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Thousands March Against Nuclear Power in Japan

- Common Dreams staff

Thousands of people are demonstrating today in Japan against nuclear power.

Holding "No Nukes" signs, people march demanding Japan abandon atomic power in Tokyo, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) The Associated Press reports that people are worried about the restarting of reactors that had stopped since the Fukushima disaster.

Agence France-Presse reports on the protesters:

Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel prize winner for literature, told a central rally at Yoyogi Park, "Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants will be borne by generations to come."

"This must not be condoned by human beings. It is against ethics," the 77-year-old novelist said.

Japanese actor Taro Yamamoto, who has allegedly lost acting opportunities for his anti-nuclear advocacy, told the rally: "Our country will cease to exist if there is another big earthquake."

"To prevent our country from ceasing to exist, we shall not allow nuclear plants to be reactivated."

* * *

The Japan Times adds that a group of anti-nuclear activists has been pushing for a referendum to abolish nuclear reactors in Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s service area:

The group started collecting signatures from Tokyo residents Dec. 10 to hold a vote on abolishing nuclear reactors in Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s service area.

The campaign ended Thursday, and the group announced it had collected about 250,000 signatures — more than enough to ask the governor to submit an ordinance to the metropolitan assembly for a plebiscite on nuclear energy.

But a majority of assembly members must vote in favor of the proposal in order for a referendum to be held, and Nakamura said the group plans to lobby each one individually.

"I think that assembly members can't make entirely independent decisions because they have to vote in line with the policies of their political parties. So we must press each member to find out their own opinion, and lobbying them will be crucial," she said.

Her group plans to submit the signatures to the electoral council in each municipality in Tokyo for verification, and if the number of valid signatures exceeds the legally required minimum, the group will ask Ishihara to submit an referendum ordinance to the metropolitan assembly.

"A plebiscite is a way for all citizens to express their opinions on an equal footing, regardless of their beliefs. . . . I believe that's very important," Nakamura said.

The group has also been collecting signatures in the city of Osaka to hold a referendum on atomic energy in Kansai Electric Power Co.'s service area, and says it now has enough to ask Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to submit a plebiscite ordinance to the municipal assembly Monday.

* * *

Brendan Barrett writes in Al Jazeera that public support for renewable energy in Japan is strong:

The type of Japan that emerges from the rubble of Fukushima will also depend on the energy policies embraced by Japan's leaders. Prior to the events of March 11, Japan had plans to construct nine new nuclear power plants by 2020 and at least 14 by 2030. Nuclear power supplies about 25 per cent of Japan's energy, with renewables accounting for around ten per cent. But after the disaster, Prime Minister Naoto Kan advocated phasing out nuclear energy, with an aggressive push for renewables. A poll in June 2011 by the Asahi newspaper found that 74 per cent of the public was in favour of abolishing nuclear power after a phase-out period.

But amid growing criticism of his handling of the crisis - and questions over his new energy strategy - Kan resigned in August. The building of new nuclear power plants remains on hold, but Kan's successor, Yoshihiko Noda, has backed away from a rapid shift away from nuclear power. Vested interests, including the ten regional electricity providers and the companies that design the plants - Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi - continue to advocate for nuclear power. Officials in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have consistently argued that "nuclear power is essential" because "renewable energy alone isn't sufficient".

Yet public support remains strong for renewable energy. Transforming Japan's energy policy is an uphill, but not unwinnable battle, leading advocates insist. The Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, set up by the prominent business leader, Masayoshi Son, argues that Japan can have 60 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Tetsunari Iida, executive director at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, has called for a 100 per cent shift to renewables by the middle of the century. Iida argues in a recent paper that Japan is experiencing its third historic reset with the Tohoku-Kanto triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident - the first reset was the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and the second was the end of World War II.

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