The CIA and Japanese nuclear power

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June 24, 2012 by SCNCC

The following piece from the Wall Street Journal this month somehow slipped under the radar. Newly available documents from the National Archives show how the CIA used a wealthy newspaper tycoon and war criminal to pressure earthquake-prone Japan into adopting nuclear power less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The article wraps up with the assertion that it wasn’t just US and Japanese business interest together with the CIA that potted nuke plants on Japan’s soil. There are “forces that still exert their influence on the debate over nuclear power today” to factor in. Tetsuo Arima from Waseda University in Tokyo, claims oil was too expensive. A weak assertion considering nuke plants cost billions of dollars a year to operate; oil is necessary in every aspect of the atomic process; and from the March 11 when the quake occurred and June. Japan’s lights stayed on without nukes. Documents previously released from the National Archives show the Administration of US President Dwight Eisenhower used  “peaceful” atomic reactors as part of a foreign policy strategy to gag objections to nuclear weapons.

Japan’s Nuclear Industry: The CIA Link

By Eleanor Warnock

In the 15 months since the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan’s relationship with nuclear power has changed dramatically.

Once the world’s third-largest producer of nuclear energy, the country faces the prospect of electricity shortages this summer as all 50 of its plants remain offline. Restarting reactors — a step the government says is necessary to support the economy — is proving to be politically tricky as a skeptical public questions the safety of atomic energy.

Rewind almost 60 years and the government had a similar problem: how to persuade the public to support its ambition to become a nuclear nation only nine years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

According to one Japanese university professor, that ambition was achieved with help from an unlikely source: the CIA.

Tetsuo Arima, a researcher at Waseda University in Tokyo, told JRT he discovered in the U.S. National Archives a trove of declassified CIA files that showed how one man, Matsutaro Shoriki, was instrumental in jumpstarting Japan’s nascent nuclear industry.

Mr. Shoriki was many things: a Class A war criminal, the head of the Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan’s biggest-selling and most influential newspaper) and the founder of both the country’s first commercial broadcaster and the Tokyo Giants baseball team. Less well known, according to Mr. Arima, was that the media mogul worked with the CIA to promote nuclear power.

In 1954, Japan saw widespread anti-U.S. and anti-nuclear demonstrations after Japanese fishermen were exposed to radiation due to the U.S.’s testing of a hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll.

Mr. Shoriki, backed by the CIA, used his influence to publish articles in the Yomiuri that extolled the virtues of nuclear power, according to the documents found by Mr. Arima. Keen on remilitarizing Japan, Mr. Shoriki endorsed nuclear power in hopes its development would one day arm the country with the ability to make its own nuclear weapons, according to Mr. Arima. Mr. Shoriki’s behind-the-scenes push created a chain reaction in other media that eventually changed public opinion.

“Shoriki wasn’t alone in what he did. He just had the power and the influence to bring together the U.S., the Japanese business community and politicians, and he was a smooth talker,” Mr. Arima, who went on to write two books about his findings, said in an interview with JRT.

Japan’s first commercial nuclear reactor went online in 1966, only 21 years after the end of the war. Although Mr. Shoriki lived until 1969, Mr. Arima said that his relationship with the CIA appears to have ended in the late 1950s.

But it wasn’t just the smooth-talking Mr. Shoriki and his CIA backers that gave rise to Japan’s dependence on nuclear power. Mr. Arima stressed that other forces played a part in shaping the industry — forces that still exert their influence on the debate over nuclear power today:

“Relying on nuclear power was something that Japan desired, something that the government decided to help Japan develop and flourish. Oil was just not enough, so nuclear power was an economic necessity.”

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