While Tokyo Electric Power Company President Toshio Nishizawa said in a Sept. 5 CNN story that he wants to restart the 34 nuclear power plants that were shut down after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11, a Rockland woman is committed to keeping them offline.

Mie (pronounced mee-ay) Athearn is a native of Fukushima Prefecture, and on Sept. 4 began a 16-day Walk for Fukushima that will take her more than 200 miles. Her goal is to deliver a message to the Japanese government appealing for stronger actions to protect children from radiation hazards in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Those actions include helping those displaced in its aftermath, and eliminating the use of nuclear energy in her native Japan. Athearn’s parents, siblings and extended family live in Fukushima Prefecture, a county-like political division approximately 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda of the Grafton Peace Pagoda said she supports Athearn’s goal, and will walk as far as Seabrook, N.H., in support of the Rockland woman’s effort.

“For many years, humans did without those things,” said Yasuda. She said people in Japan are now controlling consumption, by cutting back on the use of air conditioning and other appliances. She said this self-discipline was already successful in reducing the demand for electrical energy.

Prior to the tsunami and shutdown, 55 nuclear plants provided about one-third of the electricity used in Japan.

“We can lead a regular life,” said Yasuda. “If everybody went back to the time of The Beatles, they wouldn’t need nuclear energy.” The 63-year-old Yasuda said she was a teenager in the 1960s and that life then was very comfortable. She said people worry too much about doing without, and don’t realize that it is easy to find solutions.

Russell Wray of Hancock said he was joining Athearn’s walk to point out the real economic costs of nuclear power. He said the U.S. nuclear industry depends on large subsidies from the federal government.

“Nuclear power has never been cost effective,” said Wray. He said he tries to live in a way that is as energy conscious as possible.

Athearn has been reaching out to the Japanese consul in Boston, hoping to deliver a petition that calls on the Japanese to pay more attention to the suffering caused by their actions in the aftermath of the reactor failure and the widespread radioactive contamination across the surrounding area. As of Sunday, she had not been given an appointment.

She said evacuations have been poorly handled and that, while the government says people may move freely, relocation presents many challenges. Those include the loss of access to property within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and, for farmers, the pollution of their fields.

Only one member of Athearn’s family, a niece, has been successfully relocated. Athearn’s father, who was ill and on oxygen before the March 11 earthquake, is still in temporary housing. Athearn traveled to Japan in April and stayed with her family through June. They asked her to search online to find photographs of the house they were forced to abandon.

At that time she also visited a refugee center where evacuees were housed. According to CNN, “More than 75,000 residents of the area around the crippled nuclear plant are unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels.”

“It was a shock to me,” she said. “It’s so sad.”

The two petitions Athearn is carrying, one to support those displaced by the disaster and another to call for an end to nuclear power plants, had more than 170 signatures from Knox County residents when she started her 16-day walk. She said they needed to be filed by Sept. 10 to coincide with a series of anti-nuclear actions within Japan planned for the week of Sept. 11, and culminating with a Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants rally in Tokyo on Sept. 19. Those dates are, respectively, six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and five months since a ministry of the national government, MEXT, directed Fukushima Prefecture to adopt a much laxer standard for radiation exposure, making higher-than-controlled-workplace doses for children officially acceptable, a press release said.

At the beginning of the Walk for Fukushima, Rockland City Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson spoke to the dozen or more people preparing to set out down Gay Street. She said she and others in Rockland would be thinking about the walkers and hoping for their safety and well-being on the road.

“We hope that people are kind to you,” she said.

Athearn and those walking with her planned to stop at Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. A press release said people wanting to lend a hand by offering overnight accommodations, daytime rest stops, organizing events along the way, or joining some portion of the walk themselves could contact Mie at mkathearn@mail.goo.ne.jp. For more information call Steven Athearn at 593-7422.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.