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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid