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Iconic signs praising nuclear power taken down in town near Fukushima plant

Workers start removing parts of a pro-nuclear sign in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 21, 2015. (Mainichi)

FUTABA, Fukushima -- Removal of signs dating back around 25 years that praise nuclear energy began here on Dec. 21, with authorities having judged that the signs have overly deteriorated from age.

    After taking the signs down, the Futaba Municipal Government intends to preserve them as remembrances of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

    Starting at around 10:30 a.m., workers carefully set about removing the two signs while confirming their state of damage. The work is planned to be finished by around early January. The signs will be stored temporarily in a warehouse on the town office premises.

    The signs are located in a restricted area that is presently uninhabitable due to radiation danger from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. The municipal government had planned to dispose of the signs after taking them down.

    One sign, which reads "Nuclear power: Energy for a bright future," was installed in 1988 along National Route 6 in front of the town gymnasium. The other, which reads "Nuclear power: A prosperous future and hometown development" was installed in 1991 near the entrance to the town office. Both signs were set up by the municipal government, which took applications from the public for pro-nuclear slogans in order to push for more nuclear reactors.

    Thirty-nine-year-old Yuji Onuma, who thought of the slogan for the sign in front of the gymnasium as a child, however, argued that they should be kept in place as a memorial in order to show future generations the mistakes of the past.

    In June of this year, Onuma submitted 6,902 signatures for his cause that had been collected from people including participants at anti-nuclear gatherings to the Futaba government. The municipal government has responded by considering a relocation of the signs to a park being planned by the prefectural government in Futaba and the adjacent town of Namie.

    Following the disaster, Onuma, who grew up in Futaba, evacuated to Koga, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he has started a solar power business to help bring about a society free of nuclear power. He showed up to watch the beginning of the removal work on Dec. 21, commenting, "I'm very disappointed" that the signs were not being kept in place. He added, "To make sure we aren't manipulated by national policy again, I want them to be sure to put the signs on display after taking them down."

    On Dec. 21, Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa released a comment saying, "We will take down the signs due to their deterioration, but we will preserve them as the town's valuable property. Once Futaba has recovered, we are thinking of newly restoring and displaying the signs as disaster memorial."

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