Friday, November 23, 2012

Letter to the Prime Minister of Japan!

Dear Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda,

For the sake of Japan, and for the sake of the world, I implore you to consider the issue of nuclear power in the spirit of moderation and reason, and resist efforts by the anti-nuclear lobby and elements of the media to promote fear and panic.

The most false and distressing of the efforts is the attempt to conflate the peaceful use of nuclear power with the terrible atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two. The events are incomparable, as is clearly showed by the human cost. On the one hand, over 100,000 people were killed by the Hiroshima blast. On the other, nobody has been killed or injured by the Fukushima accident. Yet an extraordinary example of this propaganda was published by the Japan Times’ Hotline to Nagatacho on the 9th of October, when the article, incredibly, decried the reopening of schools within the former evacuation zone, protesting at the temerity of people wanting to return to their homes, reform their communities and start the rebuilding of their lives. The author, who didn’t deign to offer anything as prosaic as radiation measurements, implied that the children going to the schools would suffer the same fate as the children of Hiroshima sixty-seven years ago!

It is well-known that low dose radiation is of zero or negligible risk to humans, yet the unwarranted fear of radiation is destroying the future of Japan.

A clear example is the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision to expand the evacuation zone around nuclear power plants to 30 km, massively compounding unnecessary fear and sending municipalities nationwide into a frenzy of useless planning. Was it not enough that 573 people died because of unnecessary and panicked evacuation after the Fukushima accident, including dozens of elderly patients simply abandoned in hospital to die a degrading death? Not only that, but the NRA is said to be considering expanding the definition of an active earthquake fault line to one that has moved within the last 400,000 years, thus putting into doubt the restarting of nuclear plants all over the country. Is it really possible that humans could be so foolish as to curtail a vital economic activity at a given site because of the hypothetical risk of an earthquake every 400,000 years?

The linking of the use of nuclear weapons with last year’s accident at Fukushima is specious. It is also unethical. Yet ironically, there is a useful lesson to be learned in this attempt at conflation by the anti-nuclear lobby. It reveals the real source of public anti-nuclear sentiment – an unconscious equivalence of nuclear power with the destructive terror of nuclear weapons. Never mind that when considered rationally, nuclear power is the safest large-scale source of energy available to humanity. Never mind that nuclear energy is incomparably healthier than energy produced by fossil fuels, or that it is vastly cheaper and more reliable than renewable energy or that it produces close to zero CO2 emissions. Never mind those things; because at some deep level of the public’s unconscious nuclear power equals terrible danger.

Mr. Prime Minister, the government has the right and indeed the duty to make decisions based on science and reason, and not be swayed by the irrational. The fear of radiation is a phobia that defies reason, and rather than pander to this fear Japan should recognize the advantages of nuclear power and continue its steady expansion. The benefits are undeniable and the bulk of the criticism it attracts is simply ill-founded. To paraphrase the words of American liberals, reality has a nuclear power bias.


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