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Thursday, 20 October 2011
Article outlining the Fukushima Dilemna
Little remembered after his death more than three decades ago, Kikawada made what he called a “deal with the devil” to take the utility known as Tepco into nuclear power. That decision provided energy to Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp. and the other companies that built Japan from the devastation of World War II into the world's second-largest economy. The Fukushima disaster came 66 years after the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and may mark a turning point in Japan's future as fundamental as the bombs that ended the war.
Japan's experience as the only country to be attacked with atomic weapons made its embrace of nuclear power as unlikely as its rapid economic recovery. Yet Kikawada wasn't the only businessman to conclude that the atomic “devil” could make that growth possible.
From 1945, Japan based its economic recovery on rebuilding its power industry, initially with oil and coal and later with a so-called nuclear village. The term describes a nuclear- industrial complex comprising utilities and manufacturers supported by politicians, bureaucrats and academics that promoted atomic energy to power fast-expanding industries in steel, shipbuilding, cars and electronics.
“The nuclear village's core argument is that it offers low-cost, reliable power essential for a modern and competitive economy,” Andrew DeWit, a professor of the politics of public finance at Tokyo's Rikkyo University, said in an interview. “But those claims are rapidly losing credibility in the public debate because after Fukushima the cost of nuclear power has become greater. The nuclear village is unraveling.”
Japan's development into the world's third-biggest user of nuclear energy dates from the last days of the war. Yasuhiro Nakasone, who would later become Prime Minister and a powerful advocate of atomic energy, was serving as a naval officer in Japan when Hiroshima was bombed. After the war, he began the work of persuading the U.S. to sell Japan nuclear technology.
“I strongly felt that Japan should rebuild itself with science and technology,” Nakasone wrote in his autobiography in 2004. “Japan needed to move with the times or we would be left behind immediately.”
Despite the stigma attached to anything nuclear in Japan, there were forceful arguments to pursue it for energy supply and security.
U.S. fire bombings before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were concentrated in urban areas and destroyed thermal generators, grids and transformers, leaving hydropower plants in rural areas as the main source of energy.
Meanwhile, electricity demand more than doubled to 33.9 billion kilowatt hours from 16.4 billion kilowatt hours in the five years from 1945 as Japan's reconstruction took off.
Japan's interest coincided with U.S. concern about what to do with its own surplus of weapons-grade plutonium, and the suspicion that created in the Soviet Union, Laura E. Hein wrote in “Fueling Growth -- The Energy Revolution and Economic Policy in Postwar Japan.”
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's solution was the “Atoms for Peace” program to use U.S. plutonium to provide nuclear fuel for its allies.
The plan had the advantage of making allies dependent on technology from corporate giants General Electric Co. and Westinghouse, according to Michael Donnelly, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto who studies Japan's nuclear program.
“I can't believe that any decision of this sort would not involve consideration that nuclear energy programs would benefit American manufacturers,” Donnelly said in a phone interview.
Still, officials in both the U.S. and Japan had to work on persuading the public that nuclear technology could have a civilian use. Nuclear supporters in Japan were helped by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, says Tetsuo Arima, a professor of media studies at Tokyo's Waseda University who studied declassified documents on postwar relations between the two countries in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to establish the link.
Among the CIA's Japanese allies in the propaganda effort was Matsutaro Shoriki, owner of the Yomiuri newspaper and Nippon Television, Japan's first commercial TV station. The newspaper - - now the world's biggest with 10 million copies published daily -- wrote a series of pro-nuclear articles from Jan. 1954 viewed by the U.S. government as a success, according to the book “Nuclear Power, Shoriki and the CIA,” written by Arima and published in 2008.
The Walt Disney Co. was also roped into the effort. The 1957 cartoon “Our Friend, The Atom,” released as part of the company's Tomorrowland project and depicting the positive benefits of a world harnessing atomic energy, was run on Shoriki's TV channel, Arima wrote.
The Yomiuri newspaper declined to comment on Arima's book when contacted by Bloomberg. Arima also declined to comment on whether the newspaper had responded to his book.
In 1954, Nakasone submitted a bill to parliament to finance nuclear energy research. Lawmakers set the budget at 235 million yen after uranium 235, a fuel used in atomic reactors, according to his autobiography. In 1955, the U.S.-Japan Atomic Energy Agreement gave Japan the right to buy nuclear fuel and technology from the U.S.
By September 1956, Shoriki, who was then head of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, announced the country's long-term plan for nuclear power, included importing reactors before developing its own. The Tokai station, the country's first, was built by government-backed Japan Atomic Power Co. in the 1960s in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.
It was into this environment of government-led nuclear development that Kikawada stepped when he became president of Tepco in 1961. The company had begun research into atomic energy and was already looking for potential sites for a reactor in the late 1950s, according to its official history.
“It was inevitable that we would rely more on nuclear for future power supply as nuclear fuel needs less foreign currency than oil,” the official history said.
It was a period of rapid economic expansion in Japan and employees at the country's power utilities were under intense pressure to feed the growth.
The demands on Kikawada were so extreme that when his mother, Nusa, died in 1950, he arrived in the middle of the ceremony, kept his taxi waiting outside and left after five or 10 minutes, Yamaki, his neighbor in Yamafunyu, said.
“That was the last time I met him,” Yamaki said. “I dug Nusa's grave.”
Fukushima prefecture began working to attract a utility to build a nuclear plant in the region in 1958, according to Tepco. Shortly after Kikawada took over, the towns of Okuma and Futaba agreed to host a nuclear station.
Kikawada, who appears balding in spectacles wearing a western-style suit and tie in black and white photos, still had a decision to make.
“Kikawada once said that building a nuclear plant is like doing a deal with the devil,” Soichiro Tahara, author of “Documentary, Tokyo Electric,” said in an interview in August. He changed his mind in part because he didn't want the government to control atomic energy after it had led Japan into a disastrous war, Tahara said.
“If Kikawada had decided to go against nuclear power, the government would have taken it over,” he said.
Based on his own writings and commentaries by others, Kikawada cuts a complex figure. In his autobiography, he credits Eijiro Kawai, his lecturer in economics and the humanities at the University of Tokyo, for instilling in him “social values.”
Kawai was arrested by Japanese authorities and imprisoned during World War II for his writings calling for a more even distribution of the country's wealth.
Yet as head of Japan's largest utility, Kikawada was also a pragmatist. With few sources of its own outside coal and hydropower, energy security had long been an obsession among Japanese leaders. The U.S. imposition of an oil embargo on Japan in 1941 led to its decision to attack Pearl Harbor the same year.
“From its expansionist role in World War II to its activist industrial policies of the 1970s and 1980s, energy security has played an important -- and sometimes overriding -- role in Japanese foreign and domestic policy,” according to a report in 2000 by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
“Kikawada was a unique business leader, combining capitalism with a social consciousness,” recalls Teruaki Masumoto, a former Tepco vice president who joined the company in 1962 and served under Kikawada. “Japan had no energy resources of its own and he saw Tepco's role as one of enabling economic development.”
Under his 10-year watch, Tokyo Electric grew to be the world's largest private utility, according to “The Nuclear Barons” by Peter Pringle and James Spigelman, which documents the growth of the global nuclear power industry. That made him a key figure in Japan's search for energy to allow manufacturers like Toyota, Sony and Hitachi Ltd. to run their factories and turn out the products that made them global brand names.
Kikawada did give the go-ahead for the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant on the east coast of Japan and construction began in 1967. The design included a village with a church and elementary school for the families of engineers from General Electric who remained until 1979, according to Tepco's official history.
It was the beginning of a golden era in Japan's nuclear power industry. The Atomic Energy Commission in April 1967 unveiled a nuclear plan entailing expansion of power generation capacity to as much as 40,000 megawatts by 1985, including the development of overseas uranium mines.
By 2009 Japan had 54 nuclear reactors generating about 30 percent of the country's electricity. Before the crisis in March, there were plans for 14 more and a target to generate 53 percent of the country's power from nuclear plants by 2030.
This rapid development helped spawn Japan's nuclear village. Nuclear-related spending by Japan's utilities was 2.14 trillion yen ($28 billion) in the year ended March 2010, when 45,382 people were directly employed by the industry, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.
The nuclear industry also employs tens of thousands of subcontractors and other support services. When the earthquake hit the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station on March 11, Tepco had 6,415 people at the site, including 5,500 subcontractors.
Economic trends in the 1970s, when most plants were built helped persuade local communities to accept nuclear plants so soon after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, says Daniel Aldrich, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and author of “Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West.”
The period saw rapid depopulation of rural areas as more people sought higher-paid jobs in cities including Osaka and Tokyo, even as the government increased subsidies and benefits to farmers to retain levels of food production and the continuation of rural life.
“In a lot of villages, the nuclear industry was viewed as a lifeline,” Aldrich said in an interview. “Living in Tokyo, people could afford to debate issues related to nuclear power and the risk of radiation. But for people in declining rural areas, these plants were often seen as the last hope to attract investment and growth.”