Opinion: Nuclear abolition remains the starting point

by Noritaka Egusa, Editorial Writer

A-bomb survivor of “nuclear power village”

What are the implications when the nation which suffered the atomic bombings promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy?

Since the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture first erupted, I have often recalled a day 17 years ago. It was the day Kazuhisa Mori, a native of Hiroshima, shed tears.

Mr. Mori became a clerical worker at the current Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), which was established by industry and research institutes, among other entities, in 1956. This was around the time Japan, following its defeat in World War II, embarked on a national campaign to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Until his death last year at the age of 84, Mr. Mori long played a role as an “advisor of the nuclear power village,” or the network of nuclear insiders.

JAIF annual conference held in hometown of Hiroshima

In 1994, JAIF held its annual conference in Hiroshima over the objections of local organizations that opposed nuclear power generation. These organizations took umbrage at the idea of JAIF using the A-bombed city to endorse the promotion of nuclear energy.

At the conference I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Mori, who was then JAIF's executive director. The responses he offered were clear and crisp, telling me that he had studied under Dr. Hideki Yukawa, a Nobel Laureate in physics, during his university days. However, no sooner did the subject shift to the atomic bombing then his words seemed to stick in his throat. A sob broke from his lips.

His father was killed in the bombing, the remains returned to their home. His mother went missing and was never found. Mr. Mori himself was exposed to radiation at a location 1.1 kilometers from the hypocenter, then was bedridden for nearly six months.

He told me that he spoke little about his A-bomb experience to others.

“I don't think we can promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy by employing stop gap measures,” Mr. Mori said. “We have to do a proper job of establishing security so that no one will fall prey to nuclear power.”

First of all, Mr. Mori told me, the main premise behind promoting the peaceful and problem-free use of nuclear energy is the eradication of the military use of nuclear power. Human beings should then make full use of science and technology, and control nuclear energy for the welfare of all of humanity. Mr. Mori spoke about the sense of mission held by the proponents of nuclear power plants.

During the interview, Mr. Mori referred to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and declared that the NPT was “not a treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

This was the year before the indefinite extension of the NPT was made. Though the NPT is believed to stem nuclear proliferation to some degree, the treaty is not yet free from the criticism that it is an unequal accord which permits the major powers to continue maintaining their nuclear arsenals. Mr. Mori's words in this connection sounded new, despite the fact that his remark was made with a view to promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Mr. Mori revealed later that the real purpose behind holding the meeting in his hometown was his intention to have those in the nuclear power industry come to understand “the spirit of Hiroshima.”

Eliminating both nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons

Though Mr. Mori believed that eliminating the military use of nuclear energy was necessary before the peaceful use of nuclear energy could be properly promoted, the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture began spewing radiation before nuclear abolition could be achieved.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations has now adopted “the elimination of nuclear power plants” as part of its campaign policy. It is only natural that A-bomb survivors, who experienced the horror of nuclear power firsthand, would turn their eyes to the danger of nuclear power plants.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, too, has mentioned eliminating nuclear power plants. It confounds me, though, that Mr. Kan then backpedaled from this statement, calling it his “personal view,” since I believe that his intention to seek a range of natural energy resources is the right way forward.

A worrying factor is that the words “the elimination of nuclear weapons” have not been heard at all from the Japanese government. The A-bombed nation has left its security to the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” If Japan has any intention of reconsidering the future of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, an in-depth statement on the future of the military use of nuclear energy should be issued as well.

Coincidentally, international momentum for the elimination of nuclear weapons is starting to wane. As citizens of the A-bombed city, we again pledge to put our energy into appealing for what Mr. Mori called the starting point: “No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis.”

(Originally published on July 17, 2011)