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Japan criticized for efforts to restart some nuclear reactors

Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe says his country should follow Germany's example and phase out atomic energy



TOKYO—Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe said that Japan’s push to restart some nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster could lead to another crisis, and urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to follow Germany’s example and phase out atomic energy.

Oe’s remarks to reporters came a day after visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had decided to end her country’s use of nuclear energy by 2022 because the Fukushima crisis convinced her of its risks.

Abe, at a joint news conference with Merkel, reiterated that Japan still needs nuclear power as a stable energy source and said it now has top-level safety standards based on lessons learned from the disaster.

Oe said he saw a stark contrast between the two leaders. “It was very symbolic,” he said. “Japanese politicians are not trying to change the situation but only keeping the status quo even after this massive nuclear accident, and even if we all know that yet another accident would simply wipe out Japan’s future.”

Three reactor cores at the Fukushima plant melted following a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, spreading radiation outside the compound and forcing more than 100,000 people to relocate. Massive amounts of contaminated water at the plant are hampering the decommissioning effort, which is expected to take decades. New leaks of highly radioactive water from the plant’s drainage systems, including one that its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not reveal for months, have renewed public distrust.

Oe, 80, said his life’s final work is to strive for a nuclear-free world.

“We must not leave the problem of nuclear plants for the younger generation,” he said.

The winner of the Nobel literature prize in 1994, Oe has campaigned for peace and anti-nuclear causes, particularly since the Fukushima crisis, and has often appeared in rallies.

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