Residents of tsunami stricken Fukushima called for a complete shutdown of nuclear power in the country, sooner than later, at a public hearing on Wednesday. The anti-nuclear message was heard loud and clear in the region that is still grappling with the drastic residual effects of the largest nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.
Wednesday's Fukushima hearing was the ninth out of 11 nationwide public hearings to gather views on nuclear power and the country's energy needs.
The government is presenting three potential energy options for the country: decrease nuclear power to a 20-25 percent share of the country's energy by 2030, decrease to a 15 percent share by 2030, or phase out nuclear power completely as soon as possible.
Officials on Wednesday heard an overwhelming demand for the latter.
"The crisis has not ended yet. It's completely wrong to restart nuclear reactors under such circumstances," said one man, leading to loud applause.
"Those who can't take responsibility (for the crisis) shouldn't be so quick to talk about restarting reactors."
"I want all the reactors in Japan shut immediately and scrapped," said a woman who lives 40 miles from the plant.
"Many people are now aware that the government's talking of 'no immediate risk to health' is tantamount to 'long-term health risk'."
Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the response to the nuclear crisis, was heckled as he spoke to the crowd.
"I will never forget what I heard today, and I'm determined to do everything I can," he stated.
The Asahi newspaper reported that 70 percent of those taking part in hearings across the country have opted for the immediate nuclear free option.
Some residents were more cautious about the government's apparent outreach, after months of pro-nuclear dialogue and the restart of nuclear reactors in the country.
"I don't want them to use (the hearing) as an excuse that they listened to citizens' opinions" said Hanazawa, a mother of two daughters in the city of Fukushima.
"The government should take responsibility for what happened" in Fukushima, she said. "There are monitoring posts everywhere in town. The weather forecast also talks about the level of radiation. This is not a normal way of life."
Over 1,000 residents have filed criminal complaints against Tokyo Electric Power officials, and 18 government officials, over their handling of the disaster. Fukushima prosecutors launched an official investigation into the complaints on Wednesday.
A massive anti-nuclear protest movement has seen persistent weekly demonstrations throughout the country. The latest demonstration on Sunday drew about 200,000 people who surrounded governmental buildings and called for an immediate end to nuclear energy.