Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Embracing FUKUSHIMA – Heeding the voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki
KODAMA Miiko  /  Professor, Musashi University

July 13, 2011
More than a hundred days have passed since the devastating earthquake that struck on March 11triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. So far, no end is in sight. Efforts to eliminate one cause of the accident have led to other accidents and failures in machinery and equipment, setting off a chain of other problems.

In a recent example, Japanese, American and French equipment was installed to remove radioactive substances from the water used to cool the reactor. However, the equipment – the pride of advanced nuclear nations – failed only hours after being switched on and was forced to suspend operations.

“FUKUSHIMA” will be remembered as a negative legacy of a scope rarely seen in human history in the sense that it will take even longer than Three Mile Island or Chernobyl to end the crisis.

Having experienced the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was the Japanese who had been expressing the strongest aversion to nuclear energy, of all the peoples in the world. That experience led Japan to uphold as a national policy the Three Non-nuclear Principles of neither manufacturing, possessing, nor allowing the introduction into Japan of, nuclear weapons.

In theory, using nuclear power to generate electricity is no different from detonating an atomic bomb in that in either case atomic energy is used to set off a nuclear explosion. Yet, less than ten years after its defeat in World War II, Japan embraced nuclear power generation in the pretext of making “peaceful use of atomic energy.” Thus atomic energy, the ultimate weapon of war, had reappeared cloaked in the appealing guise of “peace.”

Proponents of nuclear power persuaded the public with the syllogism that (a) there must never be any accident at nuclear power plants,(b) nuclear power plants are built for absolute safety,(c) therefore nuclear power plants are safe. Most people were led to believe in the vague idea that although the atomic bomb was evil, peaceful use of atomic energy was good, and gradually came to accept this idea, albeit with some lingering doubts.

Since then, a campaign publicizing nuclear energy as an essential element of affluence was launched by a group of people in the mainstream of society, namely government officials, bureaucrats, academics, industry leaders and the media that carried the message. From time to time we learned of opposition to the construction of a nuclear power plant in the news or in documentary programs. However, the negative aspects of nuclear power were seldom addressed squarely due to pressure on sales or self-restraint on the part of the media, for whom the electric power industry was a major sponsor. But, in reality, there had been several serious nuclear accidents over the years.

On the other hand, stable supply of electricity including that produced by nuclear power had promoted the growth Japan’s manufacturing industries and enabled its people to enjoy a lifestyle based on abundant use of energy. Moreover, amid heightened concern over the environment in recent years, CO2 was named as the culprit that causes global warming, and nuclear power was billed as a “clean energy” that does not generate CO2. Meanwhile, “natural” or renewable energy sources were rejected citing high production costs.

But there is a trick to this cost calculation. The cost of nuclear power was made to seem low by including only its direct costs in the calculation, while renewable energy, mostly in the process of development, was being rejected due to the high cost of development. At this point, however, anyone can see that nuclear power carries an exorbitantly high price.

And even if there were no accident, there is a frightening cause for concern that mankind has yet to develop the means for safely disposing the plutonium used as nuclear fuel, which we have continued to produce and dispose as waste. Many people remain ignorant of this fact because the mainstream media had neglected to report it. We had been producing a dangerous substance with a half-life of 24,100 years in the case of Plutonium 239. Had we known that the lifestyle we enjoy today was made possible by passing on the burden to mankind and other life forms of the future, could we have been so tolerant of nuclear power?

On June 11, the Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication held a lecture commemorating its 60th anniversary. During this lecture, Oe Kenzaburo, the 1994 Nobel laureate for Literature, spoke of the importance of empathizing with the dead who can no longer speak for themselves. Reflecting on this point, I cannot help but wonder whether all those people who lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those hot summer days 66 years ago would have approved the choice of using nuclear energy to support our current lifestyle of convenience.

They were the ones who knew the horrors of radiation, how it destroys our genes and continues to affect us over generations. They would never have allowed it. In their graves they must be lamenting the foolish actions we have taken since, crying out for us to stop using nuclear energy. Reflecting on the dead I can almost hear their voices, praying to save all life on this planet, now and into the future, from the damages caused by radiation.
The writer is Professor of the Media Sociology Department at Musashi University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小玉美意子 / 武蔵大学教授

2011年 7月 13日





しかし、もっと恐るべきことは、たとえ事故が起こらなくても、原発に使用した核燃料の廃棄物としてプルトニウムが製造・排出されつづけ、それに対し、人類はまだ処理の仕方を開発していなかったという事実である。大手メディアもそれを伝えてこなかったので、多くの人々はその事実を知らない。プルトニウム239の場合で24,100 年の半減期という放射能を出し続ける危険物をそのような形で製造し、未来の人類や生物にその付けを回しながら今の生活をエンジョイしているのだと知っていたら、私たちははたして原発を許容したであろうか。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Embracing FUKUSHIMA – Heeding the voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki