Japan's anti-nuclear protesters find the going tough, despite Fukushima disaster
Polls show the public turning against nuclear energy after Japan's Fukushima disaster. But low coverage of protests and powerful business and political interests have complicated efforts to promote change.
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“It would be above our mandate to say to the Japanese what they should do," he adds. "What we can do is to explain what the risks are, explain what was done elsewhere, and then ask for the right of each individual who is living in an area where levels are above 1 microsievert per hour, especially for young children and pregnant women, to evacuate. So they should have the right to evacuate and receive support logistically and financially, and compensation.”Skip to next paragraph
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Calls to end nuclear power use
At the protest camp outside METI, the various anti-nuclear groups are calling for the end of nuclear power generation across Japan in the wake of Fukushima. And recent public-opinion polls show that the Japanese public is turning against nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident.
Still, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has expressed support for it. And activists say they are being ignored by the domestic media and threatened by ultra-nationalist groups.
“The Japanese newspapers and TV stations all take so much advertising money from the power companies that they won’t report on the strength of the anti-nuclear movement or cover our protests,” says Tadao Eda, who acts as a spokesperson for the camp.
“Even the Asahi [Japan’s leading liberal newspaper] only runs tiny articles about what’s happening here as a kind of alibi to their readers,” says Mr. Eda with a wry smile. “Their sponsors are more important to them. We’ve had five nationalist sound-trucks lined up here in right in front of us blaring out veiled threats to us and blocking up this major intersection. They ask what would happen if someone set fire to our tents and we got burned, and the police don’t do anything about it."
'We are not alone'
But Eda is sure that his group of protesters is not alone. He estimates that more than 1,000 people formed a candle-lit human chain around METI on the evening Nov. 11, the eight-month anniversary of the beginning of the crisis. And, in other parts of the country, people have also been protesting. On Nov. 18 at the site of another nuclear power plant on the southern island of Kyushu, some 15,000 people demonstrated to call on the government to scrap all of the nation's reactors.
Anti-nuclear protesters have an unlikely ally in Masayoshi Son, Japan's richest man. The multibillionaire CEO of Softbank, which owns a major mobile phone carrier, 40 percent of Yahoo! Japan, and a championship-winning baseball team, is pushing solar energy as a post-Fukushima alternative. Mr. Son, who is donating his lifelong future earnings to victims of the triple March disasters, is planning to build 10 mega-solar plants. He says that such facilities covering 20 percent of unused agricultural land in Japan could generate as much as power as TEPCO.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced plans for gas power stations to be built in city parks that are designated disaster response areas. The idea is to safeguard electricity supplies in the event of the kind of power shortages that followed March's nuclear accident.
In front the ministry, despite harassment from the nationalist groups and minimum media attention, the protesters say they intend to stay camped out there until their objectives are met.
“There are currently 11 of Japan’s 54 reactors running. The rest have been stopped for safety checks, but the power companies will start them again if they’re allowed to,” says Eda. “We’ll be here until the last one is stopped and we have assurances they’ll never be started up again.”
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