"At the very heart of all technology, there must be a prayer."
(Yoshikazu Hani, Founder of Jiyu Gakuen)
Morning classes began as usual. The teacher pushed open the classroom door, and just as he mounted the platform to call the roll, open the roll book, an intense, blue-white light coursed through the classroom. The next instant, the classroom door was blown open with a crash. With a huge noise that reverberated through my entire body, the room was filled with a fierce, dust-filled wind. The time was 8:06 a.m., August 6, 1945. I was 16 years old, and this was my first encounter with atomic energy.
With no idea of what was happening, we followed our teachers example and hid under our desks, but all that followed was an eerie silence. Eventually, class was dismissed and we all went outside. What greeted ours eyes was a poisonous-looking mushroom cloud swirling violently into a clear, blue sky.
Soon after that, the War ended and we left the school on Edajima Island. On our way to our respective hometowns, we had to pass through the blackened ruins of Hiroshima. It was as though the city had been flattened by a blow from a giant hammer. While I waited for my train, which had been cobbled together from a collection of relatively intact freight cars, I sat on a crushed steel frame amidst the rubble that remained of Hiroshima Station, and I felt a sense of indescribable helplessness.
On the atomic bomb memorial in Hiroshima, the words "Let all the souls here rest in peace; For we shall not repeat the evil" are engraved. As violence breeds violence and retaliation breeds more retaliation in incidents all over the world, the response of Japan, which was the first country to suffer from atomic bombs, has been of an entirely different dimension. As if to embody the prayer for peace on the memorial, Japan has faced humanitys newly acquired technology of atomic power head-on, and has taken two actions that could be described as historic.
The first of those actions has been its campaign for peace, aimed at the elimination of atomic and hydrogen bombs, so that the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be repeated. The second has been to separate atomic energy from the world of war and carnage, and to promote its use for peaceful purposes, turning it into a means of happiness of the human race. As living proof who has witnessed for himself the horrors of Hiroshima, I feel immense pride in the way in which Japan made this kind of rational and constructive choice in that time of turmoil, when it still bore the scars of its defeat in the war, and the way that it has adhered to these lofty aspirations to this day.
More than half a century has passed since the atomic bomb was dropped. Today, the world is filled with people who decry the use of nuclear weapons as inhumane and unethical. These days, scenes of war are broadcast instantaneously to all corners of the globe through television, and anyone who tried to recreate the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have to be resigned to meeting a fatal outcome of making enemies of the worlds nations and peoples. The nuclear bomb, which became the subject of the great world powers intense attention as "the ultimate weapon" when it first emerged and led to fierce competition for its development, was, in the end, never used in the Vietnam War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Middle East, the Gulf War or any of the many crises that the world has weathered since. As pinpoint strike weapons that take advantage of information technology have emerged and become more and more advanced, atomic and hydrogen bombs are good only as weapons of indiscriminate mass slaughter, and the costs of maintenance and development have become enormous. They are gradually becoming obsolete and unusable, transforming into weapons that are, at best, useful only as a means of blackmail by rogue nations.
On the other hand, what of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes? Japans own peaceful use of atomic energy began with the establishment of "The Atomic Energy Basic Law", a piece of legislation that is without match anywhere in the world. Article 2, which states, The research, development and utilization of atomic energy shall be limited to peaceful purposes, aimed at ensuring safety and performed independently under democratic management, the results therefrom shall be made public to contribute to international cooperation paints succinctly the perfect portrait of how atomic energy should stand in the peaceful nation of Japan. In the fifty years since its establishment in 1955, its tone has lost none of its freshness. In the spirit of this law, Japan has judged itself stringently to ensure that its own activities in the area of atomic energy could never be used by any country for military purposes. Internationally as well, it has cooperated in the establishment of an international inspection body that is more exhaustive than any other field. A rigid distinction is made between the uranium and plutonium of the non-nuclear nations, with Japan at the lead and nuclear substances for military purposes, and they are kept under the strictest of controls; there has never been in history a single incident of nuclear materials destined for peaceful purposes being diverted to use in nuclear weapons.
After more than fifty years, Japans prayer for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the peaceful use of atomic energy is, in both aspects, gradually starting to come to fruition.
Presently there are 52 atomic reactors in operation in Japan, accounting for more than one-third of Japans total generation of electricity. In the last ten years of the 20th century, 13 new reactors were built in Japan, and power generation increased by 56%. Interestingly, in Germany, where political pressures have forced a "consensus" to eliminate atomic reactors, atomic power generation has actually increased by 10%, despite the closure of two reactors. In the United States as well, while older atomic reactors are being closed down one after another, atomic power generation has increased by as much as 30%. In France, the birthplace of the author of this book, Mr. Bruno Comby, atomic energy accounts for more than 80% of the total power generation, and is even exported to neighboring countries, where populist politics have hampered governments from formulating consistent energy policies. In this way, Frances atomic power generation supports the energy supply of the whole of Europe. Through these contributions, atomic energy has grown to account for 18% of the worlds electricity supply. Like it or not, atomic energy is an indispensable presence as a stable source of the energy required for the sustained development of civilization.
Despite these obvious contributions, why is the public still unable to accept atomic energy with "peace of mind"? A rejection of all things different is a common phenomenon found in all living things. Coal and petroleum, the steam engine and the automobile, even the aeroplane, were all initially met with uncertainty by society, and there was considerable reaction against their commercialisation. Nevertheless, these conveniences, including their risks, were soon embraced by society, and they have become fully accepted as indispensable elements to the maintenance of civilization.
Due to the effects of the nuclear arms race between East and West, on the other hand, little progress has been made in the acceptance by society of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. In the course of time, an unfortunate kind of resonance has begun to emerge between the false images of atomic energy that have been distorted by ideology and dogma, and the hack writers and entertainment industry that exploit it as the perfect material for horror stories, as well as the anti-establishment, anti-civilization activists who have a grudge against modern society. A mood is spreading among social activists, people who describe themselves as environmentalists, and even among journalists and the press, that the most progressive attitude is to ignore the safety efforts and track records of the atomic power industry and treat atomic energy as anti-social by playing up the risks of radiation and radioactivity. Populist politicians, who are sensitive to the moods in the community, have begun to use criticism of atomic energy as ammunition in their political battles, to the extent that these attitudes are now starting to distort the energy policies of individual nations and even the directions of international environmental conferences. The societys antigen-antibody reaction, which should normally be healthy, is starting to undergo a pathological degeneration into auto-immune disease, collagen disease, which rejects and destroys even those elements that are essential to its own survival. Civilization is starting to slide down the slippery slope towards its own self-destruction.
Now, at the very time that the reckless squandering of fossil fuels is upsetting the rhythm of the carbon cycle that upholds the Blue Planet, and civilization is about to face a crisis of survival, humanity has been given the key to unlock the cosmological principle of atomic energy, and to freely handle that technology. I cannot believe that this timing can be discounted as a mere coincidence. There are so many people out there who, due to unreasonable fear and aversion, want to reject atomic energy, which is the last life belt being cast out to a civilization that is drowning in a sea of carbon gases, as well as heartless agitators who try to exploit that fear.
Just as Nobel Prize Laureate Enrico Fermi, the first scientist in human history to succeed in causing a nuclear reactor reaction, observed more than half a century ago, it will be no easy task to erase the abominable image of atomic energy, behind which lies the nightmare of military use. Precisely because Japan took the initiative by enacting The Atomic Energy Basic Law with the consensus and blessings of the Japanese people in an endeavour of turning a sword into a plough, there is now hope for victory in the arduous battle to release the world from the curse of nuclear arms. The Atomic Energy Basic Law was enacted in 1955 as a nonpartisan Diet members bill, signed by 421 members of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Socialist Party, not longer after Japan regained its sovereignty as a state. Now is the time that we must share the prayers of these predecessors, who had such lofty aspirations, and pour all of our efforts into the completion of atomic energy as a pillar that supports a peaceful world. For the sake of the survival of the human race, we do not have much time left.
In this book, Mr Comby, who has built up an impressive track record as a genuine environmentalist, has used his calm and dispassionate eye as a scientist and his comprehensive viewpoint as an environmental scientist to examine clearly both the light and shadow of atomic energy, its risks and benefits. This book will dispel the many myths surrounding atomic energy that have been created by international intrigue and power struggles, individual ambition and sensationalism, and release its readers from the misunderstandings and confusion created by scientists and statesmen with narrow views. It is my heartfelt wish that this book will become an invaluable handbook in the quest to save modern society from its fatal illness, and that it will provide the impetus for a wave of legitimate environmental movement advocated by Mr Comby to extend throughout the world.