How comic books helped fuel Japan’s love for the atom via Aljazeera

Characters such as Astro Boy extolled benefits of nuclear energy, exacerbating the shock when disaster struck in 2011.


The first story goes something like this:

In a far off jungle, the animals are worried. Mother nature has forsaken them: Their climate is getting colder, the plants are dying and they’re getting hungry.

So they call on Astro Boy for help. There follows an earnest discussion about how they can’t heat their habitat with hydropower, because the water’s frozen. Oil is running out. What they need is a nuclear power station.

Astro Boy flies a reactor from Japan to the jungle, and they all pitch in to build a power station around it.

Even the hyena decides to help. A tiny mouse struggles to keep the blueprints unfurled. All together for the common good: nuclear energy.

In no time they’ve built a gleaming, safe solution to their climate problem – and go a step further, using it to power an artificial sun that helps the plants grow again and gives them a healthy bit of Vitamin D on the side.

Astro Boy’s creator, Osamu Tezuka, always insisted he’d never intended to make a poster child for Japan’s nuclear industry, and that he’d had nothing to do with the jungle stories.

Nonetheless, they were handed out as free pamphlets during school visits to power plants – the message conveyed through kawaii (cute) little critters: Nuclear power is safe.


It began in 1956, with the Atoms for Peace exhibition in Hiroshima, just 11 years after the city was obliterated by a nuclear bomb, and continued until Japan had more than 50 nuclear reactors.

They all gradually shut down in the wake of Fukushima. The first restart, at the Sendai nuclear power station, is due to take place within the next two days.

On Saturday, Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said a repeat of an accident on the scale of Fukushima would not be possible under its new procedures.

But it added there was no such thing as absolute safety.

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