SAPPORO--It began in May 2011 as a humble gathering of five people. Now, there's a waiting period of several months to book lectures by a man once known as “Chernobyl Shigeo.”
Shigeo Kawahara, a social studies teacher at Sapporo Kotoni Technical High School, is providing lectures in Sapporo and other cities in Hokkaido to explain the dangers of nuclear power plants. He has given more than 100 such lectures since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11 last year.
The key to the popularity of Kawahara, 55, is that he uses easy words to explain nuclear generation and radioactivity. He said he wants to be like Akira Ikegami, a television news analyst known for using simple terms to describe world events.
Kawahara’s lectures are given after school hours and on holidays. His 100th lecture was held at an underground shopping mall in Sapporo on March 30, attracting more than 100 people.
“Citizens’ interest in nuclear power has not waned,” he said.
His first lecture was attended by only five people, who had seen the fliers he distributed. But awareness of his lectures quickly spread.
Now, he receives invitations from universities and citizens groups across Hokkaido.
Kawahara’s desire to inform people about nuclear energy goes back 30 years, when he started his career as a high school teacher in Shimokawa, Hokkaido.
The town became the proposed location for a nuclear waste disposal site, and Kawahara joined the movement opposed to the move.
When the Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986, Kawahara repeatedly took up the issue in his classes on modern society, eventually earning the nickname “Chernobyl Shigeo.”
But Kawahara gradually distanced himself from the nuclear energy issue when he was repeatedly transferred and began teaching other subjects, such as ethics.
In March last year, he watched television footage of the hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
“Chernobyl could be repeated,” he said he thought at the time. “Even though I am aware of the risks of nuclear power generation, I have not continued teaching about them.”
That’s when he decided to resume his teachings about the dangers of nuclear power plants.
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