08/11/2015, 00.00
JAPAN
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Japan reactivates nuclear plants four years on from Fukushima

The 2011 disaster prompted the government to shutdown reactors completely in September 2013. The cost of energy and the need to restart industrial production behind current government decision. "New and stricter rules" in place, which according to Prime Minister Abe will "avoid a new tragedy". The Catholic Church opposed: "Let's face our limitations, and those of science."

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Four years after the Fukushimadisaster, this morning in Sendai a nuclear power plant reactivated its reactor. The last atomic energy generator had finished operations two years ago, following a progressive "denuclearization" of the country.

About 200 people, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, gathered outside the plant to protest. The government, now led by Shinzo Abe, instead tried to reassure the population: "With the new and more stringent rules in force – claimed the current prime minister - we'll never get even close to what happened in March 2011".

Kyushu Electric Power turned on its Sendai reactor at 10.30am. The first production of energy is scheduled for August 14, while full capacity will be reached in early September 2015. The resumption of business operations is also scheduled for September. The president of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, said that the authorization was granted following the highest safety standards, which cost about 100 million US dollars.

The official, in an interview with Nikkei newspaper, said: “A disaster like that at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will not occur. We can not speak of absolute security, but any crisis can be brought under control before approaching to dangerous levelsagain . "

On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake shook the eastern coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami that forced 470 thousand people to evacuate their homes. Approximately 16 thousand people died immediately after the tragedy (thousands more disappeared), but the number of victims continues to rise because of the damage to the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, which resulted in a deadly radiation leak. According to government figures there were 15,884 confirmed victims: 2,636 others "disappeared".  While police believe it impossible that they are still alive they must remain in this category until the discovery of their corpses.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, public opinion forced the government to close all reactors. At the time, a quarter of the energy needs of Japan came from low cost nuclear power. In an attempt to limit the economic damage, Tokyo retained some power plants active until September 2013. With the shutdown of the last two, energy costs soared and industrial activity suffered. Added to this was the devaluation of the yen, which dragged the Land of the Rising Sun intto recession.

According to experts, the benefits of the resumption of nuclear operations will be seen in about six months time. But public opinion opposes the decision. Speaking to the demonstrators gathered this morning in Sendai, the former Prime Minister Naoto Kan (in office in 2011) said: "We do not need nuclear power. The Fukushima disaster has exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive"

The Catholic Church is also staunchly opposed to this choice. On several occasions the bishops have appealed to the government to find alternatives to nuclear power, and in a reflection published on AsiaNews, the bishop of Niigata Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi emphasized that "this is the result of the terrible secularisation in Japanese society. We thought that human being are able to control everything in this world with our technology and in such situation, God was not needed any more. "

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