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Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

EDITORIAL

New dimension in peace appeal

The peace declaration read aloud by Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki on Tuesday, the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, is a strong call for abolition of nuclear weapons as well ending reliance on nuclear power. Japanese as well as foreign leaders should carefully read his declaration and seriously consider the threats and dangers brought about by human efforts to make use of nuclear fission, whether it is for military or commercial purposes.

Mayor Taue's declaration directly goes to the issue currently gripping Japan — the accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plants, which were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Mayor Taue starts his declaration by saying, "This March we were astounded by the severity of accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station."

He goes on to say, "There is no telling when those who have been evacuated because of the radiation can return home" — a point the government and Tepco will not admit but many people, including evacuees, must be discerning in view of the fact that the end of the nuclear fiasco is out of sight.

Putting the Fukushima nuclear crisis in a larger context of Japanese modern history, the mayor says, "As the people of a nation that has experienced nuclear devastation, we continued the plea of 'No More Hibakusha (the surviving victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings).'

"How has it happened that we are threatened once again by the fear of radiation?"

Some people may think that the logic of his statement is strange. But the statement is meaningful in that it reminds us that Japan took nuclear power generation for granted for a long time and did not pay enough attention to the risks and dangers it posed.

Such risks and dangers clearly exist because nuclear plants in Japan are susceptible to severe accidents due to the activities of four tectonic plates under or near the Japanese archipelago.

The Nagasaki mayor gets to the nub of a problem that the Fukushima nuclear fiasco has exposed to Japanese or humankind for that matter — human hubris involved in the pursuit of technology.

He asks: "Have we lost our awe of nature? Have we become overconfident in the control that we wield as human beings?

"Have we turned away from our responsibility for the future?"

His peace declaration clearly shows that the Fukushima crisis has forced him to consider phasing out or abolishing nuclear power generation as a logical path Japan must pursue.

"Now is the time to discuss thoroughly and choose what kind of society we will create from this point on. No matter how long it will take it is necessary to promote the development of renewable energies in place of nuclear power in a bid to transform ourselves into a society with a safer energy base," he says.

His call is quite reasonable in light of the severity of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. It also must be noted that the mayor is realistic as shown by his statement that he realizes that the replacement of nuclear power with renewable energies will not be achieved in a short time.

His statement is much more direct compared with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui's in his peace declaration on Saturday. The latter said that the government should "quickly review our energy policies" in view of opinions seeking to abandon nuclear power altogether and opinions advocating strict control of nuclear power and increased use of renewable energy.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan should seriously take the calls by both mayors and make utmost efforts to present a clear road map to realize his goal of creating a "society free from dependence on nuclear power."

The Nagasaki mayor makes a forceful call for the abolition of nuclear weapons by saying, "Now seeing how the radiation released by an accident at just a single nuclear power station is causing such considerable confusion in society, we can clearly understand how inhumane it is to attack people with nuclear weapons."

His call for people to use their imagination concerning the damage caused by a "nuclear weapon hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs" appears effective. He vividly explains how the detonation of a modern nuclear weapon creates intense heat rays that can "melt" people and anything else nearby, as well as produce blast winds that can "fling" buildings.

He says: "Even if there were survivors, the intense radioactivity would prevent any rescue efforts. Radioactive substances would be carried far away by the winds to all corners of the world," causing widespread environmental contamination and health effects that would continue for generations.

Mayor Taue correctly points out that since the conclusion of a U.S.-Russia agreement to reduce nuclear weapons, no significant progress for a "world without nuclear weapons" as advocated by U.S. President Barack Obama has been observed.

The responsibility of the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France with regard to the abolition of nuclear weapons is especially heavy.

Speaking in concrete terms is the mayor's strength. He calls on the government to make efforts toward turning the three-point nuclear principle into law and the creation of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.



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