Thousands protest Japan’s plan to restart nuclear power plants

Approximately 60,000 people rallied Sunday near the Diet building in Tokyo to protest Japan’s plan to restart nuclear power plants, rally organizers said.

The Metropolitan Police Department put the number of protesters at closer to 20,000 to 30,000, Kyodo News reported. The rally began in Shiba Park, which was attended by Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, RIA Novosti reported. The protesters then marched on the Diet building.

Japanese government undermines the independence of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

On July 20, Japanese government announced five members for the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission (原子力規制委員会), scheduled to begin operating in September. The head of the group is Mr. Shunichi Tanaka, the former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission as well as the president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. Both organizations have been the core in promoting nuclear energy in Japan.

While a few restrictions for members’ eligibility are set, they do not truly promote the neutrality of the commission. For example, the members are prohibited to have received more than 500,000 yen (about $4,000) a year from the nuclear industry or been board members or workers in the industry in last three years. However, this minor restriction does not really secure the independence of the agency.

In fact, Mr. Tanaka has been very much a part of the “nuclear power village” comprised of bureaucrats, scholars, and industry members to promote the nuclear energy in Japan. Another member of the commission, Mr. Toyoshi Fuketa, was reported to have received about 100,000 yen since 2003 from the Japan Atomic Power Company.

Starting September, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be established under Ministry of the Environment. The current administration keeps mentioning that the new commission will retain the level of independence. But as seen in the selection of its members, the neutrality or independence does not seem to be its priority.

The appointment of Mr. Tanaka and four commissioners has been suspended due to the leak of the information to Yomiuri, Nikkei, and NHK on July 20. The rule indicates that if the names of appointee are disclosed before the Diet, the Diet will not receive the administration’s appointment. So the current process has stopped.

Of course, the mishap in the procedure is not the major problem. The problem is that the current appointees already have vested interests in the “nuclear power village.”

The process to establish the independent agency has been one tug-of-war between the current administration/bureaucrats and the Liberal Democratic/New Komeito Party. The latter strongly demanded the agency be set up more in line with those found in the U.S., France, and Germany, which maintain a strong independence from government. Their effort brought some important changes in the final bill passed in the end of June.

The role of the regulatory commission is very important. One of the major reasons for the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi was a lack of the strong regulatory system in the nuclear industry. In the government, there were multiple regulatory agencies seeking their own interest. As for one, the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency belonged to Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, protecting, not regulating, the nuclear industry.

Unless the new regulatory industry is able to be the true watchdog of the nuclear industry, Japan is likely to face another Fukushima. The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi has contaminated the soil, water, and ocean, causing the great international and domestic damage. And we cannot afford that sort of crisis economically as well as spiritually.

Despite the concerned voices heard outside of the Prime Minister’s office, the current administration is determined to restart as many nuclear reactors as possible. Of course, there are limits as to what the citizens’ demonstrations can do to effect actual changes. That is why the regulatory agency’s role is vital to the safety and protection of the national interest.

Several nuclear plants are approaching their forty year limit. And yet, the current administration and bureaucrats are eager to create “exceptions” to continue operating these old reactors. For example, the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency acknowledged the operation of the second reactor of Mihama Nuclear Power Plant, which will exceed its fortieth year on July 25. The decision should have been postponed until the start of the new regulatory commission.

There also has been a few talks over the possibility of active faults under the nuclear plants in Shika (Ishikawa Pref.) and Oi (Fukui Pref.). The case of Oi plant has been known before its infamous restart, but the administration went ahead with it anyway.

The establishment of the neutral and independent regulatory commission is crucial to the safe energy and nuclear usage in Japan. The establishment of a true regulatory agency has a greater implication.

Thousands Protest Nuclear Power in Japan

Tens of thousands of people crowded into a park in central Tokyo on Monday to protest the use of nuclear power in Japan, highlighting the growing opposition to atomic energy in the country since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The peaceful demonstration took place on Japans national day in an area the size of a large sports field in Yoyogi Park, near the bustling shopping and nightlife district of Shibuya.

The event attracted so many people on a hot July public holiday that many spilled out into the surrounding streets, unable to enter the main area. It brought together a broad mix of Japanese people, from seasoned environmental activists to families who hadnt participated in a protest before.

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Protesters flock to Oi Before Reactor Restart

Hundreds of out-of-town protesters gathered Sunday evening at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in a last-ditch attempt to stop the reactivation of its No. 3 reactor.

The Oi plant is the first in the country to be reactivated after inspection since last year’s Fukushima nuclear crisis. All the nation’s commercial reactors have been offline since early May.

Kansai Electric Power Co. said it was planning to start removing the No. 3 reactor’s control rods at 9 p.m. The utility aims to achieve a sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, known as criticality, early Monday, and begin transmitting power Wednesday from the plant, which sits on the Sea of Japan coast. Full operation will likely be possible by July 8.

Read the rest of the story: Protesters flock to Oi on eve of reactor restart.

TEPCO shareholders approve government bailout

The power company behind Japans nuclear crisis got support from shareholders Wednesday for a decision to take 1 trillion yen $12.6 billion in public funds that effectively nationalizes the utility.

Meanwhile, activist shareholders including the Tokyo city government demanded more restructuring and safety improvements from Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Outgoing TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata told more than 4,000 shareholders who gathered at a national gymnasium in downtown Tokyo that the utility desperately needs taxpayer money to avoid insolvency. It faces huge compensation and cleanup bills.

“We are cutting to the bone to restructure,” he said, as shareholders yelled at him, criticizing him as clinging to the top post for more than a year after the crisis. Katsumata will be replaced by Kazuhiko Shimokobe, a lawyer who headed the companys restructuring plans.

Read the rest of the story: Japan nuke utility shareholders approve bailout.

Thousands march against nuclear power in Japan

Thousands of Japanese people marched against nuclear power Saturday, amid growing worries about the restarting of reactors idled after the March 11 meltdown disaster in northeastern Japan.

Holding “No Nukes” signs, people gathered at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo for a rally Saturday, including Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe.

The protesters then marched peacefully through the streets demanding Japan abandon atomic power.

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Japan Protests: Anger over plans to restart Japans nuclear plants

“Shame on you, shame on you,” shouted protestors, as officials met to discuss plans to restart Japans nuclear plants for the first time since last years Fukushima disaster.

About 20 demonstrators carrying anti-nuclear signs disrupted the closed meeting of government agency representatives and energy officials who were there to review the stress-test results for two idled reactors and pave the way to bring the plants back online.

The meeting could be observed by the public from a television monitor in a separate room, something the demonstrators say symbolized the governments intent to bring back nuclear plants without public input.

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Thousands march against nuclear power in Tokyo

Chanting "Sayonara nuclear power" and waving banners, tens of thousands of people marched in central Tokyo on Monday to call on Japan’s government to abandon atomic energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The demonstration underscores how deeply a Japanese public long accustomed to nuclear power has been affected by the March 11 crisis, when a tsunami caused core meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

The disaster — the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl — saw radiation spewed across a wide part of northeastern Japan, forcing the evacuation of some 100,000 people who lived near the plant and raising fears of contamination in everything from fruit and vegetables to fish and water.

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Anti-nuke protesters, riot police clash – 12 arrested

Twelve anti-nuclear demonstrators were arrested Sept. 11 after clashing violently with riot police in a protest march near Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, police said.

The Metropolitan Police Department said Shin Futatsugi, the organizer of the demonstration, was taken into custody for violating a Tokyo Metropolitan Government Public Safety Ordinance, and the remaining 11, all men, were arrested for obstructing execution of public duties.

All suspects were part of a crowd of about 2,200 that marched around JR Shinjuku Station to protest Japan’s use of nuclear power generation.

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Japan anti-nuclear protesters rally

Thousands of anti-nuclear protesters marched in Japan on Saturday, three months after an earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, urging the government to cut reliance on atomic power.Three reactors went into meltdown after the earthquake hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan, forcing 80,000 residents to evacuate from its vicinity as engineers battled radiation leaks, hydrogen explosions and overheating fuel rods.Company workers, students and parents with children on their shoulders rallied across Japan, venting their anger at the governments handling of the crisis, carrying flags bearing the words "No Nukes!" and "No More Fukushima."

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