Wed, Aug 01, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Local election highlights nuclear tensions in Japan


A candidate who ran on a rare anti-nuclear platform lost an election for state governor in Japan on Sunday, even as thousands of people formed “a human chain” around the country’s parliament complex to demand the Japanese government abandon nuclear power.

The protest was the latest in a series of peaceful demonstrations on a scale not seen in the nation for decades since the Fukushima crisis gave rise to fears of another nuclear disaster.

In the closely watched election on Sunday for governor of southwestern Yamaguchi Prefecture, anti-nuclear candidate Tetsunari Iida trailed former bureaucrat Shigetaro Yamamoto with 185,654 votes to 252,461 votes on Sunday. Two other independent candidates also ran. Voter turnout at 45 percent was high.

The election highlights the gap between deep anti-nuclear sentiments, evident in Sunday’s and other recent protests in Tokyo, and the reaction in distant rural areas, where the plants are located, that tends to be more accepting of their presence.

Sunday’s protesters, crowding Japan’s Capitol Hill, said they were angry that the government had restarted two reactors earlier this month despite safety worries after the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March last year. The reactors were the first to return to operation since May, when the last of Japan’s 50 working reactors went offline for routine checks.

Similar demonstrations have been held outside the prime minister’s residence every Friday evening. The crowds have not dwindled, as people get the word out through Twitter and other online networking. A July 16 holiday rally at a Tokyo park, featuring a rock star and a Nobel laureate, drew nearly 200,000 people.

Kyodo News service estimated the Sunday crowd at about 10,000 people. Participants said they came from across Japan, underlining the widespread appeal of the protests.

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