Monday, August 6, 2012

Nuclear fears focus attention on Hiroshima anniversary

TOKYO, August 6, 2012

Interest in the anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the western Japanese city of Hiroshima was heightened on Monday amid growing public frustration with the country's decision to restart atomic reactors after last year's nuclear accident.

Most participants at the 67th anniversary commemorations expressed their opposition to nuclear power generation. Those attending also included people who once lived near a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture in north-eastern Japan that was the site of the 2011 meltdowns of three reactors.

Such attendees included Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie town, all of whose residents were forced to leave after the accident.

About 50,000 people attended the observance in Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, Hiroshima's city government said. Mayor Kazumi Matsui called for the elimination of nuclear weapons at the ceremony.

"We pledge to convey to the world the experiences and desires of our atomic-bomb sufferers and do everything in our power to achieve the genuine peace of a world without nuclear weapons," the mayor said.

The anniversary came a month after the Kansai Electric Power Co restarted a reactor at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant, the first reactivation since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which went into meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

All 50 of the nation's reactors had been shut down in the wake of the accident for maintenance or inspections. The Oi reactor had been the only one to be in operation until Kansai restarted a second reactor at the same plant in mid-July.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave his go-ahead for the restarts despite mounting public fears of atomic power and experts' warnings of fault lines under the complex.

Hiroshima was the target of the first nuclear weapon to be used against human beings. A US B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb August 6, 1945, annihilating the city. By the end of that year, about 140,000 people had died because of the bomb.
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