News / Asia

Two Years After Fukushima, Japan's Nuclear Lobby Bounces Back

FILE - A worker stands in front of a newly installed fresh water reservoir, used to cool down nuclear reactors in case of emergencies, at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world's biggest, in Kashiwazaki, NovFILE - A worker stands in front of a newly installed fresh water reservoir, used to cool down nuclear reactors in case of emergencies, at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world's biggest, in Kashiwazaki, Nov
x
FILE - A worker stands in front of a newly installed fresh water reservoir, used to cool down nuclear reactors in case of emergencies, at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world's biggest, in Kashiwazaki, Nov
FILE - A worker stands in front of a newly installed fresh water reservoir, used to cool down nuclear reactors in case of emergencies, at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world's biggest, in Kashiwazaki, Nov
Reuters
— The crowds of anti-nuclear protesters have dwindled since Japan's "Summer of Discontent'' last year, and a new government is keen to revive the country's atomic energy industry, but Morishi Izumita says he is not about to throw in the towel.
       
"We can't give up. I'm here every week,'' said 64-year-old Izumita, one of hundreds gathered outside the prime minister's office one Friday nearly two years after a huge earthquake and tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
       
"We need to be out here protesting. Not giving up is the important thing,'' he added, as other activists banged on drums and chanted "Stop nuclear power, protect our children''.
       
As Japan approaches the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster on March 11, its anti-nuclear movement appears to be struggling and disgraced pro-nuclear forces are rallying.
       
Although a recent survey showed some 70 percent of Japanese want to phase out nuclear power eventually, an equal number back their new, pro-nuclear prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who wants to restart off-line reactors if they meet new safety standards as he pushes policies aimed at reviving a long-stagnant economy.
       
The anti-nuclear movement will have a chance to show its strength this weekend as Japan commemorates the disaster. The Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, which organized many of last year's mass protests, has called for a mass rally to protest outside parliament on Sunday, the eve of the anniversary.
       
The March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami killed nearly 19,000 people and smashed Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant, triggering meltdowns, spewing radiation and forcing some 160,000 people to flee their homes, many never to return.
       
Anti-nuclear protesters hold a rally outside Japan's Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, August 22, 2012.Anti-nuclear protesters hold a rally outside Japan's Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, August 22, 2012.
x
Anti-nuclear protesters hold a rally outside Japan's Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, August 22, 2012.
Anti-nuclear protesters hold a rally outside Japan's Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo, August 22, 2012.
The disaster also destroyed a carefully cultivated myth that nuclear power was cheap and safe - and mobilized Japan's often apathetic voters in huge anti-nuclear demonstrations during a 2012 summer of discontent.
       
Half a year later, the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) swept back to power - not because voters had changed their minds about energy policy, but because neither the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor smaller opposition parties provided a credible standard-bearer for anti-nuclear sentiment.
       
Now, the issue seems to have been swept aside amid hopes Abe can revive the economy and restore dented national pride.
       
"Two years have passed, the economic situation is getting better ... and it may be true people are forgetting about energy issues,'' said Hiroshi Takahashi at the Fujitsu Research Institute, a member of the panel that drafted the DPJ government's plan to exit atomic energy by the 2030s.

Nuclear Corridors of Power
       
Takahashi, along with most other experts who questioned whether Japan should stick with atomic energy, has been bumped from the panel as Abe's government begins its policy rethink.
       
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
x
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, December 26, 2012.
Abe's government plans to review from scratch his DPJ predecessor's plan to exit nuclear power while boosting renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, and wants to restart off-line reactors that are certified safe under standards now being drafted by a new Nuclear Regulatory Agency.
       
"The 'nuclear village' is back in the driver's seat,'' said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Japan campus. The term 'nuclear village' refers to the powerful nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and utilities that for decades promoted atomic power in Japan.
       
"All the noises from the government are in favour of restarts ... They own the corridors of power," Kingston said.
       
All but two of Japan's 50 reactors remain switched off after the disaster and no more are expected to be restarted until after July, when the new regulator is due to finalize tougher safety requirements more in line with international norms.
       
That would also be after an upper house election that Abe's ruling bloc needs to win to cement its grip on power.
       
Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe (C), tours the emergency operations center of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant December 29, 2012.Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe (C), tours the emergency operations center of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant December 29, 2012.
x
Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe (C), tours the emergency operations center of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant December 29, 2012.
Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe (C), tours the emergency operations center of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant December 29, 2012.
The 58-year-old Abe, who has focused on reviving the stagnant economy since taking office in December, is enjoying sky-high popularity ratings of around 70 percent.
       
Surveys suggest, though, that anti-nuclear sentiment may be simmering beneath the surface. Fifty-nine percent in an Asahi newspaper poll last month wanted Japan to abandon atomic energy by the 2030s and another 12 percent by a later date.
       
Only 18 percent said Japan should stick with nuclear energy indefinitely.
       
Nuclear energy supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity needs before Fukushima and proponents argue it is vital to provide a stable electricity supply, keep down utility rates and prevent Japanese manufacturers from fleeing overseas in ever greater numbers, taking jobs with them.
       
"You'd think that people would have acquiesced to the so-called facts, but that doesn't appear to be the case,'' said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo who writes about energy policy. "People are not going out into the streets but there is a lot of outrage. It's like a dry forest waiting for a spark and restarts will be the real test.''

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid