Rethinking Nuclear Energy
and Democracy after 09/11
26-27 April, 2002
Tokai Gakuen University
It is for me a great honour and
pleasure to chair this session that concerns the decision
making process of nuclear policy.
Let me start by explaining to
you the position I take on nuclear policy.
In January 1997, when I was ambassador
in Switzerland, I sent out a personal message to Japanese
leaders, pleading for organising a simulation of a nuclear
accident, as was done in Switzerland a few months earlier.
In doing so, I broke a sort of taboo, because in Japan, there
is a peculiar atmosphere that makes you think that referring
to nuclear dangers that insinuates an anti-nuclear attitude
is to be avoided in order not to invite serious troubles and
disadvantages. Two months later, a reprocessing plant in Tokaimura
exploded. And again a year and a half later, at the JCO uranium
processing plant in the same village, a single milligram of
uranium 235 reached critical mass due to improper handling,
and a serious accident took place, as you all know.
Since my retirement two and a
half years ago, I have been arguing in Japan and abroad for
the denuclearisation of the globe, based on a total ban on
the use - be it military or civil of nuclear energy.
When I presented the same argument
at the Silver Jubilee Conference of the Tata Energy Research
Institute in India two years ago, former US Secretary of Defence
Mr. Robert McNamara, who was present at the Conference ardently
appealed for an earliest possible total ban on nuclear armament,
stressing the high risk of human errors leading to catastrophic
accidents. September 11 terrorist attacks, the accident caused
by a US nuclear submarine sinking a Japanese training ship
in the Pacific Ocean and the collision between a Chinese and
an American warplane over the Taiwan Straits, all seem to
justify these arguments. Nowonder the Congress of the State
of New York unanimously dicided to start examining the possibility
of closing down the Indianpoint nuclear plant on march 19
As for the actual nuclear policy
of Japan, I must say that Japan has not learned lessons from
many serious accidents and pursue the same policy of promoting
nuclear energy. I think it is a great irony that Japan, the
only victim of atomic bombs, is doing this. With 53 nuclear
plants, Japan has become most vulnerable from the viewpoint
of national security.
I published a book a year ago.
The title is A Plea for a New Civilization Dedicated to future
generations. In this book, I pointed out that Japan, the victim
of the military use of nuclear energy, is treading the path
toward becoming the victim of the civil use of nuclear energy.
I first used the term the sickness of Japan in this book to
explain this peculiar phenomenon.
I pleaded for a new civilization,
based on ethics and solidarity that respects the environment
and the interests of future generations. Such a new civilization
calls for a conversion from material to the more spiritual
priorities, and brings about a less energy consuming society.
I am publishing my second book
from the ASAHI Newspaper in a month or so. The title of the
book is Nuclear Energy and the Sickness of Japan. I point
out that this sickness is the outcome of a lack of three senses.
That is, the sense of responsibility, the sense of justice
and the sense of ethics.
The world is also suffering from
this sickness, if to a lesser degree. I attribute all this
to a lack of sensibility which is the source of compassion
I further ague that nuclear energy
and the sickness of Japan could destroy the world, and I cite,
in particular, two cases. The first concerns 4 nuclear plants
in Hamaoka, built at the very center of an area where an magnitude
8 class earthquake is predicted by an official organ. The
second concerns the reprocessing plant in Rokkashomura , Aomori
prefecture, where radioactive waste materials equivalent to
one million Hiroshima atomic bombs are to be accumulated.
When it should come to the worst,
the damages could by far surpass those suffered in the last
war. Nevertheless , the awareness of this horrible danger
is totally lacking in the Japanese society, due to a self-restraint
tacitly imposed on reporting the subject. This reminds us
of the athmospere that existed in Japan prior to the last
War. In this book, I call for the immediate closing down of
Hamaoka nuclear reactors. I am now preparing a statement on
this subject to be issued shortly in order to awaken the public
opinion with the participation of some famous, influential
The nuclear policy of Japan,
contributed for some time to coping which the shortage of
energy resources. But after witnessing the fatal pitfalls
of giant technology, more and more people recognize the necessity
to change it. Japan, however, still faces unimaginable dangers
emanating from the difficulty for her nuclear policy to change
In recent years, I sent out on
numerous occasions, personal messages to leaders, in order
to warn them against nuclear dangers. In view of the disappointing
results, I have come to the conclusion that changing course
in nuclear policy requires the involvement of civil society.
Fortunately, I have recently been offered support from several
civil groups. They encouraged me to issue the above mentioned
statement on Hamaoka nuclear plants.
In my mind, the best approach,
under present circumstances, is to have civil groups influence
local autonomies so that these may in turn move the national
parliament. The government cannot but be influenced by these
moves. The statement to be issued shortly aims to mobilize
the public opinion so that the local autonomies may start
the right initiative in the right direction.
I firmly believe that civil society
plays a vital role in the decision making process of nuclear
policy. This reflects the dawning shift of importance as regards
determining factors of human society; from intelligence to
sensibility, from power to philosophy, from technology to
intuition, and from experts to citizens. A sensible citizen
endowed with good intuition and a sense of philosophy could
defy experts and declare that it is totally impossible to
assure for a long time the safety of a reprocessing plant
with pipes of 1500 km and welded joints surpassing 400000.
Before closing, I would like
to mention thee important tasks international community is
called upon to tackle.
The first concerns the dissemination
of a basic fact about nuclear energy, namely, with the internalization
of the price that takes into account all the costs needed
to assure safety, the civil use of it cannot be commercially
viable. There is no reason for taking a serious risk by depending
upon it. To export nuclear plants should be out of the question.
The second concerns the necessity
to strengthen the control over the safety of existing nuclear
plants. Sovereignty can no longer serve as a pretext to reject
necessary intervention, for a fatal accident in one country
could destroy the world.
The third concerns the dialogue
among civilizations. The problem of nuclear policy must be
tackled with a view to changing our life style so that it
consumes less energy. This can be best dealt within the framework
of the dialogue among civilizations. Because of the grave
consequences nuclear accidents could bring about, countries
that do not possess nuclear installations should be involved
and consulted concerning the measures taken by the concerned
countries. This is also a timely subject for the dialogue.
I believe the problem of nuclear
energy boils down to the question of ethics and responsibility.
Is it ethical to export nuclear installations to other countries,
fully aware that they are dangerous and not commercially viable?
Is it ethical for decision makers to side with importing such
installations, fully aware of the dangers and the costs?
Isnt it a lack of the sense of
responsibility to allow the continued functioning of more
than 430 nuclear reactors in 36 countries, without knowing
how to dispose of waste materials, nor how to suppress an
eventual accident that requires the mobilization of hundreds
of thousands of people?
I cannot but conclude that to
do nothing in order to eliminate the obvious seeds of catastrophies
reflects a sheer lack of the sense of justice.
I do hope that this symposium
organized by consciencious medical doctors will help to heal
the sickness the world is suffering from, restoring the three
senses of ethics, responsibility and justice.
We are faced with two choices.
The first is to start the denuclearization of the globe and
the second is to be eventually forced into it by a catastrophic