Greenpeace activists march in the "Energy Shift Parade" through Shibuya on the three-month anniversary of the East Japan earthquake disaster and the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis. Greenpeace and the people of Japan are marching in protest against nuclear energy, and calling on the Japanese government to follow the lead set by Germany and Switzerland, and abandon nuclear energy to focus on clean, renewable technology.06/11/2011

With tomorrow’s scheduled shutdown of Japan’s Tomari nuclear power plant the country will be free from nuclear power for the first time since 1966. Can it seize this historic opportunity? Here at Greenpeace we believe it can.

All of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors will be offline. Now, the country’s government must learn from its mistakes of the past, listen to its people and scientists, keep reactors offline, and usher in Japan’s renewable and sustainable future. History is within their grasp.

There will never be a better time. Since the terrible events of March 11 last year when an earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan has shown that nuclear power can be abandoned quickly and with an invisible impact on people’s daily lives.  The Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano has said there will be no restrictions on electricity use or rolling blackouts.  

The operator of the destroyed Fukushima reactors, Tokyo Electric Power added “for the electricity supply and demand in the foreseeable future, we expect to maintain stable supply.” If there are electricity shortages this summer it will be the fault of the government who instead of properly planning energy conservation and pouring resources into renewables have been obsessed with restarting Japan’s discredited nuclear reactors as fast as possible.

So why is the government frantically trying to restart the country’s reactors without the consent of the people living nearby? Why should the people of Japan suffer more nuclear risks? The country’s nuclear reactors and infrastructure are in no state to withstand another major earthquake that experts warn is almost inevitable.

The nuclear industry is clearly terrified that if Japan sees it can live without this dangerous and expensive technology then it’s game over for them. The fantastic example being set by Japan can only encourage other countries to follow suit.

(The truth is there in black and white. Last week French nuclear giant AREVA released its revenue figures for the first three months of 2012. The company says that “order cancellations as a result of the Fukushima accident” have cost it 612 million euros. Its Nuclear Reactors and Services Business Group’s revenue increased by just 5.8%. It’s Renewable Energies Business Group’s revenue is up by a massive 198%.)

Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution scenario for Japan, released in September 2011, shows that the country can leave all of its nuclear plants offline permanently and still meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets via energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the smart management of the demand for energy.

The path to the future stretches out before the Japanese government. It can turn back or step forward. To abandon nuclear power and fully embrace renewable energy would take just a fraction of the courage shown by the Japanese people since March 11 2011. Those who have suffered in the last year and continue to suffer today deserve nothing less.

(Photograph © Greenpeace)