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Anti-Nuclear Activists Say Summit Ignores True Nuclear Security

Students protest outside Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, where U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech, in Seoul, March 26, 2012.
Students protest outside Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, where U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech, in Seoul, March 26, 2012.
Jason Strother

President Barack Obama says the United States is committed to developing new technologies to produce peaceful nuclear energy. He made these remarks on Monday at the start of a nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea. But one year after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex, concerns about the safety of nuclear power linger on. Some activists, though, say there is no form of safe nuclear power.

Speaking at a South Korean university, Obama said the peaceful uses of nuclear energy bring many benefits. He pointed to advances in medicine and science, and said nuclear power is a comparatively clean and affordable means of energy production.

His views are shared by other leaders attending this week’s global Nuclear Security Summit, including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. South Korea is emerging as a nuclear power exporter and is building reactors in the United Arab Emirates.

But some activists say the summit is not promoting security at all. Instead, they claim, it’s goal is to make more money for the nuclear industry.

Park Jung-eun is with the Seoul-based People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a civic group that is protesting the international forum.

Park said last year saw the destruction of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima. She said nuclear material is very dangerous for all people around the world.

Park said all nations must invest more money in renewable energy sources and stop the construction of nuclear power plants.

Park’s group has been joined by international activists who have come to Seoul for the protests.

“No nukes Asia, no nukes Korea, no nukes American, no nukes anywhere,” shouted protesters in unison.

German activist Andreas Speck said demonstrators have the ability to force changes in their governments’ energy policies. He noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel succumbed to pressure from mass anti-nuclear protests soon after the Fukushima disaster.

“Angela Merkel extended the lifetime of German power stations just before Fukushima happened and then she was forced to do a u-turn because of people power. Yes, it shows that people, organizing, mobilizing have a lot of power,” said Speck.

All German nuclear power stations are scheduled close down by 2022.

The nuclear security summit concludes on Tuesday.

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