Tens of thousands attend anti-nuclear rallies in Japan


Jun 11, 2011, 13:10 GMT

Tokyo - Tens of thousands of people protested against the government's nuclear energy policy in demonstrations across Japan Saturday, marking three months since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis.

Citizens groups and non-profit organizations staged the rallies in a bid to have Japan break with nuclear power generation in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo.

The six-reactor Fukushima plant was crippled by the March 11 disaster and has leaked radioactive materials ever since. Three reactor cores melted down after the cooling systems failed. The crisis has forced about 87,000 residents to evacuate the area.

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, told a crowd in Tokyo he was moved by the sad scenes he had witnessed during a visit to the Fukushima region earlier in the week.

'It is very very sad to see parents put in this situation in Fukushima. They are desperately concerned about the future of their children,' Naidoo said.

He charged that Japan's political leaders were 'irresponsible' as they let the situation continue.

'We want to send a message to all the governments in the world. 'Nuclear is too expensive.' 'Nuclear is too dangerous,'' Naidoo said.

Organizers said that unlike other demonstrations in Japan, the anti-nuclear demos involved more young people and women.

Makoto Yanagida, a leader of an anti-nuclear group, said the nuclear crisis had made more people aware of the downside of the use of atomic power.

Unlike the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, 'accidents occurred at four reactors, not one, at the same time at the Fukushima plant,' Yanagida stressed.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co have been struggling to stabilize the plant, but they have been criticized for a slow and inappropriate response to the crisis.

The situation was still 'very dangerous' even after more than 90 days, Yanagida said.

A leader of the group called 'DIY PunkBand' which has visited the the disaster-hit areas often for volunteer work, told pedestrians and bystanders in the crowded Shinjuku area, 'Regardless of political stance, we should abolish all the nuclear power plants.'

Yanagida and other activists criticized the government for promoting nuclear power generation without telling the public about the risks and failing to put more effort into the development of renewable energy sources.

On Monday, the government more than doubled its estimate for the amount of radioactive substances released from the plant during the first week of the crisis.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the amount was believed to have totaled 770,000 terabecquerels from March 11 to March 16, compared with 370,000 terabecquerels that it had estimated in mid-April when it raised the Fukushima Daiichi accident level to 7, the worst level and on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The death toll from the disaster stood at 15,405 with 8,095 people listed as missing as of Saturday, the National Police Agency said.