There were no recognizable faces from previous actions since last year from Japanese New Yorkers and their friends against nukes but Akihiro Yamamoto, a New York bassist and composer, rallied people from the Japanese community in NYC to Union Square yesterday as Japan begins to restart its nuclear power. They were at the Square for hours, maybe only ten to fifteen of them, talking to the usual receptive passerby as historically large numbers in Japan turned out after fifteen months since the earthquake and tsunami that took some 19 thousand lives and destroyed the Daiichi nuclear reactors in Fukushima.
In Yamamoto’s view, the media in Japan doesn’t want to cover the antinuclear movement, which is what people were saying last summer, and has also been elaborated on in a recent international news report, which compares the protests to those that Japan saw in the 60s but more diverse.
Japan has only been using two of 54 commercial nuclear reactors since the Daiichi meltdown; that is until May 5th when the shut down of two reactors (for periodical inspection) in Ohi marked a “nuke-free” Japan for the first time in 42 years. Reactors go offline for months for inspection in Japan normally but at this time they have been given “stress tests” in case of something along the lines of another 9.0 magnitude earthquake should rock the country again.
The radiation consequences from the March 11th, 2011 meltdown has been reported in two different views. It was reported in January that a UN team claimed that the health effects in the vicinity would be relatively minimal compared to the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986. Likewise, it was later reported in March that an American panel of experts found the physical health impacts in the vicinity to be minimal even without contrast: they put the cancer risk at rising to .002% and the risk of dying of cancer at rising to .001%. Some explanation is that radiation was largely taken by the ocean.
However, resisters in Japan say they are not so confident of what the long-term impacts are. One such person is Hisako Sakiyama, an opponent of nuclear power and also a former cancer-cell biologist at the National Institute of Radiology who told the Wall Street Journal that the studies being treated as “authoritative” have been taken into question by other studies.
The heat is not only on in the streets in Japan, but the heat is on literally and nuclear power usually contributes about a third of the country’s power but since the tragedy, there has been a conservation program. Last summer was hot, says Yamamoto, “some people struggled” and “it is hard but… we cannot go back to visit Fukushima anymore because it will [still have radiation for a long time].”
Three reactors have come on already this month starting with the Oi plant in the Osaka area.