Germans, French slam atomic power

Thousands form human chains to protest crisis in Fukushima

Kyodo

Thousands of people formed human chains in Germany and France to protest the use of nuclear power on Sunday, the first anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant, while protesters also gathered at antinuclear rallies in New York and California.

At least 24,000 people, holding torches, formed an 80-km-long human chain in areas near Braunschweig, Germany, which has decided to abandon nuclear power by the end of 2022, according to an organizer. The chain encircled three nuclear facilities, including a temporary storage site for nuclear waste in the vicinity of the city.

In France, a country that depends on nuclear energy for around 75 percent of its power, an environmental conservation group and the Europe Ecology-Green Party organized a 230-km human chain event in areas connecting the southern French cities of Lyon and Avignon, where over 10 reactors are located.

According to the organizers, around 60,000 people took part, while police said about 30,000 participated.

About 200 people, including residents of Sendai, gathered at an antinuclear rally in California, home to the San Onofre nuclear plant. In New York, more than 100 people, including children, took to the streets in protest of nuclear plants.

“The Japanese government has not disclosed everything about the nuclear accident,” said Kyoko Sugasawa, a 39-year-old housewife from Sendai who took part in the event in California.

“We mothers are very worried that our children are treated like guinea pigs,” because the government’s guidelines for safe radioactivity levels are unclear, she said.

Criticizing the Japanese government’s handling of the nuclear crisis, Sugasawa said: “The allowable radiation level used to be 1 millisievert, and now it is 20 millisieverts for children. We feel as if our children are being experimented on.”

Local protesters criticized the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s safety record, disaster evacuation plan and inadequate communication with the public. The crowd of around 200 also observed a moment of silence for the victims of the March 11 disasters.

“They say that it can’t happen here, at this plant. Well they didn’t think it could happen in Fukushima, either, and the people there are suffering the consequences,” said organizer Gene Stone, 65, who lives in the city of San Clemente, within 10 km of the plant.

Both of the coastal plant’s reactors remained shut down for tests after a leak was found on Jan. 31 in the unit 3 steam generator.