TOKYO, Sept. 14 (Kyodo) — An estimated 8,000 people took to the streets Saturday in Tokyo to protest against the resumption of any nuclear power plants, as the only operating reactor was set to be shutdown the next day, leaving none functioning for the second time since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
On Sunday, a reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, western Japan -- the country's sole operating reactor since earlier this month -- will be taken offline for a routine checkup, leaving all of the country's 50 commercial reactors suspended for the first time in about 14 months.
But as the country's nuclear regulators are considering whether some nuclear power plants are safe enough to resume operating, demonstrators marched through streets in the capital's Koto Ward and nearby areas after attending an anti-nuclear rally organized by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe.
"We want to keep telling what is happening at Fukushima even though everybody is talking about the Olympics," Oe told the protest rally. "Let's hand down an environment in which children can live without fear."
Another speaker, the writer Keiko Ochiai, posed a question about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's remark last week to the International Olympic Committee, just before it voted to grant the 2020 Summer Olympics to Tokyo, saying of Fukushima that "the situation is under control." "Can you say the situation is under control even though contaminated water keeps leaking?" Ochiai asked.
As an evacuee from Fukushima Prefecture, Katsumi Hasegawa, whose family has voluntarily moved from the city of Koriyama outside the evacuation zone to a city in Shizuoka Prefecture near Mt. Fuji, said, "With the future of my children tainted, I have realized that radiation and human beings cannot coexist."
Halting of the Oi plant's No. 4 reactor on Sunday follows the shutdown of the plant's No. 3 reactor on Sept. 2 for checkups. Their reactivation in July last year ended a two-month period when Japan had no nuclear power supply for the first time in more than 40 years in the aftermath of the March 2011 reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.