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 Fukuryƫ 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.

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