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.

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