Plans to restart nuclear reactors in S Kyushu spark protests

News & Views - March 18th, 2014

Residents in Japan are growing restless over the Japanese government’s reversal of its nuclear energy policy, as it doubles back on plans to eventually eliminate atomic power from the country’s energy mix.

An estimated 6,000 anti-nuclear activists took to the streets in Kagoshima to protest a decision by nuclear regulators to fast-track safety reviews of two reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Kyushu.

The two reactors at the plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co, are expected to resume operations as early as this summer after a final review process.

“I understand that units 1 and 2 at the Sendai plant have cleared the major agendas (of the assessment on whether they can withstand earthquakes and tsunami), while others have not yet,” said NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka.

“We’ve gotten over a big hump,” Satsuma-Sendai mayor Hideo Iwakiri told a news conference. “I believe the Sendai plant is the safest, most secure nuclear power plant in Japan.”

But residents, including evacuees from Fukushima, were not all pleased as the impact of the nuclear crisis are still greatly felt three years on.

“Although three years have passed, the situation facing Fukushima has not changed,” said Masumi Kowata, a Fukushima resident forced to flee her home.

Yasuo Fujita, another evacuee from the town of Namie, said he hoped the staggering damage left by the disaster would open people’s eyes to reality “rather than blindly go forward with the resumption of operations.”

“The accident has deprived us of our living and ruined the rest of our lives,” Fujita said.

Days after Japan commemorated the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, dozens of workers from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant accused Tokyo Electric Power Co of forcing them to work for meager pay in dangerous conditions.

In the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, Tepco has struggled to board up the precarious plant as tons of highly radioactive water continued to leak from storage tanks. Japan was left deeply divided in the nuclear debate.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image from a protest in Koenji, 4/11: SandoCap/Flickr