More than a year after the reactors first melted down, the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, ensuing evacuations and an envisioned massive cleanup, is still impossible to comprehend in numbers.
For marchers who gathered in central Tokyo on June 6, the salient number is 10 million.
That’s how many signatures the organizers behind the “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally at Hibiya Park hope to gather in an effort to halt the planned restart of two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
Drawing nearly 3,000 participants, the march took a route past the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and to the edge of a district filled with government ministries and entities that many blame for leading the country to its nuclear predicament.
The rally began with songs by Tokiko Kato, a popular folk singer and long-time anti-nuclear activist, and drew such speakers as writer Keiko Ochiai, journalist Satoshi Kamata and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe.
“I think that March 11 has given us Japanese an important moral,” said Oe, who during last year’s initial call for self-restraint was one of the first major voices to speak against a nuclear future. “Nuclear energy is fundamentally mistaken. Even if it offers some success, when we look at it in the big picture it can only lead to damage and to our fall. I think that’s the lesson that we Japanese as a whole have come to realize."
Oe also recounted how he himself helped gather signatures, standing in front of a train station together with a mother from Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, facing occasional rejection.
“Writing your name on a petition is no easy decision,” he said, which calls for an examination of each person’s stance. “Everyone has their own set of morals.”
The Citizens’ Committee for the 10 Million People’s Petition to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants began the drive in May last year. The group so far has collected 7.22 million signatures, which it plans to hand to the prime minister's office in the middle of this month. For scale, Tokyo, which nearly 10 percent of all Japanese call home, has a population of 13 million. A previous rally in September drew 60,000 participants, according to organizers.
The petition comes just as the Noda administration is calling for a nuclear restart: All of the country’s functioning 50 reactors have been offline for maintenance since May 5. Yet about a third of the country’s power needs are served by nuclear power. Officials are anxious to get the reactors running again--starting with the Oi facility--to avert possible power shortages during the summer and a later drag on the economy.
The petition makes three demands: An end to the building of nuclear power plants; total shutdown of plutonium-powered fast-breeder facilities such as the Monju prototype in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture; and an immediate shift in energy policy toward conservation and the use of other energy sources.
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