Tens of thousands to hold anti-nuclear rallies in Japan

Tens of thousands to hold anti-nuclear rallies in Japan

Tens of thousands of people were to protest the government's nuclear energy policy in demonstrations across Japan Saturday, the three-month anniversary of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis, dpa reported.

Citizens groups and non-profit organizations were planning the rallies, seeking to break with nuclear power generation in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo.

Kaoru Narisawa, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace Japan, said her group was expecting thousands of people to join its "Energy Shift Parade" in Tokyo.

Its first parade was held in late April, drawing 5,000, many of whom were mothers and children, Narisawa said.

The six-reactor Fukushima plant was crippled by the March 11 disaster and has leaked radioactive materials ever since. Three reactor cores melted down after the cooling systems failed. The nuclear crisis has forced about 87,000 residents to evacuate the area.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co have been struggling to stabilize the plant, but they have been criticized for a slow and inappropriate response to the crisis.

On Monday, the government more than doubled its estimate for the amount of radioactive substances released from the plant during the first week of the crisis.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the amount was believed to have totaled 770,000 terabecquerels from March 11 to March 16, compared with 370,000 terabecquerels that it had estimated in mid-April when it raised the Fukushima Daiichi accident level to 7, the worst level, putting it on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

The death toll from the disaster stood at 15,405 with 8,095 people listed as missing as of Saturday, the National Police Agency said.

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