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 Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid