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WHY JAPAN EMBRACED NUCLEAR POWER AFTER SUFFERING THE ATOMIC BOMB

UMD's Michele Mason, assistant professor of Japanese, weighs in on nuclear power in Japan.

Japan has been there before. And that’s what makes the growing radiation threat from the Fukushima Daiichi plant as mysterious as it is disturbing: Why did a country that suffered the utter horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so willingly give itself over to nuclear power?
 
Japan’s 55 reactors produce nearly 30 per cent of the country’s electricity, and the long-term strategy before the Fukushima disaster was to push that figure to 50 per cent by 2030. Almost alone among its political allies, whose ambitions were reined in by the catastrophes at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the land that experienced the atomic bomb has chosen to expand its network of nuclear plants, many of them knowingly built in seismic zones.

...“The political and corporate elite constructed the infrastructure of Japan’s nuclear power project before the Japanese public even understood what had happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” says Michele Mason, who teaches Japanese culture at the University of Maryland.

And yet Japan is the country of Godzilla, the destructive beast created by an atomic blast who stomped around Tokyo destroying all the postwar prosperity he could find: The symbol of atomic power’s dark side seems far from ambiguous. The 1954 horror movie was prompted by a U.S. nuclear test that irradiated a Japanese tuna trawler, but it also coincided with the launch of the Japanese nuclear-power program and popularized the doubts that nuclear advocates have had to argue against ever since.

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Date of Publication: 
3/16/11