Japan mourns 2011 disaster as nuclear support
Japanese offered tearful prayers Saturday on the anniversary of the deadly tsunami that triggered the Fukushima disaster, but public support for nuclear power is growing as memories of the 2011 meltdown fade.
A minute’s silence was observed nationwide at 2:46 pm (0546 GMT), the precise moment when a 9.0-magnitude quake — the fourth strongest in Earth’s recorded history — devastated northeastern Japan 12 years ago.
The undersea quake unleashed a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing and overwhelmed cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading to the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.
All of Japan’s nuclear reactors were taken offline after the disaster and the majority remain out of action today.
But the global energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine has caused electricity bills to soar in Japan, inspiring a government push to reboot reactors as polls show that public views on nuclear power are softening.
On Saturday, TV footage showed people who lost loved ones to the tsunami laying flowers, offering prayers and bowing in front of graves.
“Hi guys, it’s been 12 years,” public broadcaster NHK showed Fumiko Sugawara, 73, telling the grave of her family members, including her husband.
“We’re surviving, so please watch over us,” said the resident of Kesennuma, a city flattened when huge waves rushed ashore.
No deaths have been directly ascribed to the nuclear accident, after which around 165,000 people fled their homes in the area either voluntarily or under evacuation orders.
Most areas around the plant have since been declared safe after extensive decontamination work, but many former residents have chosen not to return.
With Japan now facing its most severe energy crunch in decades, the government wants to speed up the revival of its nuclear industry.