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Japan downplayed Chernobyl concerns at G-7 for energy policy’s sake: declassified documents via The Japan Times

Eager to maintain its energy policy in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Japan made sure concerns about nuclear technology were downplayed at the 12th Group of Seven summit it chaired in Tokyo days after the disaster, according to Japanese diplomatic records declassified Wednesday.

References to “radiation” and “concerns” about the nuclear accident that took place in what is now present-day Ukraine were deleted from a draft of the G-7 statement. The final statement instead dubbed nuclear power as “an energy source that will be ever more widely used in the future.”


According to a document dated May 3, then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone had told senior Foreign Ministry officials that “there is great interest in Japan in the ‘ashes of death (radioactive fallout).’ ”

The issue was a particularly sensitive one for the public due to the exposure of fishing boat Fukuryu Maru No. 5, also known as the Lucky Dragon, to radioactive fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Marshall Islands in 1954, as well as the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

The ministry later described Nakasone as having “shown initiative” at the summit.


Earlier, the Foreign Ministry had ordered Japanese embassies across Europe to gather information on the Chernobyl accident, according to a ministry cable dated April 29 in which it was described as something that “could have a grave impact on Japan’s nuclear energy policy.”

The cable also indicates Tokyo was mindful of the accident’s potential to stir up opposition to nuclear power within Japan, including in communities near power plants. It noted that “no marked protest activities have been observed.”

The G-7 then comprised of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.


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