Tens of thousands of demonstrators held antinuclear energy rallies in Tokyo, Osaka and U.S. cities Friday over the government’s decision to restart the first idled reactors since the Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns.
Fukushima Prefecture residents also staged events on the sidelines of a U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, joining citizens’ groups at home and abroad calling for a nuclear-free world.
In a further development, a group in Niigata Prefecture on Saturday began collecting signatures for an ordinance to hold a referendum on whether to allow a restart of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest atomic energy complex.
Organizers of a demonstration in Tokyo outside the prime minister’s office said an estimated 45,000 people gathered Friday evening to protest the government’s decision to authorize the restart of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
Brandishing placards and banners reading “Stop Oi” and “Don’t Accept Nuclear Power,” the crowd vented its anger over the state’s green light to fire up the two units.
“The government’s decision (to reactivate the Oi reactors) is folly. We should not leave it to the next generation to solve the energy issue,” said a 42-year-old woman from Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, who went to the event with her children.
The rallies, which have been held on a weekly basis since March, have been growing in size with more and more people apparently learning of them via Twitter messages. The organizers said they plan to stage another protest Friday in front of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office in Chiyoda Ward.
Also Friday evening, around 1,500 demonstrators gathered outside Kansai Electric’s head office in Kita Ward, Osaka, to denounce the Oi reactor restart.
“They are trying to scare us by saying power supplies may run out even if the reactors are restarted,” one protester, a 34-year-old company employee, said in reference to the government’s regional power-rationing targets.
Keiko Yukimoto, a 34-year-old homemaker from Hirakata in Osaka Prefecture who attended the rally with her 4-year-old son, voiced her disapproval over the Oi restart decision. “I think a reactivation is premature,” she said.
One of the protest organizers in Osaka said many people started turning up at the rallies, which have been held almost every Friday since April, after reading tweets urging them to participate.
In the United States, antinuclear protesters delivered a letter addressed to the prime minister opposing the Oi facility’s restart to the Japanese Consulate General in Los Angeles.
“Your decision is undemocratic. It is clear even from the United States that the Japanese public is not supporting you,” the letter warns Noda. “You may reject this letter as outside interference. . . . However, the fallout of nuclear accidents does not know national borders (and) severely impacts the global environment.”
Around three dozen people protested outside the consulate, including some residents from near California’s San Onofre nuclear plant, which has been idlesince a steam generator leaked radioactive water in January.
“The only difference between us and Japan is they got the earthquake before we did,” said activist Gene Stone, 58, who lives about 20 km from the idled plant.
Similar protests were held Friday on the West Coast at Japan’s consulates in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.
In Rio de Janeiro, seven visiting residents from Fukushima Prefecture gave talks at antinuclear events near the U.N. conference venue, with each event drawing 10 to 50 listeners.
About 20 protesters from nongovernmental organizations in Japan and other countries disrupted proceedings on the final day of the so-called Rio+20 meeting Friday, shouting antinuclear slogans at conference participants.