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Japan now has to take its anti nuclear movement seriously

Hemmed in by police in the sweltering heat, the demonstrators are mostly
good-natured. But for how long?

Japan’s anti-nuclear protests The heat rises The restart of two nuclear reactors has belatedly lit a fuse under the Japanese, The Economist Jul 21st 2012 | TOKYO |  PEOPLE power is not a phrase usually associated with Tokyo. A famously buttoned-up city, epitomised by its obedient ranks of identikit commuter salarymen, Tokyo rarely hosts serious protests…Suddenly, what had looked like the waning cause of a core of diehard liberals has become a protest movement.  . … on July 16th tens of thousands braved 30-degree heat in a central Tokyo park to attend a “Sayonara Nukes” rally.

The generous sprinkling of ordinary families, as well as the 7.5m signatures that Mr Oe and company claim to have gathered, gave the protest more than nostalgic value. Its fuel was anger. Recent reports into last year’s triple Fukushima meltdown 210km (130 miles) away have shown that the world’s most crowded metropolis narrowly avoided
catastrophe.

Though many worry about the economic cost of scrapping nuclear power, others belatedly question the logic of having 54 commercial reactors in a country with one-fifth of the world’s strong earthquakes.
Even worse, people said, was that the government had restarted at least one nuclear reactor (a second was switched on again on July 18th) while questions still remain about the safety of nuclear power, and about a regulatory structure that took the threat of natural
disaster too lightly. “The radiation is still poisoning us and they’ve
already restarted some reactors,” said Shinichiro Watanabe, who
travelled to the rally from the prefecture that is home to the
Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. “Why are they in such a rush?”

One reason is money. Ending the nuclear dream would mean scrapping
hundreds of billions of dollars in capital investment and withdrawing
from an industry in which Japan is now a world leader…..   Yoshihiko
Noda, said last month that he had “no choice”.

He is backed by the country’s biggest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun,
and the most powerful business lobby, Keidanren, which have repeatedly
made dire predictions about Japan’s future without reactors. But such
warnings have only convinced some that Japan Inc, which promoted
nuclear power, has got its hooks into Mr Noda.

The government’s popularity is weakening. After the walkout from the
ruling Democratic Party of Japan of its old warhorse, Ichiro Ozawa,
earlier this month, taking 48 party members, four more have left
since. Luckily for Mr Noda, so far the public has shown little
interest in Mr Ozawa’s new party, even though it has taken an
anti-nuclear line. But every Friday night, the prime minister can hear
now-familiar demonstrations outside his official residence. Hemmed in
by police in the sweltering heat, the demonstrators are mostly
good-natured. But for how long?    http://www.economist.com/node/21559364

July 20, 2012 - Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear

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