Group Introduction Niigata Women Thinking about Life and Nuclear Energy Nuke Info Tokyo No. 135

By Mie Kuwabara*

Third meeting of Niigata Women Thinking about Life and Nuclear Energy

Fifty kilometers away in Niigata City interest in the damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station caused by the July 16, 2007 Chuetsu-oki Earthquake is not very great. But distance is not the only reason for the lack of interest. The manipulation of public opinion by the government and the electric power companies is deeply rooted in society.On the other hand, the Prefectural Government set up its own committees to scrutinize Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) inspections and opened these committees’ deliberations to the public. The Prefectural Government took this initiative based on its belief in the need to create a safe society in which residents have access to information and are free from anxiety about accidents and other problems. However, the number of people who can observe the proceedings is limited. Furthermore, the deliberations are full of technical jargon, so it is very difficult for ordinary people to understand what is being said. The vocabulary used in meetings hosted by anti-nuclear energy groups is also very difficult and, therefore, it is very hard to ask questions.

Residents are unable to think about issues that they can’t understand, so most of them have concluded that they have no choice but to leave it to the experts. However, the majority of these experts are compliant academics, who automatically fall in line with the wishes of the government and TEPCO. There are even some who say that the question of whether or not residents should be free from anxiety is a secondary issue.

But we cannot just dismiss as “incomprehensible” or “too hard” an issue that directly impacts our lives. We need to enable people to think about nuclear energy by learning and talking about it in everyday language. The aim of Niigata Women Thinking about Life and Nuclear Energy is to create a forum in Niigata City where people can learn and exchange ideas about nuclear energy in a relaxed fashion. We want people to feel free to ask any questions they like.

We have held three study and exchange meetings since April 2009. Under the catch phrase “easy to understand, easy to ask questions and fun”, we have taken a creative approached to the meetings. In the first meeting we exchanged views with women from Kariwa Village, the site of the nuclear power plant. In the second meeting we created a mock law court and debated the issue of “climate change and nuclear energy”. Members of the audience were the jury, while group members played the roles of judge, plaintiff (the earth), defendant (nuclear power) and lawyers. It was a great success. We later handed a submission based on the many points raised during the discussion to the prefectural office responsible.

In the third meeting we took up the issue of worker exposure to radiation. The keynote speaker was CNIC staff member, Mikiko Watanabe. Participants learnt about the roots of “the peaceful use of nuclear energy” by playing the roles of four historical figures, including President Eisenhower. We are currently planning the theme of our fourth meeting, which we will hold at the end of April this year.

We believe that by enabling people who are now silent to raise their voices we can help put a break on the uncontrolled promotion of nuclear power. We want to encourage people to speak out about the problems of nuclear power, including the lack of any solution to the problem of nuclear waste and the daily radiation exposure of nuclear power workers.

There are just six of us and we are all over 60, but we intend to continue to shine a light in the nuclear darkness of Niigata.

*Mie Kuwabara is a member of Niigata Women Thinking about Life and Nuclear Energy. She knows what it means to win, having played a leading role in the movement that forced the Tohoku Electric Power Company to abandon its plan to build a nuclear power plant in Maki Village, Niigata Prefecture (see NIT 98).

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