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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs