the nuclear crisis.

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