More than 65,000 people in cities and towns all over Japan marched on June 11 to mark three months since Fukushima nuclear disaster. Marchers called for an end to nuclear power.
In Tokyo, separate marches took off from different routes through the city before assembling in front of Shinjuku station.
The largest action, a “sound-demo” called by the Shiroto no Ran (“Amateur Riot”) network attracted thousands of young people. They marched through the city accompanied by sound-trucks plying a variety of musical styles, from punk to folk to techno.
Mastsumoto Hajime, from Shiroto no Ran, told the rally: “Today we are 20,000. With our power, let’s stop nuclear energy. We can do it!”
The marches were the latest in a series of protests against nuclear energy in Japan.
In late April, the decision by the education ministry to raise the acceptable limit for radiation exposure in Fukushima schools from 1 millisievert to 20 millisieverts per year encountered stiff opposition.
Professor Kosako Toshiso, special adviser to the cabinet on radiation safety, resigned after the announcement.
On May 23, about 70 concerned parents from Fukushima travelled to Tokyo and surrounded the ministry while their representatives met with bureaucrats inside.
University professor and father Shibuya Nozomu spoke of his admiration for the Fukushima mothers who dared to express their anger in a society where public displays of anger are discouraged.
On May 27, the ministry backed-down, promising to “try” to reduce the exposure of children to 1 millisievert or less per year.
An April 11 demonstration of 15,000 people in Koenji on April 11 was largely ignored by the mainstream media. In response, a further demonstration was held on May 7 in Shibuya outside the offices of NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster.
The demonstration met with a violent response from police. Four anti-nuclear activists were arrested and two were held in custody for 11 and 20 days respectively.
The homes of the two detainees were searched in an obvious act of intimidation.
The operation was clearly planned from the start with the aim of sending a message to the new movement.
Despite the heavy-handed police tactics, the rising tide of anti-nuclear sentiment has forced the government to contemplate a move away form nuclear energy.
On May 10, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan would abandon plans to build more nuclear reactors and begin to focus on renewable energy.
The announcement came a week after the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka south of Tokyo was shut down at Kan’s request. The plant is located directly above a fault line and is considered highly likely to suffer from a major earthquake in the near future by seismologists.
However, support for the nuclear industry inside the government remains . Minister for Trade, Economy and Industry Banri Kaieda has pledged his continued support for nuclear power at a high-level meeting in early June.
Recently the governments of Germanty and Switzerland — which have faced pressure from large anti-nuclear protests — announced plans to phase out nuclear energy.
In Italy, a referendum held on June 12 and 13 over whether or not to support nuclear power, water privatisation, water tariffs and the granting of immunity to from prosecution to government members. a referendum in Italy over the weekend the Italian people definitively rejected nuclear power.
All proposals were defeated. World-nuclear-news.org said on June 14 that more than 94% of those who voted rejected the building of any new nuclear reactors in Italy.
These decisions confirm the growing resolve of people around the world to stop this deadly industry.
In Australia, we need to contribute to this global movement by cutting off the supply of uranium at its source and opposing the construction of a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.
The global nuclear industry is running scared before this tide of opposition. After the terrible cost exacted by the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, a nuclear-free future may finally be within our grasp.