Shouhei Nomura, 79, raises placards as security personnel stand guard during a rally against the restarting of Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan (Issei Kato/Reuters)

He used to work for a manufacturer of nuclear plant equipment. Now, 79-year-old Shouhei Nomura lives with other protesters in a makeshift camp near the Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Sendai nuclear power station, campaigning to stop the nation’s nuclear reactors from coming back online.

Just days after commemorating the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan continues to debate the nation’s nuclear energy program.

[Stories from Fukushima: Still searching four years later]

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said restarting the country’s remaining reactors is needed to help counter the high costs of imported oil and gas, and because many communities are dependent on jobs and tax revenues associated with the nuclear plants. There is also pressure to burn through the nation’s stockpile of 40 to 50 nuclear weapon’s worth of plutonium. And Japan’s nuclear regulators deemed the plant safe to operate under stricter rules imposed after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which displaced more than 160,000 residents.

On the 70th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing, survivors say the Japanese government's move away from its pacifist constitution would be repeating the "mistakes of its past." (Reuters)

But many protesters remained unconvinced that the new safety requirements and evacuation protocols will be sufficient to avert another catastrophe.

“You will need to change where you evacuate to depending on the direction of the wind,” said Nomura, according to Reuters. “The current evacuation plan is nonsense.”

On Tuesday, amid protests and with tight security in place, one of Sendai’s two nuclear reactors was restarted, The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield reported.

A young protester, speaking to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, told reporters: “Human life and nature are more precious than the economy.”

A day before the reactor was restarted, Abe had tried to answer such concerns. “We prioritize safety more than anything,” Abe told reporters. “Based on the harsh experience of Fukushima, we will not restart any plants unless they are approved as they meet the world’s strictest standards.”


Shouhei Nomura pauses as he puts a windbreak around the protesters’ campsite near Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Shouhei Nomura transports items toward the protesters’ campsite on the sandy beach near Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station is seen from the shoreline. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Shouhei Nomura checks radiation levels close to the protesters’ campsite. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Shouhei Nomura walks on the seashore as he tries to record radiation levels around the nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Footprints belonging to 79-year-old Shouhei Nomura are seen on the beach, Japan. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Shouhei Nomura carries items at the protesters’ campsite on the sandy beach near Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

A protester stands in front of a line of barricades as security personnel stand guard during a rally against the restarting of the plant. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

A protester is stopped by police during a march against the restarting of the plant. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

People stage a sit-in rally against the restarting of the nuclear reactor. (Jiji Press/Agence France Presse via Getty Images)

Protesters hold a banner that reads, “Goodbye nuclear power station,” as they march against the restarting of the plant. The head of Japan’s atomic watchdog has said that the new safety regime meant a repeat of the Fukushima disaster would not happen, but protesters outside the Sendai plant are not convinced. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

A person sits inside a tent at a protest campsite near Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Mitsuro Sudo, 66, poses for a photograph at the protesters’ campsite near Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station. (Issei Kato/Reuters)
The head of Japan's atomic watchdog says new rules will prevent a repeat of the crisis, but protesters outside the plant in southern Japan are not convinced. (Reuters)