/ 19 September 2011

Thousands protest against nuclear power in Japan

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in Tokyo on Monday calling for an end to nuclear energy in Japan after the March 11 disaster that sparked the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.

About 60 000 people gathered for the anti-nuclear rally, organisers said, one of the biggest since the earthquake and tsunami and the following disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

“No more nuclear power plants! No more Fukushimas!” the demonstrators chanted under scorching sunshine as they flocked to Meiji Park, in the centre of the capital, ahead of the march.

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe told the rally: “Some people say we cannot make great achievements without nuclear power, but that’s a lie. Nuclear power is always accompanied by devastation and sacrifice.”

The demonstration, organised by several anti-nuclear groups, also saw residents evacuated from areas outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant about 220km north-east of Tokyo take part.

“If we fail to abolish nuclear power plants now, we will never achieve a nuclear-free world,” said Kazuhiro Hashimoto, a medicare service employee from Fukushima.

“It’s too late for us to raise our voices after another nuclear accident occurs,” Hashimoto said. “We hope the Fukushima accident will be the last one.”

Man-made disasters
Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has pledged to draw up a new energy policy focusing on renewable energy sources but stopped short of ruling out the future use of nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.

Japan had previously aimed to use nuclear power to generate around 50% of its energy needs by 2030 in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the energy independence of the resource-poor archipelago.

But sentiment has shifted since the quake and tsunami crippled the plant’s cooling systems, sparking reactor meltdowns that spewed radiation into the environment forcing tens of thousands to evacuate from a 20km radius.

“This is not a natural disaster. This is a man-made disaster,” said Taeko Henmi, a 50-year-old children’s nurse from Fukushima. “We don’t need anything that people cannot control. If we fail to take action, we will have no future.”

Radiation fears have become part of daily life after cases of contaminated water, beef, vegetables, tea and seafood due to the Fukushima accident. The government has been at pains to stress the lack of an “immediate” health risk.

Reactors that were halted for routine inspections have not been restarted amid a public backlash against nuclear power, and currently only 11 of Japan’s 54 reactors are online. — AFP