TOKYO — The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Tuesday called for a shift from nuclear power to renewable energy 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 energies such as solar, wind and biomass following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi 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 the government has since announced 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."
His message echoed that of Hiroshima's mayor, and of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who reiterated Tuesday that he would "aim to lower our dependence on nuclear power and to create a society that does not depend on nuclear power."
The Fukushima disaster started when a magnitude-9.0 seabed quake and a massive tsunami hit the six-reactor plant, knocking out cooling systems and sparking meltdowns and a series of explosions.
The plant has since leaked radiation into the air, ground and sea, forcing the evacuation of more than 85,000 people from a 20-kilometre (12-mile) surrounding zone and more from radiation hotspots further afield.
A record 44 countries sent representatives to the Nagasaki ceremony.
The United States sent Tokyo embassy deputy chief James Zumwalt to the ceremony after ambassador John Roos attended in Hiroshima last year, the first time an American envoy was present at either event.
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.
Taue called on nuclear-armed countries the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China to abandon the bomb.
"What about the more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world?" he said.
"Do we still believe the world is safer thanks to nuclear deterrence? Do we still take it for granted that no nuclear weapons will ever be used again?
"Now seeing how the radiation released by an accident at just a single nuclear power station is causing such considerable confusion in society, we can clearly understand how inhumane it is to attack people with nuclear weapons."