Japan to restart nuclear reactor

Dozens of protesters raised slogans and danced at the gate of a nuclear power plant set to restart on Sunday, the first one to go back online since all of Japan's nuclear reactors were shut down for safety checks in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Ohi nuclear plant's reactor No. 3 is returning to operation despite a deep divide in public opinion. Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restarts of reactors No. 3 and nearby No. 4, saying people's living standards can't be maintained without nuclear energy. Many citizens are against a return to nuclear power because of safety fears after Fukushima.

Crowds of tens of thousands of people have gathered on Friday evenings around Noda's official residence, chanting, ‘Saikado hantai,’ or ‘No to nuclear restarts'. Protests drawing such numbers are extremely rare in this nation, reputed for orderly docility and conformity. A demonstration in Tokyo protesting the restart and demanding Noda resign was being organized in a major park on Sunday.

Although initially ignored by mainstream local media, demonstrations across the country have grown, as word gets out through social media, sometimes drawing Japanese celebrities, including Nobel prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe and Ryuichi Sakamoto, who composed the score for Last Emperor.

All 50 of Japan's working reactors were gradually turned off in the wake of last year's earthquake and tsunami, which sent Fukushima Daiichi plant into multiple meltdowns, setting off the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. But worries about a power crunch over the summer months have been growing.
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