An anti nuclear activist holds a placard during a demonstration on a street in Tokyo on July 1, 2012. Japan prepared to bring nuclear power back online by reactivating one of its idled reactors, defying growing public protests since last year’s meltdowns at Fukushima. — AFP
TOKYO — Engineers in Japan Sunday began refiring an atomic reactor, despite growing public protests in the aftermath of meltdowns at Fukushima, ending nearly two months in which the country was nuclear-free.
Dozens of protesters shouted and danced at the gate of a nuclear power plant, the first to go back online. Ohi nuclear plant’s reactor No. 3 is returning to operation despite a deep division in public opinion.
Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restarts of reactors No. 3 and nearby No. 4, saying people’s living standards can’t be maintained without nuclear energy.
Many citizens are against a return to nuclear power because of safety fears after Fukushima.
Crowds of tens of thousands of people have gathered around Noda’s official residence, chanting, “Saikado hantai,” or “No to nuclear restarts.”
Protests drawing such numbers are extremely rare in this nation, reputed for orderly docility and conformity.
A demonstration in Tokyo protesting the restart and demanding Noda resign was being organized in a major park Sunday.
Although initially ignored by mainstream local media, demonstrations across the country have grown as word gets out through social media such as Twitter, sometimes drawing Japanese celebrities, including Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe and Ryuichi Sakamoto, who composed the score for “Last Emperor.” — AP