Tens of thousands protest against nuclear power in Japan

Tens of thousands protest against nuclear power in Japan

Tens of thousands of protesters in Tokyo Monday demanded the shutdown of all Japanese nuclear plants, six months after the nation's worst atomic accident, dpa reported.

In July, then-premier Naoto Kan said the country should phase out nuclear power because the Fukushima disaster had made him realize the huge risks.

But new premier Yoshihiko Noda will tell a session of the UN meeting on nuclear safety and security on Thursday that Japan is to "raise the safety of nuclear plants to the highest level," according to Kyodo News.

"At an upcoming United Nations conference, Prime Minister [Yoshihiko] Noda will say Japan is going to restart nuclear plants while ensuring safety. But the safety and credibility has already broken down," author Satoshi Kamata said at the protest.

"They cannot do politics while ignoring voices of residents," Kamata said.

In Vienna, Japan's Energy Minister Goshi Hosono did not directly answer a reporter's question on the policy of the government of Noda.

Hosono said it is important to be mindful of critical views. He added that there would be a broad discussion on Japan's nuclear and energy policy that would involve the public and take no longer than the end of next year.

"In Japan there is kind of a consensus that we would like to decrease the dependency on nuclear power. But the speed at which that would be achieved, or the method that would be used to attain such a target has yet do be identified," he told reporters at the General Conference of the Interantional Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has leaked radioactive material into the environment since it was crippled by a magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11. About 87,000 residents have been forced to leave the area.

"What has become clear since the accident is that facts are concealed, the government does not protect its citizens, the accident has yet to be brought under control, and people in Fukushima will become materials for a nuclear experiment," Fukushima anti-nuclear activist Ruiko Muto said at the rally in Tokyo.

Organizers said about 60,000 people attended. After the gathering, the protesters marched through central Tokyo.

Public fears over the safety of Japan's 54 reactors grew in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, especially because many are near geological fault lines in the earthquake-prone country.

About 70 per cent of the public now favours eliminating nuclear power, a survey by the Kyodo News agency showed.

Earlier this month, Shikoku Electric Power Co halted reactor number 1 at its Ikata Nuclear Power Station in western Japan for a regular checkup, meaning only 11 of the nation's 54 reactors are now in operation.

Minister Hosono promised in Vienna that his government would implement a new global action plan to improve nuclear safety that the IAEA adopted last week.

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