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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 June 8 - 14  > Espionage behind Japan’s first nuclear reactor
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2011 June 8 - 14 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Espionage behind Japan’s first nuclear reactor

June 8, 2011

Uranium 235

Japan’s first budget earmarked for a nuclear reactor was 235 million yen.

On March 3, 1954, Nakasone Yasuhiro, then House of Representatives member, took the lead in having three conservative parties (the Liberal Party, Kaishinto, and the Japan Liberal Party) submit an amendment to the government FY 1954 draft budget to the Lower House Budget Committee. The revised budget was bulldozed through the Lower House on the following day, March 4.

It was immediately after the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryumaru was showered with “death ash” from the U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, and was about two weeks before the vessel’s exposure to radiation became public.

As to how the budget amount of 235 million yen was arrived at, Nakasone in his book (The Sentient World – 50 Years of Postwar Politics, 1996) arrogantly boasted that the figure was used in reference to uranium 235 which was to be used as the nuclear fuel.

At that time, no system existed in Japan to properly assess the pros and cons of atomic energy. Nakasone’s statement shows that Japan’s first budget for a nuclear reactor was decided like a joke with a funny play on numbers.

The mass media and academic world criticized the initial budget as money to hush scholars up.

Why was Nakasone in the leading position of promoting nuclear energy? The answer is in Harvard University’s summer seminar on international questions held in 1953.

Nakasone (with the Kaishinto Party) attended this seminar at the suggestion made by a man who had belonged to the counter intelligence command of the U.S. occupational command who was collecting information by frequenting the Diet and observing political parties under General MacArthur. Henry Kissinger, who later became presidential aide, was the general organizer of the seminar. When the seminar ended, Nakasone took a tour of nuclear facilities in the United States. In his book, he said that he was at that time determined to use “political power to weaken the influence” of the Japanese academic world which was cautious about the use of atomic energy.

Manipulator of public opinion

Nakasone was not the only one who made moves to introduce nuclear energy into Japan based on U.S. nuclear energy policy. Shoriki Matsutaro, owner of Yomiuri Shimbun and president of Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), was among the promoters of nuclear energy. He later became the first chair of the government’s Atomic Energy Commission. Shoriki, who had an ambition to become prime minister, paid close attention to atomic energy to obtain pubic approval amid the raging public movement across the country calling for a ban on atomic and hydrogen bombs triggered by the Daigo Fukuryumaru incident. By making the maximum use of his newspaper and television network, he launched a campaign for the “peaceful use of atomic energy.”

In May 1955, Shoriki invited President John Jay Hopkins of General Dynamics, the maker of the first U.S. nuclear-powered submarine Nautillus, and others to represent a U.S. mission for the peaceful use of atomic energy. Since November of that year, he spent a lot of money organizing expositions throughout Japan promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy under joint auspices with the U.S. State Department. He used “all the power and influence of the Yomiuri Shimbun and NTV to have the topic reported in a favorable manner in order to drastically change public opinion (Mr. Shroiki’s statement, Ten years in the development of atomic power, 1965).”

Shibata Hidetoshi, a close aide to Shoriki and an NTV senior managing director at a later date, frequently contacted an intelligence agent of the U.S. government. Shibata in his book disclosed; “Japan has an old proverb saying, ‘Fight evil with evil.’ I proposed for the need to play up on a large scale that atomic energy can be used for peaceful purposes to crush the anti-A bomb campaign (Postwar media memoirs).”
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