Japan, the Pacific, and the Nuclear Allergy
Japan's ambitious nuclear program is still one of the world's largest, despite a slowdown in recent years.1 In the mid 1980s the Japanese nuclear industry fashioned elaborate but problematical plans to establish facilities for a complete nuclear fuel cycle on the French model. Included would be commercial-scale facilities for waste disposal, uranium enrichment, and fuel reprocessing to separate large amounts of plutonium for eventual use in light water reactors.
If this major new development in Japanese nuclear energy actually materializes it will be played out against a political background in which two important attitudes diverge dramatically. One is the nuclear allergy of the Japanese population, an allergy almost pervasively present as a legacy from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The other is the perception, strongly held by Japan's powerful governing bureaucracy and the long-dominant conservative Liberal Democratic party, that nuclear power is essential to this resource-poor nation's ability to reduce its heavy dependence on oil from the politically unstable Persian Gulf. Public opinion surveys over the past decade have shown that the greater part of the citizenry shares this perception, although since the Chernobyl accident there has been a growing uneasiness about the safety of nuclear power.2____________________