Tuesday, September 20, 2011

60,000 call for end of nuclear power in Japan

Morning Star

Sixty thousand Japanese citizens marched in central Tokyo today to press their government to ditch nuclear energy in favour of renewables in light of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Protesters chanted: "Sayonara nuclear power" and waved banners urging Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's new administration to prioritise the development of solar, wind and biomass energy.

Some 100,000 people have been evacuated from the area around the privately owned and operated Fukushima Daiichi plant since an earthquake and tsunami knocked out its reactor cooling systems on March 11, sparking meltdowns that spewed radiation across a wide swathe of north-eastern Japan.
The plant is still leaking, fuelling anxiety about the safety of food and tap water.

Protester Yoshiharu Saito, a resident of Fukushima, said: "We, the people of Fukushima, do not see nuclear radiation of course and we can't smell it.

"But we have no doubt it is spreading."

In addition to fears of radiation, the Japanese public and businesses have had to put up with electricity shortages amid the sweltering summer heat after more than 30 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were shuttered over the summer to undergo inspections.

Mr Noda, who took office earlier this month, has said Japan will restart reactors that clear safety checks.

But he has also said the country should reduce its reliance on atomic energy in the long-term and explore alternative sources of energy.

He has not spelled out any specific goals.

Before the disaster the earthquake-prone country derived 30 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power.

Satoe Sakai, who travelled from Osaka to join the rally, said: "Now is the only moment to really change nuclear policy and this is the best time to act.

"If we don't stop it now, we probably never will."

Before the march protesters gathered in Meiji Park to hear speakers address the crowd, including one woman from Fukushima prefecture, Reiko Muto, who described herself as a "hibakusha," an emotionally laden term for survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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