Book review: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest music after Fukushima — The National

” In July 2012, famed Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto spoke at a rally in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park organised by the anti-nuclear organisation Sayonara Genpatsu. When the Academy Award-winning composer expressed his sorrow at the re-opening of Oi Nuclear Power Plant, which had taken place two weeks earlier, his words caught the imagination of his fellow campaigners: “Why is it necessary to expose life to danger, just for the sake of electricity?” he wondered to loud applause.

As Noriko Manabe underlines, Sakamoto obviously wasn’t demonising electricity; rather he was flagging up the dangers of using nuclear fission to produce it in the light of the specific nature of Japan’s infrastructure as exposed at Fukushima. Nonetheless, Japan’s pro-nuclear Twitter users erupted, wondering how Sakamoto’s techno-pop group The Yellow Magic Orchestra would have faired unplugged, and circulating photos of him mid-speech, his microphone and iPhone circled in red.

Soon, national newspaper the Sankei Shimbun, daily circulation 1.6 million, had a pop at Sakamoto, too: “Having become popular by using lots of electricity, you live in a high-end condominium in New York”, it foamed. As with Sakamoto’s Twitter-based critics, the inference was that to use electricity and be anti nuclear-power was inherently hypocritical, inconsistent.

In The Revolution Will Not be Televised, Manabe explores how musicians post-Fukushima have protested against nuclear power despite censorship of their work and against powerful social mores. These include koe o dasanai, which translates as the built-in Japanese reluctance to speak up, and kuki, the prevailing atmosphere of compliance that tends to characterise wider Japanese society.

If the book’s title name-checks the 1970 poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron, it’s also appropriate shorthand for the Japanese media’s general reluctance to report on the activities of the anti-nuclear movement. But as Manabe explains, “the government doesn’t explicitly censor the media. The industry imposes it upon itself in deference to its advertisers, and the nuclear industry is among the biggest.”

Manabe is a professor of music at Princeton University with a doctorate in ethnomusicology and music theory, so naturally this is an academic book. Its musicology-imbued chapter on Japanese protest music at demonstrations won’t be for everyone, but for all its recherché infographics and specialisms, The Revolution Will Not be Televised is clearly and engagingly written.

It’s somewhat strange, the author argues, that the country that suffered the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remained so accepting of nuclear power. It was only after March 11, 2011 – when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – that public sentiment began to turn and many of the country’s 48 reactors were shut down.

Public opinion polls had reflected a clear surge in anti-nuclear feeling, with about 70 per cent of the population favoring a phase-out of nuclear power. But in August, Japan restarted its reactor at the Sendai Plant in Kyushu, and operators of some 25 other reactors have reportedly applied for restart permits.

Japan is the world’s second-largest market for pop music, and given the genre’s traditional alliance with protest of all kinds, one might expect the country’s anti-nuclear musicians to be highly visible and transparently vocal. But Manabe’s book shows that things aren’t that simple – and for many reasons. For one, the lyrics of all commercial recordings have to be cleared by the Recording Industry Ethics Regulatory Commission, aka Recorin. Established in 1952, Manabe calls it a group mindful of music’s “powerful influence on the psychological state, spirit and behaviour of the nation’s people”.

An even more taxing hurdle, Manabe explains, is the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters, a body that prohibits attempts – or perceived attempts – “to disgrace the authority of the government or its agencies”.

Unsurprisingly, any commercial recordings with an anti-nuclear sentiment have had to be codified to slip through the censor’s net. The concept album 2012, by Osaka’s Acid Black Cherry, for example, is an original fairy tale about the Fukushima accident. Even beyond “official” censorship, artists have sometimes been rapped on the knuckles by their record companies. Manabe records how, back in 1988, Kiyoshiro Imawano, leader of rock band RC Succession, wove some blatantly anti-nuclear lyrics into his versions of Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender and Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues.

When the then-director of Japanese music at Toshiba EMI demanded the Imawano drop the songs from his forthcoming album Covers, Imawano refused. Toshiba EMI pulled the album, and later placed a notice in Japan’s three biggest newspapers stating that the record had been “too wonderful” to release.

Manabe’s book also has a fascinating chapter on how Japanese anti-nuclear music/protest functions in cyberspace. For campaigning musicians both professional and amateur, the internet’s attractions are manifold. The lack of censorship and the anonymity offered are key, but as the author explains, cyberspace also allows protesting musicians to collaborate freely, and to mobilise and sometimes even educate like-minded followers. She also notes that the Web has become “a repository of [protest] music that the recording industry would not normally release”.

It was via YouTube, in April 2011, for example, that pop star Kazuyoshi Saito chose to launch It Was Always A Lie, one of the Japanese anti-nuclear movements key anthems. The song panned the Japanese media’s claims that nuclear power was safe, and when Kazuyoshi sang it online, his face obscured by a cowboy hat and dark glasses, it went viral.

Kazuyoshi’s representatives eventually conceded that he was behind the song, but his record company declined to release the track commercially, arguing that “considerations for related companies”, and “the existence of many different opinions on nuclear power” had to be taken into account.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised also explores anti-nuclear demonstrations at music festivals, and via music-fueled street protests, and one of the key points Manabe makes is that brushes with the law can be far more damaging and stigmatizing for the individual than in the West. Protesters arrested in Japan can be held for up to 23 days while the police decide whether to indict them, and there is no bail. “If you’re held for several days, you’ll lose your job,” notes Hajime Matsumoto, leader of the band Shiroto no Ran. ”

by James McNair

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Japan on track for another nuclear reactor restart — The Economic Times

” TOKYO: A local Japanese governor on Monday approved the restarting of another nuclear reactor, the latest due to be switched on despite strong public opposition to atomic power after the Fukushima accident.

The key approval paves the way for Shikoku Electric Power to switch on a reactor at its Ikata power plant in the southwestern prefecture of Ehime, with the restart likely to happen next year under tougher post-Fukushima safety rules.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been pushing for a return to nuclear power to generate electricity after Japan’s several dozen reactors went offline in the wake of the 2011 disaster.

The resource-poor nation’s energy bill has soared since it was forced to turn to fossil-fuel imports to plug the gap.

But the Japanese public remains wary of atomic power, and Abe’s push has prompted rare protests and damaged his popularity.

Last week officials said a man who had worked at Fukushima after the crisis had been diagnosed with the first confirmed case of radiation-linked cancer, a revelation likely to fan fears about nuclear power.

Two reactors in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima have been switched on since the summer after receiving the go-ahead from local authorities.

The restarting of another pair of reactors has been held up by legal challenges.

Ehime governor Tokihiro Nakamura said Monday he authorised the restart due to costs and nuclear’s reliability as a stable energy source.

But “I want (Shikoku Power) to adopt all measures to ensure safety,” he told the company’s president in a televised meeting.

Tokyo has said it would not go ahead with reactor restarts unless it won the support of local leaders.

A tsunami sparked by an earthquake swamped reactor cooling systems at Fukushima and sent some into meltdown.

The worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 spewed radiation over a wide area and forced tens of thousands from their homes, many of whom will likely never return. ”

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Japan committed to nuclear power despite Fukushima fiasco — The New York Times

” TOKYO — With the pull of a lever, control rods were lifted Tuesday from the reactor core at a plant in southern Japan, ending a ban on nuclear power following meltdowns at Fukushima in the northeast that forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes, most of them for good.

Crowded, energy-scarce Japan remains committed to nuclear power despite the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and its messy aftermath, for economic, environmental and political reasons.

Polls show that most Japanese don’t want nuclear power, but public opinion has been trumped by leaders who say keeping the country’s 43 workable reactors offline forever would be too damaging economically.

Though two other nuclear reactors briefly resumed operations after the Fukushima meltdowns, Japan has gone completely without nuclear power for nearly two years under tighter new regulations. Reactors remained idle pending safety inspections.

Nuclear plants had provided nearly a third of power generation before they were taken offline, so Japan ramped up use of coal, oil and gas to compensate. That has increased energy costs and slowed Japan’s progress toward reducing emissions. Utility companies, meanwhile, face mounting costs from keeping nuclear plants idle.

Nuclear power is “indispensable,” industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa said Tuesday, pledging to put safety first as the Sendai No. 1 reactor resumed operations.

“It would be impossible to achieve all these three things simultaneously: Keep nuclear plants offline, while also trying to curb carbon dioxide and maintain the same electricity costs,” he said. “I hope to gain the public’s understanding of the situation.”

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was in office at the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people. On Tuesday, he stood shouting outside the gates of the Sendai plant, along with about 300 other protesters.

“Accidents are unpredictable; that’s why they happen. And certainly not all the necessary precautions for such accidents have been taken here,” Kan said.

The Fukushima disaster, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, revealed dire problems within the nuclear industry, including lax contingency planning and inadequate precautions against tsunami, earthquakes and other natural disasters at some plants.

Water is still being pumped into the Fukushima reactors to prevent further meltdowns, and huge amounts of it, now radioactive, have leaked out of the damaged containment chambers and into other parts of the buildings. Some has leaked outside and into the sea. Meanwhile, removal of melted fuel from three of the plant’s six reactors — the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year cleanup process — will not begin until 2022.

Japan’s 126 million people live smack on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region studded with volcanos and riven with major geologic faults.

But the country invested heavily in nuclear power to help alleviate its nearly complete reliance on imported fuel, and many communities rely on tax revenues and jobs associated with the plants. Though its nuclear fuel recycling program at Rokkasho, on the northern tip of the main island of Honshu, is stalled by technical problems, Japan also faces pressure to use up its stockpile of more than 40 tons of weapons-grade plutonium — enough to make up to 50 nuclear weapons.

After taking office in late 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rolled back a pledge by his predecessor’s government to phase out nuclear power by 2030. The government’s goal is to have nuclear power meet more than a fifth of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, a target that would require 30 working reactors. Up to 18 reactors are needed to burn the plutonium stockpile.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, itself restructured after Fukushima, affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and one other at the same plant last September, under stricter safety rules. The reactor that restarted Tuesday is expected to start generating power on Friday and reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October pending final approval.

Utilities are seeking approvals for restarts of 23 other reactors, including the second at Sendai. Two others are under construction. But many communities don’t want their reactors back online, and experts say idled plants deteriorate quickly.

Even with little to no nuclear power, Japan has managed to avoid power rationing and blackouts. Industries have moved aggressively to avoid disruptions by installing backup generators and shifting to new sources, such as solar power.

Ultimately, nuclear power is a stopgap, medium-term solution for Japan’s energy needs. Even if more nuclear plants are allowed to restart, many will soon reach their 40-year operating limits, with a maximum potential extension to 60 years, raising the issue of whether and how they will be replaced. Meanwhile, the disposal and security of nuclear waste are issues yet to be resolved.

While Abe and other officials say Japan’s new safety requirements are the world’s toughest, critics say this is untrue because evacuation plans are not mandatory requirements.

Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, notes that the peak output of Japan’s nuclear power industry was in 1998. Power companies have since pulled back from major new investments in atomic power due to rising costs and technical difficulties in operating the reactors, though Japanese manufacturers are eager to sell their nuclear equipment and expertise overseas.

“The problems for the Japanese nuclear industry started long before the Fukushima accident,” he said. ”

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Fukushima workers injured as steel material for coolant tank collapses — RT

” Three workers at the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant were hurt during an operation to set up a coolant tank for contaminated water. A 13-meter-high steel construction collapsed on them.

One of the workers has been left in critical condition after being knocked unconscious. He was transported to the hospital from the plant by helicopter, according to a TEPCO spokesman, AFP reported.

A second worker has a broken leg, while the third did not sustain any major injuries.

The plant has been facing the worrying issue of contaminated water leaking into the Pacific Ocean. It is looking into ways to clean the water to later release into the ocean without risk.

Russia is among the countries who have had a hand in the development of a filtering system for the plant.

TEPCO is currently also in the midst of what has been called the most risky stage of the earthquake-battered plant’s decommissioning process: the removal of spent nuclear fuel rods from their tanks. It managed to remove 400 tons of spent fuel since the start of the week, bringing the total to 1,331 in all.

The plant operator has faced a number of very serious hiccups during the radioactive cleanup since the March 2011 tragedy. These included worker contamination, water leakages, structural collapses and radiation spikes.

The amount of radioactive water near the Fukushima nuclear plant has risen to record levels after a typhoon passed through Japan this October. This has been a recurring problem to which no solution has yet been found.

Nearby volcanoes have also been deemed a safety threat.

Worker safety has likewise been a peristent problem, with inadequate protection against the radiation.

The problems faced by TEPCO and Japan are numerous.

There is no doubt that the radioactive fallout from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 will affect the Fukushima prefecture and the country as a whole for decades to come.

TEPCO itself has come under harsh criticism, both at home and internationally – which forced the Japanese government to step in with more funds directed at the cleanup operation.

While the country on Friday gave the go-ahead to restart its first nuclear reactor since the disaster, mass rallies of protesters against a return to nuclear power are continuing. ”

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Japan’s anti-nuclear movement: Where’s the protest? — The Economist

” Across the rice-paddy fields from the Sendai nuclear plant, at the southern tip of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Ryoko Torihara is battling to prevent two nuclear reactors being switched back on. She is in her 60s, and runs the local anti-nuclear association from her sitting room. That is a typical profile for the movement in Japan, which first gathered numbers in the 1960s. Her association has lacked the force to halt progress towards a restart of the reactors at Sendai, she admits. Sendai (with no relation to the tsunami-afflicted region in northern Japan) is set to become the first plant to start operations since the last of Japan’s nuclear fleet was shut down last autumn. The plant’s owner, Kyushu Electric, has dispatched a small army of around 80 public-relations staff to blitz local officials.

Another seasoned campaigner is Yoshitaka Mukohara, a book publisher who lost a race for governor of Kagoshima prefecture against the pro-nuclear incumbent in 2012, Yuichiro Ito. He won only half as many votes as Mr Ito. Even in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in 2011, it proved impossible to win on an anti-nuclear platform when people wished to hear mainly about the government’s economic plans to better their livelihoods. One reason for the weakness of the movement in Kagoshima prefecture and beyond, Mr Mukohara says, is that its members are usually part-timers.

In Japan it took 15 months for mass anti-nuclear protests to emerge after the disaster of 2011, while thousands of miles away in Germany and elsewhere people took to the streets far sooner. When Japanese did mobilise, mainly in Tokyo, a large proportion were amateur protesters, including plenty of young mothers and unemployed youth. Their energy, and the size of rallies, diminished soon afterwards. Since then the anti-nuclear movement has largely failed to gain political traction. Its nadir came in February this year when not even the backing of Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s charismatic former prime minister, helped an anti-nuclear candidate win an election for governor of Tokyo. The movement has proven “stunningly ineffective”, says Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo.

There are some notable exceptions, such as Green Action, a Kyoto-based NGO. It is one of the few anti-nuclear organisations able to employ full-time professional staff. Aileen Mioko Smith, its director, says that the anti-nuclear movement has enjoyed a measure of success over the years. Local groups halted the construction of dozens of planned new reactors, including the Ashihama project in Mie prefecture, which was cancelled in 2000. Yet anti-nuclear groups have not managed effectively to lobby politicians or energy-industry leaders to shape government policy, she says, nor have they roused the general public to take action.

The fault may lie in the movement’s own structure. Eric Johnston, a journalist at the Japan Times, describes its elderly members as being out of touch with the media techniques of modern NGOs. Local groups in the regions are fragmented, parochial and suspicious of outsiders. They do not necessarily welcome the younger members who could bring fresh ideas. Potential recruits feel shut out by traditional groups’ seniority systems. And the movement is divided where it could be united. The organisations that demonstrate each year against nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain quiet on nuclear energy.

Anti-nuclear sentiment has made a strong impact in the politics of one prefecture, in addition to Fukushima itself. Last month, Taizo Mikazuki from the Democratic Party of Japan won an election for governor of Shiga prefecture after running a strongly anti-nuclear campaign. The public’s anger over the way in which Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, handled a change in national-security policy was crucial to his victory. But fears about more than a dozen reactors across the prefectural border in Fukui also played an important role. Polls of public opinion show that a consistent majority of Japanese, when asked, would prefer a total phase-out of nuclear power. With more modern and professional methods, the anti-nuclear movement might achieve more than it has. ”

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