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Japanese protesters block radioatctive disaster debris sent to Kitakyushu

May 22, 2012

This photo uploaded to Twitter shows a group of people under a truck as it attempts to deliver radioactive wood to Kitakyushu from Miyagi (here)

Early on Tuesday a group of about 30 protesters tried to block 6 trucks with debris from the Tohoku region from being brought into Kitakysuhu, in Fukuoka prefecture.

The Japan Times reported that about 80 tonnes of radioactive wood left Miyagi. Numbers differ on the trucks, but it appears that 20 trucks have made a delivery to the Kitakyushu later on. Their cargo consisted of wood to be burnt in part of the government’s campaign to spread radioactive debris over the country and “help” Tohoku. The Japan Times also reported that the wood was measured at less than 100 Bq/kg and that “after examining radiation levels in the ash and the air around the two incineration plants” they would decide whether or not to accept more debris (here).

Preliminary measurement results, however, are already in –  just not from the government. “The survey meter went from 0.06 microsievert/hour or so to 0.612 microsievert/hour in about 2 and a half minutes,” reported Ex-Skf in reference to original data posted (here). If the numbers are correct that would raise questions about the safety and ethics of burning radioactive wood (reported to be ceasuim-137) in an area close to large numbers of people.

In an act of defiance by Japanese activists in a society known for just following orders, a number of people attached themselves to the underside of a truck in an attempt to stop the shipment of wood. They succeeded in delaying the trucks for about hours.

This protest has not received a lot of attention by the English media, though there have been a few articles in the Japanese press. To date it is known that at least two individuals associated with the protest have been arrested allegedly for “attacking the police,” though reports are sketchy at this time and the charge is ambiguous (see here).

This banner reads “No to radioactive debris.” Source: Kyodo.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Kitakyushu government will agree to accept more disaster debris. The previous vote the Assembly was unanimous in favour of the debris, though it is clear that there is public opposition to the move. Thirty protesters may not seem like a lot to most foreigners or those not familiar with Japan. If thirty people, however, are willing to publicly protest government policy, it is because they are among the few with the courage to stand up to a government – rightly or wrongly – that promotes a “consensus society.” It is also an indication that there are many more in the society that share these views but who, for one reason or another, do not come forward to protest.

The Japanese government wants to burn radioactive debris all over Japan and been pressuring all areas to accept it. Many Japanese people are opposed to the plans, though not all. There are even plans to ship debris abroad to Saipan. Plans to use debris in a festival last year caused a firestorm of criticism and proponents and opponents of the plan went public on the matter.

Civis Journal

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