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Largest Demonstrations in Half a Century Protest the Restart of Japanese Nuclear Power Plants via Japan Focus

Piers Williamson
On 29 June, Japan witnessed its largest public protest since the 1960s. This was the latest in a series of Friday night gatherings outside Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko’s official residence. Well over one hundred thousand people came together to vent their anger at his 16 June decision to order a restart of Units 3 and 4 at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. In this article, I discuss the events of the last several weeks which sparked this massive turnout as well as the nature of the protest. I begin by outlining the Japanese government’s recent policies affirming nuclear power, beginning with Noda’s nationwide address of 8 June justifying the Oi restarts on the grounds of ‘protecting livelihoods’, and continuing with the move on 20 June to revise the Atomic Energy Basic Law and establish a law to set up a new, yet potentially toothless, nuclear regulatory agency.
I then look at the main criticisms that drove people into the streets in successive demonstrations. Popular suspicions centre not only on regulatory questions, namely concerns over the neutering of a new regulatory agency, and the half-hearted temporary ‘safety’ standards applicable to restarts, but also on conditions on the ground at Oi. I conclude with an account of the 22 June demonstration in which 40,000 citizens suddenly appeared to vent their anger, and the even larger 29 June action.

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