JAPAN | VOX POPULI: The Fukushima accident fundamentally changed the nuclear calculus

Posted on June 17, 2011


JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 17 June 2011

Italians have chosen to say “no” to nuclear power generation. The news made me think of the following verse from the notes of the Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): “The water you touch in a river is the last of what has passed and the first of that which is coming.” What beautiful words.

The water we are touching today is a new current. We are seeing a shift away from nuclear power.

Even Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is known for his unguarded tongue, conceded: “We shall have to say goodbye to nuclear (energy).”

Meanwhile, Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, was talking in high Berlusconian style.

Referring to the Italian people’s choice, Ishihara said: “Since an accident of such magnitude occurred, psychologically, I can understand how they can fall into a state of mass hysteria.” It is rude to call the popular will of another country “hysteria.” If there is also an implicit criticism of Japanese public opinion in the words, I think, he is looking down on the Japanese public.

On sunny days, we tend to forget what we resolved on a stormy day. But the crisis at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant drove home to us the truth of nuclear power plants. The situation has changed since the accident. In that sense, it can be likened to the last and first water that divides time.

One of the things we learned from the accident is how little we know about radioactivity. The administration is in confusion and residents are swinging between feelings of reassurance, fear and not knowing what to believe. We say that the only difference between “genbaku” (atomic bomb) and “genpatsu” (nuclear power generation or plant) is a single kanji. After all, it seems, nuclear power and humans are not easily made compatible.

“Trees take revenge on those who cut them with their own destruction” is another Da Vinci quote. Only humans cut down trees. The words of the Renaissance genius sound like a warning from posterity to those who play with “god’s fire.”

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