Nagasaki calls for shift from nuclear to renewables

The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Tuesday called for a shift away from nuclear power to renewables as it commemorated the 66th anniversary of its atomic bombing at the end of World War II.

Mayor Tomihisa Taue said Japan must develop safer alternative energies such as solar, wind and biomass following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March in the world’s worst atomic accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

“This March, we were astounded by the severity of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station,” Taue said at a ceremony held near the spot where the US military dropped its plutonium bomb.

“As the people of a nation that has experienced nuclear devastation, we have continued the plea of ‘No More Hibakusha!’,” he said in his ‘peace declaration’ speech, using the Japanese word for the WWII radiation victims.

“How has it happened that we are threatened once again by the fear of radiation? Have we lost our awe of nature? Have we become overconfident in the control we wield as human beings?”

Until the March 11 disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for about 30 percent of its energy needs and had planned to boost that to 50 percent by 2030, but environmental activists have since called for a review of that plan.

Five months since the quake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima nuclear disaster, only 16 of Japan’s 54 reactors are operational, with most of the closed plants now undergoing safety checks.

More nuclear plants are due to go offline for regular checks and maintenance in coming months, while many regional governments that host atomic power stations have been unwilling to approve reactor restarts.

Taue said that “no matter how long it will take, it is necessary to promote the development of renewable energies in place of nuclear power in a bid to transform ourselves into a society with a safer energy base.”

The mayor’s message echoed that of Hiroshima’s mayor and of centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has pushed for a significant reduction of nuclear energy in quake-prone Japan.

A record 44 countries sent representatives to the ceremony. For the first time, the United States sent an official to the Nagasaki event, after sending its ambassador to Japan last year to Hiroshima.

Nagasaki was devastated on August 9, 1945 by a bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” which killed more than 70,000 people instantly or in the days and weeks that followed, from burns and radiation sickness.

Three days earlier “Little Boy,” a four-tonne uranium bomb, was dropped on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people.