Thousands rally in Japan against nuclear power

May 8, 2011 - 0:0

TOKYO (AFP) – Thousands of people rallied in Japan Saturday to demand a shift away from nuclear power after an earthquake and tsunami sparked the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl a quarter-century ago.

Braving spring drizzle, thousands of demonstrators gathered at a park in Tokyo's Shibuya district, many holding hand-made banners reading: “Nuclear is old!” and “We want a shift in energy policy!”
The protest came a day after Prime Minister Naoto Kan called a halt to operations at a nuclear plant southwest of Tokyo because it is near a tectonic faultline, fearing a disaster like that which hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March.
“I'm happy to see the prime minister finally taking action,” said protester Manami Inoue, 28, who had a black and yellow “No” sign around her neck.
“But I want to know when the plant will really stop operations,” she said.
Fellow demonstrator Shinji Matsushita, 59, said: “I feel so frustrated because no politicians have made their stance clear -- whether they are for nuclear or against nuclear.
“They keep saying nuclear is dangerous but never say they are against it.”
Organizers had said they expected about 15,000 people at the rally, with word spread through online social networks.
Kan said Friday he was ordering the suspension of operations at the Hamaoka plant 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital while a higher sea wall was built and other measures taken to guard against quake and tsunami damage.
Local media said the suspension would be for about two years.
Seismologists have long warned a major quake is overdue in the Tokai region where the ageing Hamaoka plant is located, while anti-nuclear campaigners argue the seismically unstable area makes Hamaoka the most dangerous atomic facility in the quake-prone archipelago.
Resource-poor Japan, highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, meets about one third of its energy needs with nuclear power.
The ruling party has said it would review government energy policy after the stricken Fukushima plant leaked radiation into air, soil and sea and forced the evacuation of 85,000 people living near the plant.
But it said it would not abandon nuclear power.
Photo: Protesters march at an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on May 7, 2011 (Reuters photo)