Hundreds of people today marched through Tokyo waving fish-shaped banners, a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement, to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan, as the country powers down the last of its 50 nuclear reactors.
By a nice coincidence, May 5 is also Children’s Day in Japan, a festival that has been celebrated since ancient times.
Until last year’s earthquake and tsunami triggered radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan was the world’s third-biggest user of atomic energy.
All 50 Nuclear Reactors Shut Off
No plant shut off for maintenance since the earthquake and tsunami in March of last year has been turned back on. But many in the government are enthusiastic about restarting them, worried about the country’s increased reliance on oil and gas. Before the crisis last year and new restrictions passed to prevent against future disasters, more than 30 percent of Japan’s electricity was provided by nuclear plants.
Japan will be without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido goes offline for routine maintenance..
The Associated Press reports:
“Today is a historical day,” Masashi Ishikawa shouted to a crowd gathered at a Tokyo park, some holding traditional “koinobori” carp-shaped banners for Children’s Day that have become a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.
“There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that’s because of our efforts,” Ishikawa said.
The activists said it is fitting that the day Japan is stopping nuclear power coincides with Children’s Day because of their concerns about protecting children from radiation, which Fukushima Dai-ichi is still spewing into the air and water.
“Japan Doesn’t Really Need Nuclear Power”
The response from people living near nuclear plants has been mixed, with some wanting them back in operation because of jobs, subsidies and other benefits to the local economy.
However, the crowd at the anti-nuclear rally, estimated at 5,500 by organizers, shrugged off government warnings about a power shortage. If anything, they said, with the reactors going offline one by one, it was clear the nation didn’t really need nuclear power.
Whether Japan will suffer a sharp power crunch is still unclear. Electricity shortages are expected only at peak periods, such as the middle of the day in hot weather, and critics of nuclear power say proponents are exaggerating the consequences to win public approval to restart reactors.
Nuclear Isn’t Safe
This is a good day for Japan. Many of us have known for a long time that nuclear isn’t safe. After last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the ensuing nuclear meltdown, the world began worrying if such a catastrophe could happen elsewhere. Germany, for instance, shut down eight nuclear plants in the wake of Fukushima and revamped its energy policy. Switzerland and Spain have banned any new plant construction.
Let’s celebrate with the Japanese on Children’s Day, and hope that vigilance around nuclear power plants will continue.
Photo Credit: kumuaka