Nearly 2,000 protest restart of 2nd nuclear reactor in Kyushu — The Asahi Shimbun

” KAGOSHIMA–About 1,800 people from around Kyushu converged here on Oct. 12 to protest the planned restart of another reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant, saying the operator has made a decision that is “suicidal.”

Waving placards stating, “Nuclear plant, no more,” and shouting slogans in unison, the protesters, who are members of anti-nuclear groups and other citizens in the Kyushu region, started the rally in front of JR Kagoshima-chuo Station.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. is pushing to bring online the No. 2 reactor at the plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, as early as Oct. 15. In August, the No. 1 reactor at the plant resumed operations, the first in Japan under stricter safety standards implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The protesters were particularly critical of what they described as Kyushu Electric’s “suicidal” decision to restart the No. 2 reactor without replacing a steam generator in the reactor building with more durable one. The utility had planned to replace the generator in 2009.

The rally kicked off with a special concert by the Seifuku Kojo Iinkai (Uniform improvement committee) idol group, known for its original songs containing progressive political messages.

In her address at the rally, Ryoko Torihara, chairwoman of a local residents group in Satsuma-Sendai demanding the nuclear plant’s closure, criticized others in the city for depending economically and psychologically on nuclear power.

“Three decades have passed since the plant started operations, and residents no longer seem to have creative minds to come up with alternative methods to sustain the city’s economy,” Torihara said. “We are still dependent on the nuclear plant through and through, and it has deprived us of incentives to change the status quo.”

During his speech, Wataru Ogawa, a member of an anti-nuclear citizens group in neighboring Miyazaki Prefecture, called for residents in Kyushu to stop buying electricity from Kyushu Electric to press the regional utility to abandon nuclear energy.

“To change Kyushu Electric’s attitude toward nuclear energy, we must purposefully refuse to buy electricity from the company once the electricity distribution becomes deregulated,” Ogawa said.

After the rally, the protesters marched through the center of the city. ”

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*Japan’s natural perils, and promises, in the wake of Fukushima — Nassrine Azimi via The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

” The first paragraph in the first volume of A History of Japan, by the scholarly British diplomat Sir George Sansom, is a detailed description of the islands’ geology.

Writing in 1958 of the country he so loved, with its “mighty volcanic convulsions”, Sir George depicts the physical drama of peaks soaring two miles above and plunging five miles below sea level, and wisely cautions that “so immense a range of elevation within short lateral distances develops such stresses that this part of the earth’s crust is a highly unstable area….”

The Japan Landslide Society simply calls this archipelago the “Scar-Laden Islands.”

In August this year we witnessed at close range just how scar-laden: massive rains and landslides brought down entire mountaintops in many suburbs of Hiroshima, killing scores. The tragedy could well happen in other parts of the country.

Then on September 27th the sacred, unpredictable Mount Ontake erupted suddenly, trapping hundreds of climbers out to admire its famed autumn foliage. The eruption prompted a massive and dangerous rescue operation by thousands of firefighters, police and Self-Defense Forces members. Still, at least 60 people are reported dead.

In the aftermath of the eruption, the government promptly called for renewed efforts at monitoring volcanic activity. Yet Mount Ontake, listed as one of the country’s 110 active volcanos, was already under close scrutiny by the Meteorological Agency; intensifying tremors–85 on September 11 alone–had been registered but not deemed threatening.

In technology-overloaded Japan, monitoring hardly seems the problem.

Rather, volcanic eruptions–and other natural disasters–in a land perched on the edge of the Ring of Fire and straddling four tectonic plates should be considered the norm. And some scientists now worry that the magnitude 9 earthquake of March 11, 2011 may well intensify risks–this July a French geophysicist and his team released a study suggesting pressure is building on Mount Fuji, also an active volcano.

Last week the three prefectures at the foot of Mount Fuji conducted eruption drills, sobered by the experience of how ash from the Mount Ontake eruption had completely disrupted rescue operations. Similarly, earlier this month, the respected volcanologist Fujii Toshitsugu, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and head of a government-commissioned panel, challenged assumptions that the Sendai reactors in Kyushu, first in-line in the government’s schedule to reactivate dormant nuclear plants, were immune to volcanic eruptions. He suggested that heavy ash from the eruption of Mount Sakurajima — only 40 kilometers from the plant — could make reaching the plant and basic evacuation protocols quite impossible.

If natural disasters are simply unavoidable, then for a country smaller than the state of California and with more than three times the population, the presence of nuclear power plants seems, to say the least, a little akin to playing Russian roulette.

During recent Diet debates, Obuchi Yuko, then minister of economy, trade and industry and till two weeks ago an upcoming star of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, insisted that in its push to restart nuclear plants the government was adamant about ensuring the strictest safety measures, stating that such standards were similar to those of France and other advanced nations.

The comparison to France, often made, is hardly apt: France is not perennially threatened by massive earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions, nor is it on the path of mega typhoons (like the two which battered us just this month). In the past year, alone, Japan has had hundreds of small earthquakes, while France has had five. Japan is also two-thirds smaller than France, with almost double the population. The risk factors, when it comes to nuclear power plants, are fundamentally different.

In late September, a group of us from Hiroshima returned to Fukushima, to see for ourselves how rebuilding was progressing. Of the three prefectures which took the brunt of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 Fukushima, with the decommissioned yet still precarious No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, is the one still gripped by deep uncertainty, even if both Miyagi and Iwate suffered greater human losses from the tsunami (by a factor of five in Miyagi): they have mourned, grieved, collected huge piles of tsunamis debris and are now pressing ahead with reconstruction plans.

Not Fukushima. Large swaths of the prefecture remain unsettled. Within the nuclear plant’s 20-kilometer exclusion zone most towns are empty. As we drove through the eerily silent streets of those closest to the battered plant, Tashiro Akira, a veteran investigative reporter who has written extensively on nuclear accidents, gave us rough estimates of their pre-disaster populations–and of their current status: Namie (22,000, now semi-restricted), Futaba (7,400, still abandoned), Okuma (11,515, still abandoned), Tomioka (15,800, still abandoned), Naraha (8200, now semi-restricted).

The quick money that had been flowing from TEPCO to these communities in the past decades does not seem to have left much in terms of quality buildings or a decent urban environment. But an abandoned city is nonetheless a mournful sight: curtains still in place, kitchen-ware glimpsed through a window, children’s bicycles parked outside empty homes.

In Minami Soma we visited the Farm Sanctuary, 14 kilometers from the beleaguered power plant, where an irreverent cattle farmer by the name of Yoshizawa Masami has chosen to defy authorities and remain with his animals. Called Kibo no Bokujyo (Ranch of Hope) in Japanese, it also offers a place for other farmers who have had to abandon their lands but do not know what to do with their contaminated animals. The Farm Sanctuary has become a sort of unofficial test site, to monitor the effects of radiation on animals.

But even more distant towns, like Iitate, remain in limbo. Some 45 kilometers from the plant, Iitate was initially designated a safe haven before it, too, was found to be a radioactive hotspot. Its 6000 inhabitants have now either left or can only come in during day-time hours. A superbly-built nursing home for the elderly now caters to the few remaining residents – average age 87 – who were simply too old to move. Room after room is empty – it is impossible to find staff willing or able to live and work in Iitate.

A farming and ranching community before the nuclear disaster, the only people we did see at work in Iitate were some of 3000 contract workers, whose job is to remove contaminated topsoil — part of the government’s complex and questionable decontamination policy. The topsoil, alongside leaves and other plant material, is then stuffed into thousands of black plastic containers, now scattered across the landscape. Naturally no region is willing to accept the dreaded material, despite pressures and monetary cajoling by the central government. The cleanup, which was meant to be completed this March, has just been extended by another two years.

As we viewed the landscape, the idea that Iitate and other cities affected by the nuclear accident could soon return to business as usual — through diligent scrubbing of roofs and removal of topsoil — seemed far-fetched indeed: like the rest of Fukushima Iitate is covered with mountains and forests, exposed to natural elements. In her thoughtful and meticulously researched article entitled ‘Touching the Grass: Science, Uncertainty and Everyday life from Chernobyl to Fukushima’[1] Tessa Morris-Suzuki points to research on the topsoil removal, which can temporarily lower radiation levels, but the effects of which are dubious as ‘radiation accumulated in leaf litter in the mountain forests is constantly washed down into farm fields by the flow of water, raising the levels of radioactivity again.’

Years (and billions of yen) could well be spent shifting topsoil, but would any young family be willing to raise kids there?

Dr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, chairman of the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee has famously, and succinctly, quipped of the government’s cleanup effort: “Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it. This is all just one big shell game aimed at pushing off the problems until the future.”[2]

Yet admitting the complexities raises fundamental problems for authorities, from the practical –i.e. compensation and relocation issues — to the deeply ethical: if one single nuclear accident is proving so debilitating, how then, in the face of deep popular opposition, to justify bringing the country’s dormant plants on-line, as the Abe government wishes to do? And if even Japan, a technology giant, is to put the nail to the coffin of its own towns in the aftermath of a nuclear accident, how to justify its planned exports to other nations?

So Fukushima’s residents linger in uncertainty. The elderly, with less to fear of radiation’s long-term effects, are resigned to return home; not those with young children. Many men, for the sake of jobs, would return but women, more concerned about their family’s health, would not. The pressure on every family is huge. The new term genpatsu rikon (atomic divorce) captures the personal tragedies.

Morris-Suzuki highlights the difficulty, heightened in the Internet age, for ordinary people to live with the kind of insidious uncertainty that has become the hallmark of environmental, and especially nuclear, pollution. As night fell, we had to leave Iitate in time for the curfew that bans people from entering the area beyond certain hours. Driving down the mountain and past one dark, abandoned house after another, I better understood how tired the citizens of Fukushima were of the flow of visiting and pontificating delegates — scientists and central authorities, singers, actors, upcoming politicians, idealistic students, well-intentioned foreigners… At the end of the day, however, we all left.

Hence a certain listlessness in Fukushima, that seems to afflict everyone and, contrary to most places, the young in particular. The welcoming and valiant senior staff at the fisheries association we visited near Iwaki City seemed reassured by their brand new machines sent to test radiation levels of incoming fish every week; the younger staff admitted readily that manning the complicated machinery was at times quite beyond their competence. In Koriyama, one of Fukushima Prefecture’s three largest cities, the senior architect I interviewed expressed hope that large-scale building plans would restart soon. His younger colleague, father of young children, sat stone-faced, looking more doubtful.

There are those who point at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the ‘reassuring’ story, of the possibility of revival after nuclear catastrophe. This is to forget the price paid and the discriminations faced by the survivors and at least two generations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki citizens. It is also to forget the differences between 1945 and 2011: there were no hand-held Geiger counters in every household then, no Internet to spread news of contaminated soil, fish, water or hotspots. Fukushima Prefecture was a prime food producer in Japan before the accident: when or even whether it shall retrieve that label again, in a globalized world where reputations are so easily made or broken, is an open question.

Still, by now Prime Minister Abe may have little political capital to lose on account of the physically close yet psychologically distant Fukushima. But as Andrew DeWit of Tokyo’s Rikkyo University and an astute observer of Japanese energy policies has written in the Asia-Pacific Journal (http://japanfocus.org/-Andrew-DeWit/4174), the government’s reluctance to declare a stark and clear commitment to renewables (and to the eventual closure of nuclear plants), is a significant opportunity loss.

Japan, DeWit writes, is hardly the “resource-poor” country pro-nuclear politicians so love to invoke. In terms of renewables, it sits among top contenders, with abundant thermal energy sources — the bright side of being so disaster-prone. It is “blessed” with powerful winds and typhoons, waves, volcanoes, vast forests (68 percent of the land), torrential rivers and summers of scorching, ever-present sun.

Naysayers point to the challenges facing Germany, which after decades of an intense national debate, took the message of the Fukushima nuclear accident to heart and did what everyone had expected Japan to do: bring its reliance on nuclear energy to an end. Yes, Germany now struggles with its carbon emissions, but these will decline with time while the advantages — including job creation – of Germany’s shift to green energy are already starting to outweigh the minuses.[3] The question to ask is rather what advantages could Japan have reaped, had its political leaders, even in the last few years, been half as ‘green‘ as their German counterparts? It is enough to note how absent is anything close to a Green Party in mainstream Japanese politics to understand the obstacles to a fullscale commitment to green energy strategies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

There are nevertheless bright spots to be found in a number of localities. The architect Ito Toyo — winner of last year’s Pritzker prize and an intelligent and compelling voice for the reconstruction of the Tohoku region after the March 2011 disasters — has led experimental reconstruction projects in the affected areas. Ito has written of the need to question, as architects but even more as human beings what to do henceforth, of the need to ‘go back to square one and reexamine the essential meaning of architecture.’[4] The same shift in thinking must apply to all of us, in particular the ‘experts’.

Poll after poll have shown a steady majority of the Japanese far more willing than their politicians to embrace renewables and the “fifth fuel”, conservation, rather than return to nuclear power. Given Japan’s technological strengths, with the right leadership, policies and technologies, a shift is ultimately possible. However well-packaged, nuclear accident cleanup just remains too difficult — devouring massive time, money and energy, and none can ascertain that it works.

From time immemorial, Japan’s greatest perils and privileges have come from Nature. This remains unchanged – or rather has become even more compelling – in the early 21st century. Ancient rites and rituals, seemingly arcane or irrelevant to challenges of our modern age, are but reminders of this immutable reality. Last year the Grand Shrine of Ise, the country’s most sacred sanctuary, held its Sengu — renewal — ceremony, conducted since 690 AD at 20-year intervals. The rite has immensely practical value: the intricate architecture and carpentry of the structures, for example, demands intense and regular transmission of elaborate building techniques from generation to generation; the massive timbers require upkeep of designated forests and watersheds, and the special food offerings impose careful cultivation of nearby rice paddies, nurturing of fruit groves, care of fishing and gaming areas, the consistent sharing of knowledge about the land’s ecology. They also bring, century after century, not just spiritual well-being but enormous revenues to Mie Prefecture.

Location. Location. Location. George Sansom was right, to start his history of Japan with geology. Or as my late father would constantly remind us: ‘Never, ever, forget your geography’. ”

source to Nassrine Azimi’s article with internal references and photographs

Colossal volcanic eruption could destroy Japan at any time: study — The Japan Times; Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant — Reuters

Updated Oct. 27, 2014, The Japan Times: ” Japan could be nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption over the next century that would put nearly all of its population of 127 million people at risk, a new study says.

“It is not an overstatement to say that a colossal volcanic eruption would leave Japan extinct as a country,” Kobe University earth sciences professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and associate professor Keiko Suzuki said in the study, released publicly on Wednesday.

The experts said they analyzed the scale and frequency of volcanic eruptions throughout the archipelago over the past 120,000 years and calculated that the odds of a devastating eruption at about 1 percent over the next 100 years.

The chance of a major temblor striking Kobe within 30 years was estimated at about 1 percent just a day before a 7.2-magnitude quake struck the port city in 1995, killing 6,400 people and injuring nearly 4,400 others, the study noted.

“Therefore, it would be no surprise if such a colossal eruption occurs at any moment,” it added.

The Kobe University researchers said their study is critical because Japan is home to about 7 percent of the volcanoes that have erupted over the past 10,000 years.

A disaster on Kyushu, which has been struck by seven massive eruptions over the past 120,000 years, would see an area with 7 million people buried by flows of lava and molten rock in just two hours, they said.

Volcanic ash would also be carried by westerly winds toward the main island of Honshu, making nearly the entire country “unlivable” as it strangled infrastructure, including key transport systems, they said.

It would be “hopeless” trying to save about 120 million living in major cities and towns across Honshu, the study said.

The study called for new technology to more accurately grasp the state of the “magma reservoirs” that are spread across the Earth’s crust in layers a few kilometers deep. ”

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Posted Oct. 24, 2014: ” (Reuters) – Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit.

The warning comes nearly a month after another volcano, Mt Ontake, erupted suddenly when crowded with hikers, killing 57 people in Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years.

Ioyama, a mountain on the southwestern island of Kyushu, has been shaken by small tremors and other signs of rising volcanic activity recently, including a tremor lasting as long as seven minutes, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcano division said.

“There is an increase in activity that under certain circumstances could even lead to a small scale eruption, but it is not in danger of an imminent, major eruption,” the official said.

The warning level on the mountain has been raised from the lowest possible level, normal, to the second lowest, which means that the area around the crater is dangerous, he added.

Ioyama lies in the volcanically active Kirishima mountain range and is roughly 64 km from the Sendai nuclear plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co, which the Japanese government wants to restart even though the public remains opposed to nuclear power following the Fukushima crisis.

Critics point out that the Sendai plant is located about 50 kms (31 miles) from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that erupts frequently. Five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, are also in the region, the closest one 40 kms (25 miles) away.

The plant still needs to pass operational safety checks as well as gain the approval of local authorities and may not restart till next year.

Before giving its initial greenlight to restart the plant in July, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said the chance of major volcanic activity during the lifespan of the Sendai nuclear plant was negligible.

On Friday, the warning level for the Sakurajima volcano, which erupts frequently, was at 3, which means that people should not approach the peak.

Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” – a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines and volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean – and is home to more than 100 active volcanoes.

Experts warn that the mammoth 9.0 March 2011 quake may have increased the risk of volcanic activity throughout Japan, including that of iconic Mount Fuji. ”

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Tritium up tenfold in Fukushima groundwater after Typhoon Phanfone — The Japan Times; Fukushima plant prepares for typhoon Vongfong — IANS, Yahoo! News

The Japan Times: ” The radioactive water woes at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant got worse over the weekend after the tritium concentration in a groundwater sample surged more than tenfold this month.

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that heavy rain caused by Typhoon Phanfone probably affected the groundwater after the storm whipped through Japan last week.

Some 150,000 becquerels of tritium per liter were measured in a groundwater sample taken Thursday from a well east of the No. 2 reactor. The figure is a record for the well and over 10 times the level measured the previous week.

In addition, materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels, the utility said of the sample.

The well is close to the plant’s port in the Pacific.

The water crisis could get worse as the nation braces for Typhoon Vongfong this week. Although downgraded from supertyphoon status, the storm was still packing winds of up to 180 kph and on course to hit Kyushu by Monday.

The Meteorological Agency said it could reach Tokyo on Tuesday before gradually losing strength as it races north toward Tohoku.

The storm dumped heavy rain on Okinawa, and at least 35 people have been reported injured in both Okinawa and Kyushu, where authorities told 150,000 people to evacuate as the typhoon toppled trees, flooded streets and cut power to more than 60,000 homes.

Tepco also revealed that, at a separate well also east of the No. 2 reactor, a groundwater sample was giving off a record 2.1 million becquerels of a beta ray-emitting substance, nearly double the level from a week earlier.

The cesium activity in the sample was 70 percent higher at 68,000 becquerels.

Tepco has been periodically measuring the concentration of radioactive materials in groundwater at 34 points east of the reactors 1 through 4.

Readings hit record highs at three points after the heavy rain caused by the typhoon, but the utility said it does not know why. ”

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Indo Asian News Service: ” Tokyo, Oct 13 (IANS/EFE) The accident-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant is bracing itself for the arrival of powerful typhoon Vongfong that made landfall in southern Japan Monday and could reach the plant Tuesday, authorities said.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Monday said it had installed gutters on the upper part of the tanks storing contaminated water from the plant and reinforced and increased their height to prevent any overflow of the water due to the expected rainfall.

As a precautionary measure against the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan this year, employees would be patrolling the plant facilities at all times in order to prevent overflows or an increase in the contaminated water that accumulates in the basements, the company said.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency Monday said the super typhoon, that is advancing at 35 km per hour, made landfall in the morning in Kyushu and was expected to arrive in Tokyo early Tuesday from where it would head northeast to the Fukushima plant.

Authorities have issued warnings of torrential rains and landslides and have asked citizens to be prepared for strong winds and waves.

So far, a total of 52 people in nine provinces of the country have been injured in accidents caused by strong winds and heavy rainfall.

Vongfong comes barely a week after the Phanfone typhoon ravaged the Japanese archipelago and left nine people dead, three of them in Okinawa, and three missing.

The Fukushima power plant, that was struck by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, accumulates tonnes of contaminated water in more than 1,000 tanks which is proving to be one of the biggest hurdles in the dismantling of the plant. ”

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Updated 9/22/14: Japan preparing to reopen nuclear power plants — CBS News; Japan nears a nuclear reboot — The New York Times

Updated Sept. 22, 2014, CBS News: watch 2:11 news spot

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Posted Sept. 17, 2014, The New York Times: ” All of Japan’s 48 operable nuclear reactors — the source of about one-third of the country’s electricity — were shut down after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Three years later, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has certified two reactors at the Sendai power plant on the southern island of Kyushu meet the safety standards imposed after the accident.

It could be months before either reactor is turned on. The company that owns the reactors will make that decision after getting local consent. Even so, the authority’s certification is a major step in the government’s effort to restart the nuclear industry. The authority was created two years ago to restore public confidence in nuclear oversight. The government gave it responsibility to set stricter safety standards and to determine whether reactors met them.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to restore nuclear power as part of his plan to revive the country’s sputtering economy. The public is divided. There is enthusiasm among some locals who see the plants as a source of jobs, but skepticism, according to polls, in the population as a whole. Fukushima showed that absolute safety of nuclear power is a dangerous myth, especially in earthquake-prone Japan. The Sendai plant might have cleared stricter earthquake and tsunami standards, but it is also located in an active volcanic area, about which the new safety standards say little.

In addition, the authority’s assessment did not address the issue of evacuation in case of an accident, which is the responsibility of local governments.

A simulation conducted found that it could take as long as 28 hours to evacuate 90 percent of the residents from within a 30 kilometer radius of the Sendai power plant. Local governments lack the capacity and expertise to conduct a major evacuation, and local leaders have asked the national government to take a more active role in forging evacuation plans. The chaos that ensued from the Fukushima accident should be an obvious reminder of the need for such plans in the event of a major accident. ”

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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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