Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister, has said that the country should restart two nuclear reactors to avoid an imminent energy crisis.
All 50 of the country’s reactors were shut down following the meltdown at the Fukushima plant triggered by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Before that, atomic energy produced nearly 30 per cent of Japan’s electricity.
Recent surveys show that most people in Japan want to abandon atomic energy.
But the prime minister said the country had no choice, claiming that areas were facing a severe power shortage.
After the prime minister’s announcement, thousands of angry protesters gathered outside Noda’s official residence to show their discontent.
Ministers say the alternative to nuclear energy, fossil fuels, would drive up electricity bills, harm small businesses and still leave a severe power deficit.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane reports.