Government officials get earful in public hearing held on the frontline of reactor catastrophe

Fukushima residents rip nuke power

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Residents of Fukushima Prefecture, speaking Wednesday at a government-sponsored public hearing on national energy policy, called for an end to dependence on nuclear energy by 2030.

The event in the prefecture that hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant was the latest in a series of nationwide hearings by the central government to solicit views on its proposals for the target ratio of nuclear energy by 2030.

Unlike earlier gatherings, the government limited attendance to Fukushima residents and boosted the number of speakers from 12 to 30.

More than 20 of the 30 people allowed to express their opinion, chosen from 216 people who signed up for a chance to speak, said Japan should abandon nuclear power as soon as possible.

“The crisis has not ended yet. It’s completely wrong to restart nuclear reactors under such circumstances,” said a man who gave his name only as Endo. His comments drew loud applause.

“Those who can’t take responsibility (for the crisis) shouldn’t be so quick to talk about restarting reactors,” he said.

A retired man from Aizuwakamatsu agreed. He said Japan should immediately scrap all nuclear reactors. “I’m saying this partly because I regret I wasn’t thinking seriously about nuclear energy before the March 11 disaster,” he said, adding the government should make efforts to shift to green energy.

“Some say that the economy will stagnate without nuclear power, but we can’t choose something that puts our lives at risk,” he said.

Amid criticism over how participants were chosen to speak in the previous hearings, the government said this time it chose them at random regardless of which of three options they prefer for midterm energy policy: reducing nuclear power dependence to zero percent, 15 percent, or 20 to 25 percent by 2030.

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who attended the meeting, said the government regards the hearing in Fukushima as the most important, which is why the number of speakers was more than doubled.

But participants were skeptical about whether the central government will take their opinions into consideration when finalizing the energy policy.

“I don’t want them to use (the hearing) as an excuse that they listened to citizens’ opinions” said Hanazawa, a mother of two daughters in the city of Fukushima, who also stressed that the government should give up on nuclear power as soon as possible.

“The government should take responsibility for what happened” in Fukushima, she said. “There are monitoring posts everywhere in town. The weather forecast also talks about the level of radiation. This is not a normal way of life.”

The government, which initially planned to finalize the energy policy by the end of August after holding hearings in 11 cities, has reportedly postponed a decision until September or even later.