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No to nuclear: Japan wants reactors phased out, post-Fukushima via Aljazeera

Japan is less reliant on atomic energy, but concerns are growing about its return to climate-damaging fossil fuels.

by Kelly Olsen

[…]

‘They say no’
“Japanese people’s sentiment (has) changed after Fukushima Daiichi and it is continuing until now,” said Matsukubo, whose non-profit organisation was established in 1975 by concerned atomic scientists to gather and publicise nuclear information and raise public awareness on the industry.

He said that even if people appear not as focused, if they are asked pointedly if they agree with nuclear power: “They say no.”

[…]

Alternative energies
“Japan needs to find a transition pathway from this, and I know this is challenging,” he said. “But coal is socially unacceptable … from a climate-risk perspective but also from an air pollution perspective.”

[…]

There was always some ambivalence about atomic energy in Japan – the only country to suffer a nuclear weapon attack when the United States dropped bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II.

Pope Francis, visiting Japan in November, surprised no one when he condemned nuclear weapons. But the pontiff, the first to venture to the country since 1981, went so far as to suggest that nuclear energy itself was a problem.

“I have a personal opinion: I wouldn’t use nuclear energy until it is totally safe to use,” the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics said in comments to reporters during his flight back to Rome from Tokyo, Kyodo reported.

[…]

Ramping down
Alexander Brown, who has studied the anti-nuclear protest movement in Japan, said that because Japan had supported atomic power for so long, there was a sense of inertia despite post-Fukushima opposition, ageing infrastructure and the remote chance of new reactors getting the green light.

“There’s a sort of built-in time limit to how long the industry as a whole can continue,” said Brown, currently a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science international research fellow at Japan Women’s University.
He also emphasised, however, that Japan’s turn against nuclear energy had also coincided with a key change in its domestic economy; less industrially robust and therefore not as hungry for energy as before.

[…]

Brown calls that an “uncomfortable truth” for much of Japan’s ruling establishment – including the prime minister and his eponymous “Abenomics” economic revitalisation programme – which clings to a belief in a model of vigorous growth.

“And I think one of the amazing things when I look at the anti-nuclear movement, to me, was it was full of people looking at what are other ways that we can live,” he said. 

“How can we embrace other values other than high consumption, high pollution, extreme overwork and look at things like de-growth economics.”

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