At the upcoming Rio+20 development conference in Brazil, six Fukushima Prefecture residents who will be attending want to offer world delegates a look at the darker side of nuclear power.
Many of the six were forced to evacuate their homes following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by last year's Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
"The government is talking up its experience in the Tohoku region," devastated by the March 11, 2011, tsunami, says Akira Kawasaki of the nonprofit organization Peace Boat. "At the same time it's brushing the Fukushima issue under the table.
"There are developing countries that still find nuclear power attractive. We want to reach out to them and explain the consequences."
At the Fukushima Prefectural Office on June 12, the six members introduced included local activists, a self-described housewife and a college student.
The NGO delegates will make their appeal at the so-called "people's summit" of side events to the official negotiations at Rio+20, a follow-up to the first U.N.-led Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.
Academics, scientists, negotiators and global leaders will make up most of the official teams to Rio+20, also known as the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, which will run from June 20-22.
The aim of the Fukushima residents is not to court global commiseration, says delegate Kenta Sato, from the group Never Give Up Iitate, formed in support of one of the evacuated communities.
"We want the world to look at Japan in a hard light," Sato says. "Our aim is not to bring out issues that are immediately visible, such as health problems caused by radiation, but the various ruptures it has caused."
The group's agenda is exactly opposite that of Japan's official representatives, whose stated goals are to offer expertise in disaster countermeasures, as well as share its advanced energy technologies.
The Fukushima representatives will likely find a more receptive audience in Rio de Janeiro than at home.
On June 8, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the central government's decision to restart the Oi nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture, despite widespread misapprehension.
On June 11 a citizen's group marched through Fukushima city, calling for a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, for negligence resulting in death.
"We have to enlist as much aid as we can," says Fukushima University student Miyuki Hona, also a delegate. The Fukushima native studied in Germany last year and found her peers there more active and knowledgeable than her classmates at home.
"There are people right here who've lost interest. Fukushima is something they're forgetting about."
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