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Beginning of the end for nuclear power in Japan?

Problems in stabilizing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have hardened attitudes: More than 80 percent of Japanese now say they are antinuclear and distrust government information on radiation.

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People protest against nuclear plants in front of the Fukushima governor's office where the offsite crisis management center is located, in Fukushima, northeastern Japan, on Sunday, June 19. Banners read: 'Stop nuclear power plants.'

Kyodo News/AP

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The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may spell the end of nuclear power in resource-poor Japan, as citizen opposition grows and local authorities refuse permission to restart reactors that have undergone safety checks.

Following the latest setback in the operation to stabilize reactors at the plant over the weekend, when a new system for removing radioactivity from cooling water had to be shut down shortly after it came online, Tokyo Electric Power Company’s road map for a complete cold shutdown by January looks increasingly unachievable.

The continued inability of TEPCO to bring the situation at Fukushima under control – three months after the incident began – is hardening attitudes against nuclear power in Japan. Recent opinion polls conducted by Japanese news agencies have found between 75 and 80 percent of Japanese people are now in favor of scrapping all of Japan’s 54 reactors. This represents a sea change of opinion. Before the current crisis, most people accepted the nuclear industry and government line that Japan – with almost no fossil fuel energy resources of its own – had no choice but to rely on atomic energy despite the potential danger posed by earthquakes.

One of the polls also found that more than 80 percent of Japanese no longer trust TEPCO or government information on the Fukushima crisis.

“Very few people around here believe what TEPCO says; it’s not just the Fukushima accident this time, they have a history of covering things up and bullying people who speak out against them,” said Norihiro Endo, a company president from Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima, 60 miles from the plant. “And the government gets most of its information on Fukushima from TEPCO, so it’s difficult to trust what they are saying too.”

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