Anti-Nuke Who’s Who: Shizuko Senou – a Japanese housewife Joan of Arc Nuke Info Tokyo No. 89
Shizuko Senou: A Japanese Housewife Joan of Arc
by Seigo Nishie
A member of The Society for Seeking a Prefectural Ordinance to Say No! to Nuke Waste
Okayama prefecture is located west of Hiroshima prefecture, where the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. In 1981, tunnel testing was conducted in the limestone layers under Okayama. This testing was conducted for the purpose of high level radioactive waste disposal site selection. This was the first time people heard the term ‘high-level waste’ used. Since then, Mrs. Shizuko Senou has become one of the most active participants of the movement against geological disposal of high-level waste.
Two years after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, a power adjustment test (load following test) was scheduled to be implemented at the Ikata nuclear power station, owned by Shikoku Electric and located in Kagawa prefecture. Millions of petition signatures against the test were collected in a short time. In Okayama prefecture as well, a vigorous petition campaign took place, and Mrs. Senou was a central figure in this effort.
The granite layers in the Chugoku area where Okayama prefecture is located are 50 to 60 million years old and considered to be among the relatively stable geological structures in the Japanese archipelago. In 1985, there was a time when the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc (JAIF) attempted to take steps forward to implement boring inspections at several locations. However, due to opposition by local residents from surrounding cities and villages, the inspections were cancelled. In spite of this, however, many suspicious movements related to high-level waste disposal continued. Therefore, in May 1989, the main activists in Okayama gathered at Ningyotoge (location of Japan’s only uranium mine) where a serious discussion took place over the issue of unifying their movements. Finally, they decided to have one single movement in Okayama, instead of having separate movements in each city and village. It was Mrs. Senou who led the discussion for reaching this agreement.
Around the same time, national government and electric utility efforts to select a site for high-level waste disposal began to become more concrete. In October 1989, Ms Senou and her colleagues initiated preparations for a petition campaign seeking implementation of a prefectural ordinance rejecting the introduction of a disposal site. The petition movement started in the summer of 1990, and was limited by law to a three-month period. The petition spread very rapidly, and 340,000 signatures were collected out of a total 1.4 million voters, considerably surprising the prefectural assembly. In the history of prefectural administation, never before had such a large number of signatures been collected. Also, what was unique was that housewives led the effort. And Mrs. Senou, like a Joan of Arc, was always at the helm.
Although the proposal to put in place an ordinance to reject disposal siting was voted down due to opposition by the conservative party majority, following the extraordinary prefecture legislative session, the governor of Okayama stated, ‘I have no intention of introducing a facility which brings concern to my residents.’ His statement has become the official political commitment of Okayama prefecture.
Ten years have passed since the petition campaign. The “Prefectural Ordinance News” now in its 59th issue still continues to provide information on high-level waste issues. Every issue contains illustrations by Mrs. Senou. Owner of a sign board shop, and having had an artist (painter) as a father, she produces all the signs and placards for seminars and rallies of the movement. Mrs. Senou’s artistic skills have indeed always been a great asset to the movement. One can say she is the ‘mother’ of the Society Seeking a Prefectural Ordinance to Say No! to Nuke Waste. She is one of the important faces of the movement. She is a lively woman, but at the same time, her calm and clear-sighted judgment is widely acknowledged.