The organizers of the Friday night protests in Tokyo had their meeting with Prime Minister Noda Wednesday. At the meeting Noda repeated his claim that restarting the reactors was necessary to “save lives”. Noda made no concessions to the organizers and the organizers made none to Noda.
The protest organizers stated that the protests were growing and that they are determined to continue the protests. The group urged Noda to shut down the reactors at Oi and abolish all nuclear power in Japan. The group also asked for the people nominated to the new nuclear regulatory agency to be withdrawn citing a lack of transparency.
Noda continued to repeat his already tired statements about reactor safety and the supposed need for reactors to be operating right now.
Neither said gave in, both sides repeated the same things they have been saying for months that everyone knows. So what was the point of this meeting?
From a tactical standpoint it was advantageous to the government and those who wish to keep the status quo. The meeting gave the government a photo-op to make them look like they are listening and attempting to be open minded while actually doing nothing. It gives the illusion of a solution or closure to the protests with the meeting being the final result. Politicians in Japan began defecting from political parties and making public declarations against nuclear power. The protests were working and had the government in disarray. The meeting gave the government relief from the growing political pressure and may have caused the protests to lose momentum. If the protests can regain that momentum and continue to grow and expand they have the potential to make change. If the meeting gives people the impression of a done issue it could spell the end of the protests.
All of the ongoing push back against the current government and widespread organizing could also be the beginnings of a viable Green Party in Japan. There have been hints and small attempts at this already with politicians hinting at moves this direction and smaller groups attempting to form political parties on a green platform.
Despite government attempts to keep the status quo going, efforts to push forward with a no-nukes agenda continue. Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and academy award-winning musician Ryuichi Sakamoto as part of a larger group are pushing for passage of a bill to end nuclear power use in Japan. Nuclear power continues to be a political liability. The newly elected governor of Yamaguchi has declared he will continue with a construction freeze on a new nuclear plant in his prefecture. Environment minister Hosono expressed concern that an exit from nuclear power would raise the technical problem of how to decommission all the nuclear plants in Japan.
What is apparent is that the more people know, the more they are against nuclear power in Japan. “the more participants were informed on energy issues, the greater their support for reducing Japan’s nuclear reliance to zero by 2030”
It also came out this week that Japan’s electricity consumption is down. July saw a 6.3% drop even with considerable summer heat. Residential use actually fell 12.4%. Japan Times had this declaration that explains the claims of power shortages, threats of blackouts and push to restart reactors. “Electricity utilities may be opting to restart their nuclear reactors since they are cheaper than thermal power plants,” Even with power use down and doubts about the claims that there even was a power shortage, the utilities are still threatening blackouts. The power supply in Kansai did go quite high during the summer and is being used as justification for restarting the Oi reactors. This ignores the fact that 8 thermal plants were shut off after the Oi reactors were turned on.
The strategic fumble of the protest organizers may not spell the end to the effort to stop nuclear power in Japan. Many politicians are still backing off of the use of nuclear. Noda and his party continue to lack ideas and pushing for restarts and the status quo is not winning them support. There is still a clear support among the public for ending nuclear power. As more learn the issues and see the government claims of power shortages to be more hot air than reality the push for change has the potential to grow.
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