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Saturday, June 30, 2012
Protest rally against Noda, Oi reactor restarts intensifies
As Kansai Electric Power Co. prepares to fire up a reactor at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture on Sunday, a massive crowd gathered in central Tokyo to express their anger toward the government and the utility.
The protest outside the prime minister's office has become a weekly event in the past few months, with the number of participants increasing each time.
"The best we Tokyo residents can do is to protest in front of the prime minister's office, although this is really a last-minute action," Misao Redwolf, one of the protest organizers, told reporters.
The organizers said the rally a week earlier drew 45,000 people, while police said there were about 11,000 protesters. On Friday, organizers were aiming for a gathering of 100,000 people.
Given the increasing number of participants, the police heightened security by stationing hundreds of officers there. It was the tightest security for a public protest in several decades, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.
The protest on Friday, which began at 6 p.m., saw a huge crowd gather beforehand, with participants calling on the government and Kepco not to restart the reactors. Organizers said around 200,000 people took part, while police said participants were in the tens of thousands.
"I think it's outrageous to restart (the Oi reactors) when the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident has not even been contained," said protester Kazumi Honda, a housewife in her 40s from Minami Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture.
Honda said she lives just 60 km from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant and thus could not ignore the Oi reactors' situation, especially when their safety status is still tentative, as the government admits.
Honda said she has participated in other protests but never before in Tokyo.
The number of protesters kept swelling as time passed, and the line of people expanded a few blocks from the prime minister's office. Participants were chanting, "No to the restarts!"
The situation in front of the prime minister's office became a bit chaotic after 7 p.m., when the crowd swelled from the sidewalks onto the street and blocked traffic.
The protests have been organized by a network of antinuclear groups. The first rally in March drew only about 300 people.
The numbers rose sharply after Noda formally announced June 8 the government would allow the restart of two reactors at the Oi plant. People have been expressing their anger more visibly, the organizers said.
Tepco recordings sought
A group of Tepco shareholders filed Friday for the preservation of sound and visual recordings of the firm's teleconferences between its headquarters and the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The petition was filed with the Tokyo District Court in connection with their class-action lawsuit, in which the 42 shareholders of Tokyo Electric Power Co. are demanding that 27 former and current executives, including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, pay ¥5.5045 trillion in total damages to Tepco.
The shareholders want recordings for the period from the start of the crisis March 11, 2011, through the rest of that month, as well as documents based on their transcripts.
According to the written petition, Tepco shared information with a task force in its earthquake-proof building at the plant and its off-site emergency response center through the teleconference system, and senior company officials discussed ways to deal with the crisis.
Tepco has refused to disclose the recordings through March 30, saying they are internal records.
The shareholders argue that the recordings are indispensable for confirming the defendants' responsibilities.