Members of the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network
I moved from Tokyo to a dairy farm 10 kilometers from the Tomari Nuclear Power Station in 2001. Tomari Village is in the Shiribeshi region of Western Hokkaido. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and the sea, it is an idyllic pastoral setting. I was concerned about the nuclear power plant, but I thought of it as a necessary evil to counter the problem of aging and dwindling rural populations.
But then one day I read the word "pluthermal"1 in a newspaper article. It worried me, so I attended a public meeting, where the Hokkaido Electric Power Company explained the project, and the public debate that followed soon after. The more I looked into the issue, the more I realized that this "pluthermal" was a dreadful idea.
A fierce opposition campaign targeted the mayors of the four municipalities around the power plant, the governor of Hokkaido and Hokkaido Electric, but they all ignored the views of the local residents, saying that pluthermal was "national policy". The approval process has now reached the final stages and pluthermal is scheduled to be implemented within two years.
It was under these circumstances that like-minded people joined together to form the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network. The purpose of the network is to help people who are so used to the existing nuclear power station that they have given up hope of doing anything about it to understand what pluthermal is all about. Believing that knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, our campaign seeks to communicate through activities such as video screenings and public lectures. We have organizers in each region, who play a central role in organizing events in their region, in cooperation with the other organizers.
This year US President Obama declared America's commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons. He also recently cancelled the domestic component of the Bush Administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), the primary focus of which was commercial reprocessing. Meanwhile, the new US government has adopted a policy of introducing renewable energy on a large scale. Europe, of course, is already well advanced in the fields of wind and solar energy.
Japan too has made significant progress in photovoltaic cells. If there is explosive growth in this field, so that each household is able to produce its own electricity, we can hope for a time in the not too distant future when huge nuclear power plants will no longer be necessary. Even if it will take quite a while to achieve a phase out of nuclear energy, times are changing. By proclaiming this vision, the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network hopes to change people's perceptions.
It is said that Japan became a democracy after World War 2 ended. But Japanese civil society has not attained the level of awareness of Europe and America. That is because it is not a democracy that we won through our own efforts. We give up because we fatalistically believe that "national policy" is something that we just have to live with. This suits the politicians of course. The majority of people, especially in the provinces, pay homage to experts and don't debate issues. I too was one of those who shied away from taking action, but opposition to pluthermal shifted me from being an observer to being a participant. It took me 66 years to see the light, but now at last I am acting on my convictions.
There are many well-informed and experienced people in the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network. They have supported newcomers like me. They help us to understand that the real fight is ahead of us. Together we intend to struggle as long as it takes to achieve a phase out of nuclear power.
1. The term 'pluthermal' refers to the use of plutonium in thermal reactors (i.e. light water reactors), as opposed to in fast breeder reactors. The fuel is made from a mixed oxide of plutonium and uranium (MOX).
*Yoshiko Kobayashi is an organizer for the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network.
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