Restart of first nuclear reactor after Fukushima divides Japan

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In a headline-hogging move, Japan has restarted its first nuclear power plant in Sendai after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The restarting one of its nuclear reactors by Kyushu Electric Power Co. begins the government-backed process of resuming operations in more atomic stations throughout Japan. The move is backed by the industry, but is facing fierce opposition from the public. Eleven  more nuclear reactors are expected to commence operations. Japan hopes to reduce import bill for fossil fuels and plans to have more nuclear power plants generating electricity for factories.

There are 43 nuclear reactors in Japan, out of which 25 have applied for permission to restart their operations. Two reactors on Kyushu island belonging to Kyushu Electric are the first two reactors to pass the safety checks and overcome legal challenges

Public backlash

With the government giving a push to nuclear energy, a sensitive issue in the world’s only nation to have been attacked by atomic weapons, the public outcry has been significant with many citizens thronging the place and protesting against reopening of nuclear power plants. Despite cries of “We don not want a repeat of Fukushima,” the protests seem to have fallen on deaf ears as the government has decided to go ahead and reopen the nuclear reactors. Apart from many civil society activists protesting against the reopening of the reactors, Naoto Kan, a former Prime Minister of Japan, also rallied outside the Sendai plant in a last-minute effort to stop the restart, shouting “We don’t need nuclear plants”.

The Fukushima disaster “exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive. Why are we trying to resume nuclear power?” Kan told the crowd.

The move comes at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s popularity is on the decline after pushing controversial legislations such as reviving Japan’s military involvement outside the country, and the latest unpopular decision to reopen nuclear plants could possibly lead to further erosion of support for the Abe government and his party.

 

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