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Protesters mark Fukushima disaster

Dozens of people are protesting against nuclear power f ollowing the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The crowd of around 50 protesters gathered at Hyde Park Corner before marching past the Japanese Embassy and one of the buildings housing the Tokyo Electric Company and ending near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

The organisers hope today's march will send a message to people warning of the dangers of nuclear power as well as remembering the victims of the Fukushima disaster on March 11, 2011.

One of the organisers, David Polden, said: "We're here because it's the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. We're trying to remember the victims and point out that the damage is still continuing with water (used to cool reactors) flowing into the Pacific and the main buildings are in a very bad state.

"It's still very dangerous. There are spent fuel rods at the top of the roofs (of reactors) and if the building collapses, it would be terrible and it would let out their radioactive contents."

Protesters held placards and banners calling for "no nuclear power", "protect mountains, rivers" and "no new nukes" with signs in English, French and Japanese.

Mr Polden, a London region worker for CND, added: "They're (the Tokyo Electric Company who owns the Fukushima plant) taking the rods out now, and we haven't heard any problems yet.

"The message we want to send is stop nuclear. There are plans in Japan to reopen nuclear power stations but the majority of Japanese people are against them and there are plans for power stations here in the UK."

He added that the danger of nuclear power was illustrated by the Chernobyl, Fukushima and the Three Mile Island disasters.

As the march continued, the crowd chanted "no more nuclear" and "no more Fukushima" and more people joined including the Bromley branch of the Green Party. Numbers grew to more than 100 as they passed the Ritz Hotel in London.

Margaret Toomey, a member of Bromley and Bexley Green Party, who has been giving out leaflets for campaign group Japanese Against Nuclear UK for the past 18 months, said: "We're here today because it's the third anniversary.

"The four nuclear reactors are emitting 400 tonnes (of dangerous waste) per day into the North Pacific and the company is using poor people to try and repair the nuclear reactors but things are the same as they were three years ago. There was another leak three weeks ago in a storeroom. That waste was pushed into the North Pacific."

During the march, there were individuals dressed as nuclear waste barrels which they hoped would highlight the fact that nuclear power created nuclear waste.

Curious onlookers on Piccadilly Road were accosted by some of the marchers explaining the purpose of the march and handing out leaflets.

As the march continued towards Piccadilly Circus, the fluorescent yellow banners and flags dominated the road and tourists looked on with amazement.

Members of the public who took leaflets could be heard agreeing that change was needed with regards to attitudes towards nuclear power.

Leaflets produced by Japanese Against Nuclear UK (JAN) gave a winter update about deadly spent fuel rods being removed from reactor number four at Fukushima.

According to JAN, 1,553 bundles of rods have to be removed which will take a year to complete if the rate of 44 bundles a week continues.

But the leaflet warns: "And if something 'unfortunate' does happen, it is quite likely to lead to Tokyo having to be abandoned, and a few million extra cancer cases around the world."

A Japanese marcher said it was important to say no to nuclear everywhere and said it was not the "right decision" in the UK to have nuclear plants.

Atsuko Kamura, a member of JAN, said: "We're calling on the Japanese government to take appropriate measures at Fukushima.

"It's a complicated issue and it's not solved yet. According to German magazine, Der Spiegel, within seven years seafood from around the area cannot be eaten."

Ms Kamura added the Japanese government was "manipulating" the media in the country "to cover up the dangers" still in Fukushima and as a result Japanese people did not know how dangerous the situation was.

"The media is very quiet and poor people have had to go back" to homes near the plant, she said.

The march stopped for a few minutes outside Downing Street and protesters used megaphones to tell the Prime Minister to say no to nuclear power.

The protesters then continued towards Parliament Square, shouting "Green energy now", where there will be a rally with speeches by individuals including fashion designer Katherine Hamnett.

They also made sounds using wooden spoons and metal bowls and crowd numbers grew to nearly 150 as the rally neared the square.

At one point during the march as protesters passed the Houses of Parliament, they passed a much smaller group of English Volunteer Force (EVF) members marching.

A couple of men amongst the EVF march shouted: "Nuclear is cheaper than coal and oil."

The march ended at Palace Yard though protesters said the rally would perhaps end early because another protest was on its way.

Amongst the protesters were Hare Krishna volunteers serving food ahead of the start of speeches.

A spokesman for JAN started the speeches at Palace Yard.

Shigeo Kobayashi said decisions about nuclear energy were made on the basis of politics and economics rather than people and safety.

"Companies have large profits but when things go wrong, society and people deal with damage and losses. In Japan, families have been broken up and children cannot play outside because radiation levels are too high. The people that are paying the price are the Japanese people dealing with the contaminated area.

"But looking at the real world, evidence shows the frequency of nuclear meltdowns are once a decade and still the nuclear industry uses the same probability procedures that were proven wrong."

He added the world was still running more than 400 dangerous nuclear reactors and continues to build dozens of reactors leaving millions of people are at risk.

He concluded his speech saying: "Nuclear energy is not a necessary evil. Safer and cleaner energy solutions exist, they are only a matter of political choice. This is why we shouldn't forget Fukushima. We just remember, learn and act to build a better world."

Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett gave a speech and said she had been campaigning for the truth to be told about the catastrophe in Fukushima since the disaster.

Ms Hamnett called on the crowd to change the current political system. She said: "I'm calling for a devolution where we have everything decided by referendum and a government like the government of Switzerland. We can do it, and we can do it quite simply."

She explained the internet could be used for voting and those without internet could attend a centre as they usually might.

She criticised the Government and said: "This country, I'm sure like Japan, could be run better by the local chip shop. We have to change our political system as it's unfit for the 21st century."

She concluded: "Direct democracy, let's have it now, before it's too late."

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, began by praising the crowd for their protest before she looked up to the sun and said: "We have a source of energy up there that is much much safer."

She spoke of her fears about the impact of nuclear energy in the UK and said: "Since the anniversary, I have been reflecting on realities. The disaster made 340,000 nuclear refugees. We don't want to see the same thing happening to British cities like Bristol or Cardiff.

"What they're facing in Japan is a 40-year clean-up. It's a reminder of the risk that we must not accept.

"The cost - the human and environmental cost - is enormous. And so is the economic cost. Those costs could have been put to better use on renewable energy."


From Belfast Telegraph