This demonstration, almost unprecedented in Japan and organized through the Internet, came after the shareholders of Japan’s private electricity utilities voted on June 27 to continue with the operation of nuclear power stations.
“Rather than not doing anything I wanted to come here and make my voice heard,” said a protestor, carrying his daughter on his shoulders.
Another protestor said, “I came here today because the government only talks about the economic reasons for restarting the reactors, and that’s not right. If we don’t do anything they will restart more and more. We need to focus on reducing our dependency on nuclear power.”
These decisions to continue the use of nuclear power taken by the utility shareholders did not meet with universal approval. As well as members of the general public such as these protestors, some local governments, including those of Tokyo and Osaka who are major stakeholders in the utilities, criticized the move.
However, some are in favor of nuclear power. These people are not demonstrating, and they support the shareholders’ decision.
“The shareholders were very realistic in their vote,” said Pema Gyalpo, a professor at Toin University in Yokohama. “The first thing is that they are the shareholders and at this moment there are not any alternative energies. Everyone knows that we need it.”
There are many different interests at work here – the utility shareholders, those who want no nuclear power at any price, and those who have other objectives, according to Gyalpo.
“Then there also people with a different agenda,” Gyalpo said. “For example, people who are trying to sell new energies or countries who want to try sell their energy to Japan. So, there are many different interest groups who are have different agendas, but their common interest is to stop the present energy system.”
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) shareholders also voted for the government to take control of the utility. The company owns and operates the Fukushima power plant which experienced multiple meltdowns, causing the nuclear disaster in March 2011. By injecting 12.6 billion dollars in public funds to help TEPCO meet its liabilities, and taking a majority equity stake, the government will effectively nationalize the utility.
A deep rift continues to exist in Japan between those who want to see an immediate end to nuclear power and those who want to continue with the status quo, at least for the time being.