Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside of the national Parliament building in Tokyo on Friday to protest the restarting of a nuclear power plant in the country. The demonstration was the 14th anti-nuclear protest to occur since early March in Japan in response to choices made by the current government.
In the middle of June, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that the Ohi plant in western Japan would reopen, despite the fact that the vast majority of Japanese citizens oppose the opening of nuclear power plants.
Although Noda has claimed that he will ensure that security and safety procedures will be strengthened before the restart at Ohi, memories of the nuclear disaster in March 2011, caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan which destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant, remain vivid in citizens’ minds. After that disaster, all 50 of the operational plants were shut down in Japan.
Other nations, especially Germany, were quick to follow suit in order to rely less heavily on such a volatile source of electricity. Global fears linger about the extent of the pollution and damage still present in ocean waters and resources from the Fukushima reactor meltdowns.
Mr. Noda’s decision to restart the Ohi power plant came after concerns that demand for electricity in the summer months in urban areas such as Osaka and Kyoto will exceed the amount of power Japan is able to produce without the nuclear plant.
The Wall Street Journal notes that about 100,000 protesters gathered in the anti-nuclear protest on Friday, though other sources have claimed the number only reached to about 45,000. Mothers and small children numbered among the protesters who chanted “Against the restarts” repeatedly for over two hours at the protest. Other demonstrators took turns speaking into a microphone to express their views on the instability of nuclear power.
One witness at the scene of the protest, Hiroko Tabuchi, stated on her Twitter account that she saw, “office workers, moms w/ kids, seniors, Buddhist priests…” Protests have clearly spread to a wide swaths of the population and protests have continued to grow since anti-nuclear demonstrations began in early March.
The protest’s impact was further made clear by the way the crowd dispersed. The New York Times reports that organizers ended the demonstration at 8 pm with megaphone announcements. The plaza and streets near the Parliament building were left with barely a scrap of garbage.
Many commentators have suggested that the recent protests have also been a response to the general lack of health and social support provided by the government over the last year. The Japanese government failed to warn many citizens of the severity of radiation danger in certain areas after the disaster and critics have stated the the government withheld crucial safety information from citizens.
The nuclear reactors in the Ohi plant are currently set to be fully operational by the end of July in order to provide electricity to the area.
Photo Credit: Gralo