Burke County event remembers Japan nuclear disaster

Japanese author and anti-nuclear activist Shoji Kihara at the "Day of remembrance and warning," near Plant Vogtle.

Even though Japanese author and antinuclear activist Shoji Kihara had been asked to speak for at least 10,000 people in Hiroshima in honor of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, he decided to pre-record the speech and head to Waynesboro, Ga., because he felt it was more important to participate in the “Day of Remembrance & Warning” outside Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church near Plant Vogtle.

Speaking through a translator, Kihara said people in Japan are watching Vogtle very closely. He thinks its fate will have direct ties to the future of nuclear plants worldwide.

“It is unbelievable to me that Plant Vogtle was approved so close after Fukushima,” he said. “Stopping Vogtle will eliminate the revival of nuclear energy in Japan.”

A divided Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month approved the first-ever combined operating license that authorizes both construction and operation of two reactors at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle.

The event, attended by more than 70 people, was organized by Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, or WAND, and a few other groups and was held from 2 to 6 p.m. a few miles from Plant Vogtle. WAND member Courtney Hanson said the purpose of the event was not specifically to protest the plant, but mostly to remember the victims on the anniversary of Fukushima and stand with the Georgia community that is most affected by nuclear power.

“New nuclear power and jobs are important,” she said.

People from across Georgia were in attendance, some coming by bus from Atlanta and north Georgia. Some were there to protest the plant, others to learn more about it.

For Annie Laura Stephens, a member of Fairfield Missionary Baptist and WAND, and whose family has owned property in the area since the early 1900s, the day was about remembrance and to learn more about the plant that appeared in the 1980s. After attending a meeting a while back where she learned about the high cancer rates in the area, and realizing most of her family has died from cancer, she wanted to make sure she was educated.

“I realized I am in the middle of something much bigger than I am,” she said.

Kihara, whose parents and older sister were Hiroshima bomb victims, said even a year later, there are still many people living in shelters outside Fukushima. Thousands of families have been displaced, and there is no telling if and when they will be allowed to return. Authorities are just starting the work to try to clean out the radiation, but there are so many hot spots, the process is very slow.

“I’m very worried the (Plant Vogtle) projects will give people in Japan fuel to revive nuclear energy,” he said.

Although he admits he does not have the power or connections to stop Vogtle himself, Kihara said he will take what he learns about the project back to Japan, where he will continue his mission.

 

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