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Japan’s anti-nuclear protests The heat rises via The Economist

The restart of two nuclear reactors has belatedly lit a fuse under the Japanese

Recent reports into last year’s triple Fukushima meltdown 210km (130 miles) away have shown that the world’s most crowded metropolis narrowly avoided catastrophe. Though many worry about the economic cost of scrapping nuclear power, others belatedly question the logic of having 54 commercial reactors in a country with one-fifth of the world’s strong earthquakes.Even worse, people said, was that the government had restarted at least one nuclear reactor (a second was switched on again on July 18th) while questions still remain about the safety of nuclear power, and about a regulatory structure that took the threat of natural disaster too lightly. “The radiation is still poisoning us and they’ve already restarted some reactors,” said Shinichiro Watanabe, who travelled to the rally from the prefecture that is home to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. “Why are they in such a rush?”

One reason is money. Ending the nuclear dream would mean scrapping hundreds of billions of dollars in capital investment and withdrawing from an industry in which Japan is now a world leader. The suspension of almost all reactors since the disaster has increased Japan’s bill for oil and gas imports by $100m a day, leaving the country with its first trade deficit in three decades. Explaining his decision to restart some reactors, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, said last month that he had “no choice”.

He is backed by the country’s biggest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, and the most powerful business lobby, Keidanren, which have repeatedly made dire predictions about Japan’s future without reactors. But such warnings have only convinced some that Japan Inc, which promoted nuclear power, has got its hooks into Mr Noda.

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