Nuclear restart plans in Japan: people gather to protest the move

Courtesy: ChannelNewsAsia

TOKYO: Protesters have gathered in central Tokyo to demonstrate against a decision by Japan’s nuclear watchdog to push ahead with plans to consider restarting a nuclear plant, which it now considers safe.

Shinzo Abe’s government has been pushing to bring reactors back online, after introducing tougher regulations on the industry last year. However, it faces determined opposition from concerned residents.

Protesters in Tokyo surrounded the building where the Nuclear Regulation Authority has its office, calling for the NRA to drop the plan to give the green light for the Sendai nuclear plant in Kyushu to consider the restart of its nuclear reactors.

Kyushu — Japan’s third largest island — has suffered heavily from power shortages. But steps still need to be taken for Sendai to officially restart.

The most difficult hurdle — to gain the approval of residents. Those opposed to the restart question the vulnerability of the plant’s location as it is surrounded by active volcanoes.

One of the protesters said: “We don’t think any of them should be restarted. It’s not about debating what figures indicate their safety.”

fukushima-restart protestYasuhiko Shimazaki, the commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said: “Judging from the assessment submitted by the operator, we have come to a conclusion that the possibility of a Vesuvian eruption in the area is very unlikely.”

One lady from Fukushima forced her grandchildren to leave the area for Okinawa following the 2011 disaster. She said: “I’m more than angry. I’m sad. What Fukushima is facing today is not being reflected. There are 130,000 evacuees who are living in small quarters.”

If Sendai does begin operating again, it will be the first to return to operation since the Oi nuclear reactors north of Kyoto went off line last September for regular inspections.

Before the Fukushima nuclear accident, 30 per cent of Japan’s energy source was powered by nuclear energy. Since then, reactors have been put off-line one after another, forcing the country to import large volumes of crude oil and LNG — a move that is hurting the economy.

This type of protest however, is not expected to be a one-off event, with 19 nuclear plants having applied to the NRA for a possible restart.

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