Chizuko’s Blog No.41

February 2nd, 2013

There ARE “People Who Will Not Let Nuclear Plants Be Built”

I’m writing book reviews for Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun (Kumamoto Daily News). This time I’m introducing a new book by Shin Yamaaki, who is the chief of W-WAN, a subgroup of WAN, and also a planning member of the Nuclear Free Now conference held in Tokyo and Koriyama at the end of 2012. At the conference she co-organized the “Make Your Everyday Ambiguous Dissatisfaction into Political Issues” project with Greenpeace.

 “People Who Will Not Let Nuclear Plants Be Built
--- From Iwaishima To the Future ---“
Written by Shin Yamaaki
(Iwanami Shoten, 21/12/2012)

Book Review: “People Who Will Not Let Nuclear Plants Be Built”

30 Years since the Building Plan --- A Document of Resistance of Iwaishima

I knew that there were 54 nuclear plants in Japan. Since the first plant was built in Tokaimura village, Japan’s nuclear plants have increased at a pace of two plants a year, but their actual building sites are limited to the 17 places that were chosen in the 1970s. In the other 30 places which the authorities picked out as potential locations after that period, no nuclear plants have ever been built. The reason is because the local people resisted and held out. This is what I learned from reading this book. I also learned why there are places like Fukushima and Tsuruga, where a string of plants are located and therefore called “Genpatsu [=Nuke] Ginza,” and how the government’s grant system works -- one more plant means one more pile of subsidy money and the locals tend to get addicted to it. All these revelations opened my eyes to the reality.

The author Yamaaki is a freelance writer, who wrote the book “A Test of Local Autonomy -- 13 Years in a Proxy War Against Nuclear Power for the Citizens of Suzu City, Noto Peninsula,” (Katsura Shobo)  [Buy this book: jump to an Amazon page] In this book Yamaaki closely covers the protest campaigns of the Suzu citizens who refused to allow the building of a nuclear power plant. She was awarded the Matsui Yayori Journalist Award and the Arai Namiko Award for the book.

On Noto Peninsula there is a nuclear plant in Shika Town, but not in Suzu City. On Kii Peninsula, Japan’s largest peninsula, which is located centrally, there are none. This is because people there refused to accept the plant building plans in Wakayama and Mie Prefectures. You can read the details in the book  “A Record of the Continued Refusal of Wakayama to Allow a Nuclear Power Plant” (Jurousha).  [Buy this book: jump to an Amazon page]   There sure were people who chose not to live with nuclear plants. Can we claim innocence for ourselves just by saying, “We were tricked,” or, “We believed in the state”?

Yamaaki’s latest book consists of reports from the island of Iwaishima, which had been the biggest nuclear issue up until 3/11, the Great East Japan Earthquake. This book documents 30 years of resistance since a plan emerged to build a nuclear plant in Tanoura of Kaminoseki Town located on the opposite shore, just 4 kilometers from Iwaishima. Instinct told the islanders that there must be something behind it, when the authorities say, "We’ll give you money to let us build a plant." And they were right. Yamaaki quotes the words of the late Masahiro Tachibana, a Buddhist monk in Tsuruga City, who said “Five, or perhaps 10 more years of resistance will force the plant plan to financial ruin. Hold on 10 more years.” Yes, there was financial ruin, but at too big a cost with the Fukushima disaster.

Yamaaki vividly presents the voices of the men and women of Iwaishima in her chronological document. The most powerful were those of the obachan [=elderly women]. They said, “We put men aside. Women are stronger --- that was what we noticed once we started [the campaign].” The battle against nuclear plants is one against money. In the process of all those conciliatory approaches by Chugoku Electric Power, Iwaishima Fisheries Cooperative Association refused to take the compensation of 1.1 billion yen for fisheries, the kind of money which the other fishery associations accepted. What helped them stick to their position to the end was also the power of the obachan, who said “Anybody who’s got money won’t be able to speak freely.“ When you accept the money, you are selling out the sea. A fisherman said, “The sea doesn’t belong to somebody. This is everybody’s sea. So all of us have to protect it.”

Chugoku Electric Power got the ball rolling in the name of research in 2005, and “began” landfill works in 2009. The situation became tense, and signaled the beginning of the battle on the land and at sea. Sit-in demonstrations, protests by fishing boats, actions by kayak troops, and so on. What happened in February 2011 was almost a naval combat. Yamaaki’s skillful pen reports the scenes as if it were exciting live coverage. Even during the dangerous sea campaign there were no casualties, probably thanks to the locals’ masterly seamanship, which has been a tradition of the islanders since the Middle Ages. The Iwaishima islanders are a proud people who do not take orders.

The once suspended plan of the Kaminoseki plants, due to the Fukushima accident, is now in an unpredictable situation following the change of administration. How huge a price does this country need to pay to learn its lesson?


(appeared first in Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun, January 6, 2013)

Translated by A. Tawara

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