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How Japan’s nuclear industry got here via Reuters

NEWCASTLE, England — How did Japan’s nuclear industry get here? As the world digests the appalling images from Fukushima of reactors crippled by last week’s earthquake and tsunami, the question springs to mind how a country that experienced the horrors of nuclear weapons in 1945 came to embrace nuclear power so expansively in the post-war decades.

One answer concerns the ways in which advocates framed the development of the nuclear power industry in the early post-war years. While acknowledging the “tragic meaning” of the atomic age, Taketani Mitsuo, a prominent Japanese physicist, stated in 1951 that atomic energy was a “wonderful thing”. Not to invest in atomic energy, he argued, would hinder Japan’s chances of becoming a “great nation”. By the end of the 1950s, just as Japan’s high-speed economic growth was self-consciously wrapped in the indigenous Shinto tradition, so the country’s nascent nuclear program was described as being “in the age of the gods”.

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