Anti-nuclear protesters encircle Japanese parliament | News | DW | 29.07.2012
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Anti-nuclear protesters encircle Japanese parliament

Demonstrators in Japan have held their latest protest against nuclear power. The rally reflects the growing anti-nuclear sentiment in the country after the Fukushima disaster last year.

Thousands of anti-nuclear protesters holding candles and lights formed a human chain around Japan's parliament as darkness fell on Sunday evening.

The around 10,000 demonstrators - some wearing gas masks and white protective clothing - had earlier marched through the Japanese capital, Tokyo, chanting slogans such as "We don't need nuclear power" and "Stop operating nuclear plants."

Sunday's protest was a new expression of public anger following the decision by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to restart two of the country's 50 nuclear reactors, which had been closed down in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.

Noda cited possible power shortages as a reason for the restart, saying he wanted to maintain people's living standards. Japan used to gain 30 percent of its energy from nuclear plants.

Opinion polls show the majority of the public opposed restarting reactors.

The rally came as media reported, citing exit polls, that an outspoken anti-nuclear candidate lost his bid to become governor of southwestern Yamaguchi prefecture.

Tetsunari Lida wants Japan to abandon nuclear power by 2020 and opposed a project to build a new nuclear plant in the region. He lost to a candidate who is more supportive of the government's energy policy.

Regular protests

Smoke rising from Fukushima plant

The crisis at the Fukushima plant forced mass evacuations

In the past months, Tokyo has seen weekly protests attended by tens of thousands of people outside the prime minister's residence. Organizers said a rally earlier this month in west Tokyo attracted as many as 170,000.

The latest rally comes less than a week after a government-sponsored report on last year's crisis concluded that Japanese officials and the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant had ignored the risk of an atomic accident, believing in the "myth of nuclear safety."

A separate parliamentary report called the Fukushima catastrophe "man-made," accusing the plant operator, the government and regulators of a lack of cooperation and oversight.

On March 11, 2011, a huge earthquake and tsunami damaged cooling equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggering meltdowns and the release of radioactivity into the environment.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), has denied responsibility, saying the dimensions of the natural disaster could not have been foreseen.

tj/ng (Reuters, AP, AFP)