IWAKI, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The man who as a young student coined a rosy slogan promoting nuclear energy in Fukushima Prefecture that was splashed on a prominent signboard near the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has submitted some 6,500 signatures to the local government to keep it in place.
“Nuclear Power: Energy for a Bright Future” is now an ironic reminder of the overweening confidence the industry had prior to the March 2011 disaster. The sign still stands in the town of Futaba, one of the municipalities that host Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s shattered plant.
The slogan was the work of Yuji Onuma, who in 1988 was an elementary school student in Futaba. He wrote it as a summer vacation homework assignment and it came to be adopted for the signboard.
“Instead of getting rid of it as an inconvenient thing, it should be preserved for future generations as an embarrassing legacy,” Onuma told reporters in Iwaki after submitting the petition Monday.
Onuma, 39, who now works in Koga in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, began collecting the signatures after learning in March that the Futaba Municipal Government would set aside money in its fiscal 2015 budget to take down the aging signboard. It is reportedly in danger of collapsing.
He approached town residents for their signatures and garnered support on the Internet. Among the signatories is Naoto Kan, the prime minister at the time of the nuclear accident, Onuma said.
The Futaba government currently operates out of Iwaki, as the town itself remains off-limits due to the heavy radioactive contamination.
Of the 6,500 signatures, however, only about 50 are those of evacuated Futaba residents. The reason is simple: Many of them want the sign to go.
“It does not suit the current situation of the town,” said a man in his 60s who is an evacuee in Iwaki.
Futaba officials said they are considering how to respond to the petition, including the advisability of preserving the signboard after removing it.