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Ten years on, Japan set to honour victims of earthquake, Fukushima nuclear disaster

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan was set on Thursday to honour nearly 20,000 victims of a massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan 10 years ago, destroying towns and triggering nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were slated to mourn the dead at a commemorative anniversary ceremony in Tokyo while several other events were planned across northeastern Japan, which was most badly hit by the tremor.

An onslaught of waves triggered by the 9.0-magnitude quake -one of the strongest on record – crashed into the northeastern coast, crippling the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. More than 160,000 residents fled as radiation spewed into the air.

The government has spent about $300 billion (32.1 trillion yen) to rebuild the tsunami-devastated Tohoku region, but areas around the Fukushima plant remain off-limits, worries about radiation levels linger and many who left have settled elsewhere. Decommissioning of the crippled plant will take decades and billions of dollars.

The disaster has also left survivors in Tohoku struggling to overcome the grief of losing families and whole communities to the waves in a few frightening hours on the afternoon of March 11, 2011.

Japan is again debating the role of nuclear power in its energy mix as the resource-poor country aims to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050 to fight global warming. But an NHK public TV survey showed 85% of the public worries about nuclear accidents.

The mass demonstrations against nuclear power seen in the wake of 3/11 have faded, but distrust lingers. Some antinuclear activists are planning demonstrations in front of the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power, for Thursday night.

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Only nine of Japan’s 33 remaining commercial reactors have been approved for restarts under post-Fukushima safety standards and only four are operating, compared with 54 before the disaster.

Nuclear power supplied just 6% of Japan’s energy needs in the first half of 2020 compared with 23.1% for renewable sources – far behind Germany’s 46.3% – and nearly 70% for fossil fuels.

Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski. Editing by Gerry Doyle

https://static.reuters.com/resources/r/?m=02&d=20210311&t=2&i=1554464717&r=LYNXMPEH2A00L&w=800

Source: Reuters

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