Why did a nation that has the legacy of Hiroshima allow the construction of nuclear power plants so easily?

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On the July 23 broadcast of a TV debate program, Italian journalist Pio D’Emilia asked, “Why did a nation that has the legacy of Hiroshima ever allow so easily the construction of nuclear power plants?”

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] response was given by Michio Ishikawa, a supreme adviser at the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute who was born before August 1945 and who was involved in nuclear power development from the earliest stages after the end of World War II.

The gist of Ishikawa’s response was that in his generation many nuclear energy researchers were in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped, or in Nagasaki three days later when the second bomb was dropped. All those researchers became involved in nuclear energy on the grounds of “peaceful use” of the technology and to use it to improve people’s lives, Ishikawa said.

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The explanation can be boiled down to one of promoting nuclear energy not in spite of the atomic bombing, but because of it.

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In the November 1952 issue of Kaizo magazine, Mitsuo Taketani, who was a major proponent of the peaceful use of nuclear technology, argued that the Japanese have the greatest right to research a peaceful nuclear energy technology because they are the only victims of an atomic bombing.  In the August issue of the magazine Sekai (World), Toshiyuki Tanaka, a professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute under the Hiroshima City University, wrote, “Because the hibakusha were injured by the atomic bombing, the slogan of ‘The object that took your lives can, in fact, not only be used to treat cancer, but is also an energy source that can provide a strong life force ‘was accepted by them as a message of, in a sense, salvation. ”

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The “just because” thinking is also related to the emergence in Japan of the myth that nuclear energy was safe.

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In the June issue of Gendai Shiso (Modern philosophy), the historian Hisato Nakajima focuses on the process behind the establishment of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

He explained how an employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Tried to placate concerns held by local residents that nuclear power plants “were just as dangerous as an atomic bomb.”

The TEPCO employee apparently gave the following argument to gain consent.

“I witnessed the atomic bombing and my older brother was killed by it. For that reason, I understand the dangers of nuclear technology much better than all of you. If someone like me, who lost relatives to the atomic bombing, had even a little concern, I would not be able to comply even if it was company policy. ”

[box_dark]Because Japan was a victim of the atomic bombing, an even stronger myth about nuclear energy safety would be required for residents and those employees working at the plant.

Japan’s history of nuclear energy would likely never have begun without inclusion of the thinking of “just because” the nation was hit by the atomic bombs.

To understand that complicated picture, there will likely be a need for a comprehensive re-examination of Japan’s modern history, including the period of rapid economic growth and the nuclear strategy of the United States.[/box_dark]

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