FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima residents joined the chorus calling for the elimination of nuclear power as one of Japan’s leading antinuclear groups kicked off its nationwide summer campaign Sunday in the city of Fukushima, located around 50 km from the radiation-spewing Fukushima No. 1 plant.
It was the first time for the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs to start its annual campaign in the prefectural capital since its founding in 1965, ahead of the anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as it sought to press its case for the scrapping of nuclear power this year.
Koichi Kawano, a Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor who heads the organizing group, told more than 800 participants at the opening event in a hotel: “We have opposed nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants under the slogan ‘Human beings and atomic power cannot coexist.’ But we have to admit our responsibility for causing the accident. We failed to make enough efforts to prevent it.”
Koshiro Ishimaru from the town of Tomioka, which hosts some of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 reactors, said: “There is nothing more irrational or unreasonable than nuclear power plants. They also create unfairness among the generations.”
Ishimaru, who has been active in opposing nuclear plants for more than 40 years, also said that he is determined to work so the call for the elimination of nuclear plants reaches people outside Fukushima.
Anton Vdovichenko, a survivor of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, was among the participants in the meeting calling for solidarity with people affected by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Matashichi Oishi, a former crew member of the Japanese trawler Fukuryu Maru No. 5, which was exposed to radiation from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1954, and Eiji Okumura, a hibakusha from Nagasaki, also attended the event.
Prior to the ceremony, more than 1,500 people, including those affected by the crisis at the Fukushima plant triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, staged an outdoor rally in the city and called for early containment of the accident.
Noriko Matsumoto, 49, mother of two girls from the city of Koriyama in the prefecture, said: “I wouldn’t have come here if this disaster had not happened. I didn’t even know there were 10 nuclear reactors in the prefecture and I believed that nuclear power was a clean energy source.
“Since the disaster, one of my daughters has had nosebleeds and says her stomach is upset, so I decided to make her stay at my sister’s house in Tokyo. We were forced to evacuate on our own, without any compensation. Tepco is not thinking about us.”
Kenta Sato, from the village of Iitate, near the plant, said: “We were exposed to radiation without choice. And the only thing we know now about such radiation is that there is no certainty about its risks to human health.”
Hiromasa Yoshida, 45, a teacher from the no-go zone in the town of Namie, said: “My students have suffered psychological shock. They ask me what we can do to improve the situation, but I have no answer even though I have been a teacher for many years.”
Kan to attend key rites
Prime Minister Naoto Kan will attend the annual peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Saturday and three days later in Nagasaki commemorating the U.S. atomic bombings of the cities in 1945, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Monday.
Kan will also meet afterward with representatives of groups promoting denuclearization, Edano told a news conference.
Kan’s attendance comes as the country is discussing the future of nuclear energy amid the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.