Time for antinuclear protests

While Japan mourned on the first anniversary of the Tohoku disaster last Sunday, many people all over Japan also turned their sorrow into protest. At least 20,000 antinuclear protesters took to the parks and streets of the country to show their resolve against nuclear power. As the government mulls restarting the country’s nuclear reactors, the voices of the people are increasingly being heard on the issue of Japan’s future energy policy.

Protesters targeted the main office of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), whose officials have yet to be held accountable for the disastrous management of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant before and after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Protest marches also took place in Fukushima, Shizuoka, Fukui, Aomori and other areas of Japan.

Needless to say, antinuclear protests took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki last Sunday, following previous ones in those cities. Protesters outside the office of the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry have kept their “Occupy METI” vigil going. Citizens’ groups have continued to file an increasing number of anti-nuclear power lawsuits. The largest suit in Saga, which aims at halting the Genkai nuclear power plant, has drawn a record number of plaintiffs, more than 3,000.

With protests so widespread in Japan, one might think the government would be paying attention. The protests are a way of asking questions and demanding answers. So far, the government and Tepco officials have been less than forthcoming in their explanations of how and why the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant happened. The trickle of information that has come out is a positive step forward, but before starting up the nuclear reactors again, much more needs to be known.

Taking active steps to ensure that energy from sources other than nuclear power is under development is essential. The government needs to draw up a viable plan and allocate finances to develop alternatives to nuclear energy. The list of potential renewable energy sources is not small, but without a push from the national government, few of those initiatives are likely to get off the ground.

The memorial services last Sunday were a clear example of the powerful effect the tragedy had on Japan. A better tribute to those who lost their lives and livelihoods in last year’s March 11 disasters would be finding an alternative to nuclear energy in Japan.