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Japan, the Atomic Bomb, and the “Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Power” via Japan Focus

“The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy” and Hiroshima

Yuki Tanaka

The ongoing grave situation at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which continues to contaminate vast areas of surrounding land and sea with high levels of radiation, forces us to reconsider the devastating impact of the so-called “peaceful use of nuclear energy” upon all forms of life, including human beings and nature. The scale of damage to human beings and the environment caused by a major accident at a nuclear power plant, where radiation is emitted either from the nuclear vessel or spent fuel rods, may be comparable to that resulting from nuclear weapons. In this sense, a nuclear power accident can be seen as an “act of indiscriminate mass destruction,” and thus “an unintentionally committed crime against humanity.”
It is well known that the origin of “the peaceful use of nuclear energy” was part of “Atoms for Peace,” a policy that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched at the U.N. General Assembly in December 1953.

Japan’s nuclear history in perspective: Eisenhower and atoms for war and peace

PETER KUZNICK

It is tragic that Japan, the most fiercely antinuclear country on the planet, with its Peace Constitution, three non-nuclear principles, and commitment to nuclear disarmament, is being hit with the most dangerous and prolonged nuclear crisis in the past quarter-century — one whose damage might still exceed that of Chernobyl 25 years ago. But Japan’s antinuclearism has always rested upon a Faustian bargain, marked by dependence on the United States, which has been the most unabashedly pro-nuclear country on the planet for the past 66 years. It is in the strange relationship between these two oddly matched allies that the roots and meaning of the Fukushima crisis lay buried.

Japan embarked on its nuclear energy program during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, a man now best remembered, ironically, for warning about the rise of the very military-industrial complex he did so much to create. Eisenhower is also the only US president to have criticized the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fearing the bombings would destroy the prospects for friendly post-war relations with Russia, at one point he advocated international control of atomic energy and turning the existing US stockpile over to the United Nations for destruction.
Yet by the time he took office in 1953, Eisenhower’s views on nuclear weapons had changed. Not wanting to see the United States “choke itself to death piling up military expenditures” and assuming that any war with the Soviet Union would quickly turn nuclear, he shifted emphasis from costly conventional military capabilities to massive nuclear retaliation by a fortified Strategic Air Command. Whereas President Harry Truman had considered nuclear arms to be weapons of last resort, Eisenhower’s “New Look” made them the foundation of US defense strategy.

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