Tens of thousands of protestors rallied in Tokyo on Monday as Japan moves to restart the country's nuclear reactors that were shut down following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster [IAEA backgrounder] last year. The peaceful antinuclear demonstration in Yoyogi park took place on Japan's national holiday, highlighting the nation's ongoing debate regarding nuclear power. Several such rallies have occurred since the unilateral decision last month by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda [BBC profile] to restart Japan's nuclear reactors. There have been weekly protests in front of the prime minister's office [NYT report], where organizers have cordoned off family-only zones to urge parents with children to participate. Earlier this month a Japanese expert panel issued a report claiming that the Fukushima disaster was preventable [JURIST report], arguing negligence rather than natural disaster was the main issue that led to the catastrophe. Before the Fukushima disaster nuclear power accounted for almost one-third of Japan's power supply.
In June more than 1,300 people filed a criminal complaint [JURIST report] against TEPCO for the March 2011 crisis and for the plaintiffs' resulting radiation. The complaint named as defendants Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of TEPCO, Masataka Shimizu, the former president of the company, and Haruki Madarame [Washington Times profiles], the chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission, along with 30 other executives. In March the executives of the company faced another complaint filed [JURIST report] by a group of shareholders in the amount of USD $67 billion for similar claims. They claimed that the company failed to prevent the March 2011 disaster by ignoring warning signs and failing to take appropriate measure to mitigate damages in the event of an earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The meltdown is considered one of the biggest man-made environmental disasters of all time and the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Japan has been criticized for its handling of the crisis, and international reception to nuclear energy has fallen sharply since the incident. In April 2011 Tamar Cerafici of the Cerafici Law Firm discussed how the Fukushima disaster should guide US policy [JURIST op-ed]. Last August Japanese lawmakers voted to create a fund to compensate victims [JURIST report].