JAPAN | Archives reveal U.S. considered nuke plant in Hiroshima in ’53

Posted on August 6, 2011


JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 6 August 2011

The United States considered building a nuclear power plant in Hiroshima in 1953, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower dismissed the idea, saying it would amount to indicating Washington’s “sense of guilt” over the atomic bombing of the city in 1945.

U.S. archives obtained by The Asahi Shimbun showed that the idea for building a nuclear plant in Hiroshima was being considered by the U.S. government even before a spell of similar proposals were made in Congress after the 1954 Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb test.

The proposals in 1954 and later were made to assuage anti-U.S. and anti-nuclear sentiment among Japanese after the bomb test, which was more powerful than predicted, exposing 23 crew members of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru to nuclear fallout.

But the archives show that a similar idea had already been floated by the U.S. government in 1953.

The document, dated May 20, 1955, reported that Lewis Strauss, chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, proposed building a nuclear plant in Hiroshima to Eisenhower in 1953.

In response, the president “told him to forget about it because it indicated a sense of guilt” by the U.S. government for having dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the closing days of World War II.

The document mentioned exchanges between Gerard Smith, special assistant to the secretary of state for atomic energy, and Strauss.

Strauss, the document said, told Smith that he thought “the president’s decision had been correct.”

A similar proposal was made in Congress by Rep. Sidney Yates, a Democrat from Chicago, in January 1955.

The archives showed that four months later, Rep. Sterling Cole, a Republican from New York, also made a similar proposal.

But Eisenhower was opposed.

Acting Secretary of State Herbert Hoover Jr. said in the document on talks with Eisenhower, dated May 11, 1955, that the president was “by and large against the proposal.”

A letter sent to the White House from the State Department, dated May 7, 1955, said that a project to build a nuclear plant in Hiroshima as a gift “would be interpreted in some quarters as an admission of the United States guilt which would prejudice United States policy objectives in Japan.”

Masakatsu Yamazaki, professor emeritus of history of science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, said that these documents pointed to the U.S. government’s cautious approach to foreign policy involving nuclear power.

“The U.S. government, which was intending to justify the atomic bombing, wanted to avoid a situation in which building a nuclear plant in Hiroshima is a show of its guilt,” he said. “These documents show that the U.S. government made moves while carefully weighing the pros and cons.”

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