Protesters gather as reactor in Kagoshima restarts

Kyodo

More than 100 people rallied Tuesday in front of the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture to protest Japan’s first reactivation of a nuclear reactor in nearly two years.

Blasting the restart as a hasty decision, the crowd at the gates of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s complex in the city of Satsumasendai called for abandoning nuclear power amid safety concerns.

Other residents, however, were hopeful that it will boost the local economy.

“We cannot live here without a nuclear plant. Once it is restarted, we will get money from the central government and the town will thrive,” said an 81-year-old man at a local shopping arcade.

The reactor is the first to go back online under new, stricter regulations imposed after the meltdown disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

People in Fukushima also had mixed feelings. While many in the prefecture which was devastated by the disaster oppose nuclear power, some acknowledged the economic benefits of having a nuclear power plant.

“Why did they choose to restart it on the 11th (day of the month, the same day as the Fukushima disaster), when the reactivation itself is heart-wrenching enough?” asked Haruko Kanai, 66, who had to evacuate from Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, due to radioactive contamination.

“I feel a swirl of anger, sorrow and disillusionment,” she said. “I don’t want others to experience the same suffering that I have.”

The group Mayors for a Nuclear Power Free Japan, comprising current and former mayors in 37 prefectures, released a statement saying people living near nuclear power stations can’t feel secure under the current framework and questioned the effectiveness of evacuation plans.