Pluto-kun vs Monju-kun, Science and the Mayors

Fukushima Fallout

Weekly updates by

Keito Hirabayashi


Who would have thought, as the public protests against nuclear power were just beginning to gain momentum last ‘Golden Week’ in Japan, that this year’s spring holiday would end, on May 5th, ‘Children’s Day’ with Japan’s electricity supply becoming nuclear free for the first time in over 40 years? That none of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants have been allowed to restart after they went offline for routine maintenance or stress tests over the course of this year, is surely a victory for the people’s movement that has only grown stronger since its beginnings last Golden Week. On April 29 a protest was held in Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion capital, and as well as large numbers of young people, it was attended by ‘Monju-kun.’ That the movement has acquired a cute mascot, must make pro-nuclear propagandists very nervous. Just as they used the likes of Pluto-kun  to get their message of how safe nuclear power, particularly MOX fuel is, right to the level of the people, now Monju-kun, is giving a completely different story to kids and adults alike. He takes his name from the fast breeder reactor which has been plagued by accidents, in the ‘Nuclear Ginza’ of Fukui Prefecture, on which work was begun in 1986 and which, as of June 2011, has generated electricity for a total of one hour since its first testing 2 decades before.  On his twitter account he says he wants to quit work as soon as possible and after he dies, he wants to be reincarnated as a solar panel. We should not underestimate the power of such subversion in cutesy-loving Japan.

It seems that science has also come out against restarting the Tsuruga nuclear power plant, right nextdoor to Monju, after the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) found an active fault right beneath it. Apparently doubts have also been voiced by NISA about interlocking active faults beneath Monju; Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear power plant; Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture; and Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane nuclear power plant in Matsue.  Funny how these faults have all just been ‘discovered’…or is NISA feeling the pressure to actually do its job after all these years? It was scheduled to be transformed into another organization, supposedly with more independence, under the Environment Ministry on April 1, but the government was unable to achieve this.

On another policy front, a group of 70 current and former mayors, from 35 of Japan’s 47 Prefectures, held its inaugral meeting on April 28 in Tokyo, aiming to convince the central government to eliminate nuclear power completely in its new basic energy plan, to be complied this summer. With these significant politicians, a regulatory body that seems to actually be doing its work for a change, and continuing people power keeping the pressure up, surely Monju-kun’s chances against discredited, down and out Pluto-kun, are looking up.

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