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

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid