Japan’s status as a nuclear-free nation was short-lived. Just two months after officials shuttered the country’s final nuclear power plant, it has now restarted two reactors amid concerns about energy shortages during the summer peak electricity season. This decision has spiked public outrage and thousands of Japanese protestors have taken to the streets across the country.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s residence in central Tokyo became ground zero for public anger after two Ohi reactors in western Japan were re-launced just 16 months after the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster rocked the nation. Noda announced last month that restarting the two nuclear reactors was critical in order to avoid further damage to Japan’s fragile economy. But the quick shift in policy has divided Japan, with as much as 70 percent of the public indicating in polls that they want to abandon nuclear power altogether.
Until March 2011, nuclear power provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs. But the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused a huge change of heart among millions of Japanese who now have a deep mistrust of the government. Many citizens are still leery of anything that the government says because of the the perceived bungling of the recovery effort and some advisors’ claims that the consumption of radiated foods at certain levels had become acceptable to human health.
Protestors had planned to block the Ohi plant with their cars in order to prevent any relaunch, but by the time the first wave of organizers arrived, plant workers had already removed the control rods that prevent nuclear fission. With offices once again curtailing air conditioning during Japan’s humid summer, and alternative energy sources unable to keep pace, watch for tempers to flare.
Photos via AP/Shizuo KambayashiPhotos, Wikipedia