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Japanese Island’s Activists Resist Nuclear Industry’s Allure via The New York Times

Published: August 27, 2011

IWAISHIMA, Japan — When the boats came to start work on a planned nuclear power plant just off this tiny island, an aging fisherwoman named Tamiko Takebayashi carried out a dramatic protest: she lashed herself to the dock.

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“The sea is our livelihood,” says a resident of Iwaishima.

The move, while reminiscent of a Greenpeace action, was highly unusual in understated Japan. But it was emblematic of the islanders’ nearly three-decade fight against the powers arrayed against them — their own government and the nuclear industry it has championed.

“The sea is our livelihood,” said Ms. Takebayashi, 68, whose family has fished for sea bream, mackerel and other local delicacies for generations. “We will never let anyone sully it.”

The story of Iwaishima’s battle has become something of a touchstone in Japan, especially among those who feel uneasy in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for having accepted decades of government assurances that nuclear power was safe. And because the plans to build the plant are closer to approval than any others in Japan, many antinuclear activists see the island’s struggle as their best hope of ending the country’s reliance on nuclear energy.

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