Tokyo (CNN) — Beneath the cherry blossoms of Shiba Park, more than 2,000 people lined up for a Sunday afternoon march calling for Japan’s nuclear power stations to be shut down.
A week before, a similar protest — though in a chilly drizzle, not on a warm, sunny day — drew about 250.
And a month of frustration, desperation and anger boiled over at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s headquarters Friday as officials from towns around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant demanded to know when the crisis that has besieged their farming communities would end.
“The nuclear plant situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible. If not, we farmers will die,” one of the officials, Iwao Suzuki, told the utility’s executives.
But the response from Naomi Hirose, the managing director of Japan’s largest utility, offered little encouragement to the delegation or the rest of the world.
“There is a need to draw an end to the current situation as soon as possible,” Hirose said, adding, “We totally agree to this and are taking the utmost endeavors to contain the radiation.”
Since the March 11 earthquake that ravaged northern Japan, workers at Fukushima Daiichi have been struggling to cool down three overheated reactors and keep pools of spent but still potent nuclear fuel from spreading further radioactive contamination across northern Japan.
A month into the crisis, the utility acknowledges, there is no end in sight.
The problems are so far “beyond the design capacity” of the plant that the Japanese are working in uncharted territory, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants.
“No nuclear power plant has ever considered the inability to get on long-term core cooling for more than a week, much less three weeks,” Friedlander said.
Some Japanese experts now say the effort is in danger of failing unless Japan seeks more help from international experts to bring it to an end. Tetsunari Iida, an engineer-turned-industry critic, said the situation is “beyond the reach” of Japan’s closely knit nuclear establishment.
Read moreJapan Nuclear Crisis: TEPCO Admits There Is No End In Sight, Some Japanese Experts Say Effort Is In Danger Of Failing