The planned dismissals come after a number of scandals revealed how government officials had attempted to sway public opinion by instructing utilities to have staff send in emails to a public forum favouring nuclear power use.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has called for enhanced nuclear safety accountability and an overhaul of Japan’s energy policy, with the aim of gradually weaning it off its dependence on nuclear power as public safety concerns mount.
Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, who played a key role in handling the Fukushima crisis and who has said he intends to step down to take responsibility for missteps, vowed to carry out major changes in the ministry’s personnel, including the three top officials.
“I’m planning to breathe fresh air into the ministry with a large-scale reshuffle,” Kaieda told a news conference.
“I’ll have new people rebuild the ministry.”
The government will unveil as early as this week its plans for a new and more independent atomic safety regulator that could lead to tougher safety standards.
Following the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been trying to avoid power shortages that could curtail manufacturing and damage the country’s frail economy. Only 16 out of the country’s 54 reactors are running because of public safety concerns and other problems.