Wednesday, June 22, 2011

National Policy and the Principles of Autonomy, Democracy and Openness

On Monday, June 20, the TV channel of NHK BS premium aired the program "Superb feast of beauty: Kaii Higashiyama's journey. Part 2: Challenging Kyoto." In this program, Higashiyama's painting works made in Kyoto were introduced, and a few commentators analyzed them. After seeing the program, I wanted to see those paintings again in the book "Kyoraku Shiki: Kaii Higashiyama Shogashu (Four Seasons in Kyoto: Kaii Higashiyama's Small Picturebook" (Shinchosha, 1984) and went to the drawing-room to bring the book from the bookshelf there. Then, I found the book entitled "Nuclear Power Generation" (edited by Mitsuo Taketani; Iwanami, 1976). I browsed some of its pages and found the following passages:
[. . .] So long as she neglects the autonomous effort of developing her own reactors by keeping the lines of importing mass produced power reactors of light water type, Japan should be unable to be freed from the global strategy of the US to sell enriched uranium. (Page 197.)

The factor that is mainly giving damage to Japan's current nuclear policy is the fact that, regardless of the presence of the three nuclear principles incorporated in the Atomic Energy Basic Law, the principle of "openness" has been ignored and the principle of maximum confidentiality has been kept. This has irretrievably impaired the integrity of the Atomic Energy Commission and electric power companies.
Further, the principle of "democracy" has clearly been violated. Scientists and engineers convenient to the Government and industries have been employed as members of Commission, etc., and their views have always been found faulty. On the other hand, those who had decent views and criticized the national policy have not been employed as such members. (Pages 201–202.)

Essentially, there is no other way than faithfully to keep the three principles of "openness", "democracy" and "autonomy" in order to amend Japan's nuclear future and to convince the people of the country. (Page 204, the last sentence of the main text.)
Those words were written about 20 years after the introduction of nuclear reactors into Japan. For the additional period of about 35 years from that time, the nuclear policy was run without correcting its ignorance of the three nuclear principles. This is considered to have led to the severe accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The three principles, though incorporated into the Atomic Energy Basic Law but always violated, should be quite sad, if it had a mind. The importance of the same three principles is not limited to nuclear power policy. Autonomy, democracy, and openness must be respected in all areas of Government's actions. The national policy that ignores these principles would collapse sooner or later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -3-

Among the three essays of Yukawa on nuclear energy, the last one, "Nuclear power in Japan: Haste makes waste," was written in the year of Yukawa's resignation from the (Japan) Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). That essay begins with the following sentence:
Last year (1956) "the Atomic Energy Basic Law" was enacted, and the Atomic Energy Commission was established. Then, a number of significant changes happened to the domestic as well as international situations about nuclear energy.

The significant changes meant in the above quote can be seen in Ref. 1 as follows (partial omissions are made in the quote):
Being triggered by the first Atoms for Peace Conference held in August previous year, nuclear boom arrived. On January 1, "the Atomic Energy Basic Law" was established, and the JAEC started [as described by Yukawa]. Matsutaro Shoriki was appointed the first chairman of the JAEC. Atomic Energy Bureau was also inaugurated under Prime Minister's Office. Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI; presently, Japan Atomic Energy Agency) and Nuclear Fuel Corporation were launched in May and August. On the other hand, an industry group established Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (presently, Japan Atomic Industrial Association) in March. The followings happened overseas: The No. 1 reactor of the Calder Hall nuclear power station in Britain started the sending of power in May, and the General Assembly of United Nations adopted the Charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency on October 23.

These are truly high-flying moves. Furthermore, we find the followings in the nuclear chronology of that year in Japan [Ref. 1]: On January 13, the JAEC Chairman M. Shoriki released the inaugural statement, including the plan of the earliest importing of research reactors from the US to strengthen the system for the development of nuclear energy. On the same day, the Cabinet decided the importing of water-boiler and CP-5 types research reactors from the US. On February 10, JAERI was permitted to import, from the US, four tons each of natural uranium and heavy water for research. On March 23, the JAEC determined the basic outline of the development and utilization of nuclear power and suggested the development of breeder reactors. On March 27, JAERI made the covenant of importing a water-boiler type nuclear reactor from North American Airlines in the US. — These led to Yukawa's expression of intention to resignate from the JAEC on April 24 (the date of actual resignation is March 29, 1957).

In the third essay on nuclear energy, Yukawa first claims the following about the use of isotopes, i.e., the use of nuclear energy in a broad sense:
[. . .] the problems of preventing danger and controlling conditions for health will become important. We have to make every effort to solve these problems.
Then, Yukawa enters into the issue of nuclear power generation and points out as follows:
The next stage should be the one in which researchers and technicians in our country have to show more creativity and autonomy. For this purpose, it is necessary at least to go through the steps of domestic designing and manufacturing of reactors, production of fuel, establishing the method of spent fuel disposal, etc.
The national movement in history was quite contrary to the steps Yukawa thought to be necessary.

Yukawa further writes,
It is clear that we are no longer allowed to leave the issue of nuclear power indefinitely on the desk.
While the above view is the one pressed by the situation, he sharply criticizes Japan's nuclear policy as follows:
Because such a sudden change of the situation is also expected to occur in the future, hastening should be avoided concerning power reactors. It would be quite uncomfortable that, while some people are making preparations for raising seedlings, the other people suddenly appear with cut flowers from a shop.

In the last paragraph of the essay, Yukawa gives the following warning:
In the Western world, there is a saying, "Make haste slowly." In Japan we also have the proverb, "Haste makes waste."* With respect to nuclear power, these words fit quite well to the point. [. . .] At the same time, we have to think about nuclear weapons, which is the largest obstacle to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We Japanese should make every effort more intensely than before to eliminate them from all over the world as soon as possible, on this occasion of our country's having joined the United Nations.

The following was reported recently [Ref. 2]:
An official's testimony has made this clear: Forty years ago, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company prepared emergency power generators in the basement by adopting "the American design," which had been developed against hurricanes and tornadoes, and this made accidents extremely large. The underground of the power plant was entirely soaked in water by the tsunami more than 10 meters high and lost all electric power sources at once.
Japan's policy immediately to import nuclear reactors without considering Yukawa's warnings has led to the disastrous accidents of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, producing a lot of radioactive waste just as was told by the proverb. Reflecting their own responsibility fully, all the Japanese should pave the way for the complete abolition of nuclear power plants in our country and the comprehensive elimination of nuclear weapons from the world over. (End)

* Note by the present author: The Japanese proverb is literally translated as "When in haste, take the roundabout way." However, this is too long to be used as the translation of the subtitle of Yukawa's essay, so that it has been replaced by another saying in English of the same meaning.

  1. Nuclear Chronology: 1956, Web site of Research Organization for Information Science & Technology, in Japanese.
  2. Wrong adoption of "American design" for nuclear reactors: Generators in the basement against hurricanes, Asahi Shimbun, Evening edition (June 11, 2011) in Japanese.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -2-

Hideki Yukawa's Auto-Collected Writings Vol. 3 [Ref. 1] includes the following three essays about nuclear power:

(1) Atomic energy and humanity's turning point -1954 -, p. 261.
(2) The nuclear issue and the true nature of science -1954 -, p. 265.
(3) Nuclear power in Japan: Haste makes waste -1957 -, p. 269.

In essay (1), Yukawa writes that we have entered such a period in which each of us has to think about the tight relationship among the fates of people in different countries and has to pay far greater efforts than ever in order to save mankind from the threat of nuclear weapons. He also describes his own belief that he has to think about it more seriously as a scientist and that he stands at closer to this problem as one of the Japanese, than other persons. In spite of the presence of the words "atomic energy" in the title, this essay does not yet refer to the problems of nuclear reactors.

In essay (2), Yukawa writes first, "Since the beginning of March this year, nuclear issues have become more familiar than before to grow up to the subject of intense interest of the general public." Then, he explains the differences between the basic studies of atomic physics (nuclear and particle physics in the present terminology) and studies of nuclear science application.

As for March 1954, we have to remember the following things: On the sixteenth, it was revealed by Yomiuri Shimbun that the Japanese tuna fishing boat, Daigo Fukuryū Maru, had been exposed to fallout from the United States' thermonuclear device (H-bomb) test on Bikini Atoll (it happened on March 1); and on the twenty-second, the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB), established under the US National Security Council (NSC), proposed to provide experimental nuclear reactor to Japan, which became the beginning of the US plans to suppress anti-nuclear movements in Japan caused by the anger against A- and H-bomb sufferings [Ref. 2]. Earlier than this, three conservative parties of Japan submitted a proposal to the Diet on March 2. It was a 250 million yen budget for nuclear reactors and was passed without discussion on April 3.

On the other hand, on March 18, 1954, the Special Committee of Nuclear Science under the Science Council of Japan decided to keep the three principles of independence, democracy and openness in nuclear science research. On April 23, the Science Council of Japan condemned the Government's approach to nuclear reactors and issued a statement about the refusal of nuclear weapons research and complying with the three principles aforementioned [Ref. 3].

The words of "nuclear reactors" does not yet appear in Yukawa's essay (2), but the following passage is included at its end:
[…] as the research develops to extend its applications, a significant and unintended impact on human life happens to appear at the outside of the original purpose. As a scientist and as one of human beings, I repeat many times to reflect this: Which would the application of science produce, the result to which humans are grateful or the opposite result that threatens humanity? Which would the branching point of the main road of science lead to, the road to hell or the road to heaven?
The two kinds of results and the two roads described in the above passage might have come to Yukawa's attention from the thought about A- and H-bombs. However, he pointed out the truth that a dreadful result always has a possibility to occur ahead of "the branching point." Looking back on those words of his, we find that Yukawa even predicted the disasters at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (To be continued.)

  1. H. Yukawa, Auto-Collected Writings, Vol. 3 (Asahi Shimbun, 1971).
  2. US–Japan relations and the headwaters of nuclear power plants (4), Shimbun Akahata (June 10, 2011) in Japanese.
  3. Nuclear Chronology: 1954, Web site of Research Organization for Information Science & Technology.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -1-

The decisions of any kind regarding agreements about or implementation of power reactors will surely have an important impact on the future of long-term nuclear power development in Japan. Accordingly, we should be much cautious about it. — Hideki Yukawa, Atomic Energy Commission Monthly Report, January issue (1957) in Japanese.

In January 1956, Matsutaro Shoriki, the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, released The plan for the construction of nuclear power plants in five years and conclusion of the atomic-power agreement with United States. At the end of that year, the Japan–United States Atomic Agreement, which had guaranteed the independent nuclear research in Japan, began to be reviewed for revision. Hideki Yukawa resigned the Atomic Energy Commission in protest against this. Thereafter, the Atomic Energy Commission was dominated by the Government of Liberal Democratic Party, and was transformed to the agency of promoting nuclear-reactor construction. Yukawa's words quoted above represent the accusation against such a situation just before his resignation. [The above description is based on: US–Japan relations and the headwaters of nuclear power plants (4), Shimbun Akahata (June 10, 2011) in Japanese].

It is deeply regrettable that the absence, in the Atomic Energy Commission, of scientists who took over Yukawa's spirit of protest was one of the factors leading to the nuclear accidents in Fukushima.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Great Writer's Essay in His Childhood

The Nobel-Prize winning writer Kenzaburo Oe writes a series of a single-page essay in the magazine Tosho under the column name of "Intimate Letters." His essay of this month is entitled "Nambo-nandemo."

When he was in elementary school, Oe wrote an essay of the following story about his grandmother: Being hurt by the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a friend of hers was in hospital, so that the grandmother visited the friend. On returning home, she uttered the word "nambo-nandemo" (a dialect word to mean "too dreadful to say anything") to refer to her feeling of having seen the landscape of Hiroshima without any building at all.

His teacher told him that it might be possible to make his essay appear in a local newspaper by sending it to her acquaintance at the newspaper company but that he should rewrite dialect words into common ones. However, Oe did not want to change the grandmother's word of lament "nambo-nandemo" and told so to his teacher. Then, the teacher rejected to send it to the newspaper. A long time after that, the word "nambo-nandemo!" came to his mind on looking at the disasters of the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear power plant. He adds to say that he cannot but shout this word especially against the government and the nuclear power plant.

Recently, German and Swiss governments decided to abolish all nuclear power plants of their countries by the year 2022 and 2034, respectively. It is in Japan, whose nuclear accident at Fukushima affected those decisions, that such a policy is deadly needed be made as soon as possible.