Women stage sit-in protest against nuclear policy, meet with Nuclear Safety Commission


Women at the sit-in protesting Japan's nuclear policy in Tokyo

TOKYO (majirox news) — Activists, mainly women, took part in a three-day sit-in which began on Oct. 27, in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Tokyo.

The group is appealing to Japanese citizens and international groups to put pressure on the government to end the use of nuclear power and evacuate all children and their families who are living in areas with high radioactive contamination. They called on the government to support this action. On the first day of the sit-in there were more than 700, including 100 women from Fukushima.

While the sit-in was taking place, another group was busy negotiating with the Nuclear Safety Commission.

“We met at the headquarters of officials in the Diet building,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action Japan and a member of the women’s group.

She added that a large part of Fukushima city, which is located 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is heavily contaminated. The residents of this area, which is called the Watari district, traveled on buses to confront the government, and citizens from Tokyo and other areas in Japan joined them at the meeting.

“We told the government we want them to do a survey of radiation levels in the whole area because they have only done a small portion,” Mioko Smith said. “There are several places that have contamination that is so high that you would be exposed to 20 millisieverts a year. This is the official evacuation trigger level the government set, but they still won’t declare the area an evacuation zone.”

She said at that meeting the people of Watari demanded that the whole area be surveyed by the government since citizens have found high levels in many places.

The women at the sit-in called Fukushima 100: Women Choosing to Live Without Nuclear Power

Another issue the group brought up with the commission was why the large Watari district does not have the stringent levels set for children and pregnant women as other cities.

When asked about the government’s response to their demands, Mioko Smith said, “Since September the government’s stance has become clear. They have decided to talk about decontamination in order to avoid evacuation.”

The sit-in called Fukushima 100: Women Choosing to Live without Nuclear Power was the idea of Sachiko Sato and Yukiko Anzai. On a flight to Japan from New York in September, the women decided they needed to do something to protect children living in the contaminated areas. They were part of a delegation that discussed the plight of children in the Fukushima region with the UN High Commission on Human Rights. The group timed its meeting to coincide with a United Nations September meeting that UN Secretary General Bank Ki-Moon held in response to the Fukushima disaster. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda spoke about nuclear power at the UN meeting.

A woman at the sit-in agreed with Sato and Anazai that people cannot remain silent. “It is our responsibility as people living by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to speak out as victims of the nuclear crisis,” she said. The plant has been spewing radiation since the country’s March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northeast Japan.

A press release from the Fukushima 100 said, “The Fukushima Daiichi plant accident proves that there is no such thing as a safe nuclear reactor. The Japanese politicians continue to push the nuclear energy agenda with the message to restart reactors that have been halted in Japan. We are demanding the country move toward a safe, renewable energy program.”

Some say they believe the government expects public fears to subside over time. In addition, local communities may acquiesce concerning restarting the plants that have been halted because of the need for local employment and revenue. Japan is also dependent on nuclear energy until it can find an alternative power source.

Meanwhile, another group of Japanese women will stage a sit-in for six days starting Oct. 30 in support of those in the Fukushima 100 sit-in.

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