TOKYO - Former premier turned anti-nuclear advocate Junichiro Koizumi has challenged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to drop nuclear power as an energy source.
Speaking at his first major press conference on Tuesday since quitting politics in 2009, he said: "If the Prime Minister decides to do so, it can be done. It all depends on his judgment and insight."
In the past few months, Mr Koizumi has been giving talks to large audiences around the country, calling for an end to nuclear energy generation in Japan.
Not only opposition parties but also a large number of government lawmakers have expressed support for his stance.
Appearing on television recently, Mr Abe blasted Mr Koizumi's no-nuclear energy position as "irresponsible", without identifying his former political mentor by name. When Mr Koizumi stepped down as premier in 2006, he had endorsed Mr Abe as his successor.
Mr Koizumi argues that Japan cannot rely on nuclear power as it will not be able to solve the problem of spent nuclear fuel.
"Those who think Japan will be able to settle the problem of how to dispose of nuclear waste are too optimistic and irresponsible," he said on Tuesday.
Mr Abe told Parliament recently that Japan already has the technology to store spent nuclear fuel deep underground.
But Mr Koizumi said no local authority would ever agree to host such a dangerous site.
As for what Japan should do if it decides to abandon nuclear energy, he said he was confident that experts would come forward to draw up a "good plan".
"It is not something one party or one lawmaker can come up with. We should seek the wisdom of experts and respect their conclusions," he said.