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For the past 4 months a group of activists have occupied a corner at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to protest nuclear energy in Japan. They have been told to move out today.
Global civic organization Avaaz.org yesterday sent out e-mails yesterday that METI officials are set to move in at 7pm today to clear the tents, so I went and had a talk with the activists. They told me that Avaaz.org is exaggerating the situation a bit.
METI Minister Yukio Edano has indeed urged the activists to leave the site. Ostensibly because of a small fire caused last month by a gasoline-powered generator the activists use.
“We’ve been trying to give the utmost respect to their political activities, but we need to prevent fires from occurring. This was a difficult decision,” said Edano.
However, Edano has also said that he will not forcibly remove the activists, who have already said they will not move.
Although a press conference will be held at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations today followed by a demonstration at the tent occupation, the activists were pretty cavalier about the whole thing. “We are not going anywhere,” they told me with a relaxed smile.
Interestingly, I was also told that in the more than four months of protest, only one Japanese TV news show has covered their action…
On a side note, the No. 5 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture was taken offline for scheduled maintenance and inspections this week. Tepco’s remaining reactors will all be offline by the end of March for repairs and safety checks.
Among Japan’s 54 commercial reactors, only three not operated by Tepco are currently in operation. These are the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido Prefecture, the No. 3 reactor at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 2 reactor at the Shimane plant.
All of these will go offline by May for scheduled maintenance. Due to the many civic protests, reactors that are currently off-line can possibly not be switched back on soon. Japan may have a nuclear energy free summer this year.