JAPAN | U.S. planned to build nuclear power plant on Okinawa

Posted on August 16, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI | 16 August 2011

The United States had a plan to construct a nuclear power plant on Okinawa when it was in charge of the civilian government of the islands in the 1950s, which would have preceded the first nuclear plant on Japanese soil, built in the early 1960s.

Public documents from the United States obtained by The Asahi Shimbun show that the proposal was made by the U.S. official in charge of Okinawa administration and was included in a recommendation submitted to the U.S. Congress.

By constructing a nuclear power plant that can be considered the ultimate symbol of the peaceful use of nuclear technology on Okinawa, the United States may have sought to publicize the legitimacy of its administration over the islands. The islands were returned to Japanese control in 1972.

However, the construction plan was never realized.

The document, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, is dated Sept. 7, 1955, and was written by James E. Moore, who was deputy governor in the civil administration over Okinawa. The document was submitted by Moore to his superior, Lyman Lemnitzer.

Moore was the de facto top official in Okinawa, since Lemnitzer was based in Tokyo because he also held the concurrent post of commander of U.S. Army forces in the Far East.

In his proposal, Moore wrote that constructing a nuclear power plant in Okinawa would be significant because it would be the first example of the peaceful use of nuclear technology in the Far East.

He argued in the proposal that construction of the plant would produce the desired political and psychological response and would reap huge psychological benefits.

Moore also stressed that nuclear energy would be the most competitive in a location such as Okinawa, which would have to pay transport costs to bring petroleum from the Middle East that were higher than the cost of the petroleum itself.

In October 1955, Lemnitzer met with Congressman Charles M. Price, who visited Japan as part of an inspection tour of Okinawa.

The following year, Price submitted a recommendation to Congress on measures to legitimize control over Okinawa by the U.S. military. In the recommendation, Price called on the U.S. government to begin consideration of constructing nuclear power plants on Okinawa.

The U.S. State and Defense departments conducted studies into the feasibility of constructing nuclear plants on Okinawa.

In a memo dated Aug. 7, 1956, and written by a State Department official, the proposal was rejected because there were no clear advantages for careful consideration of the plan.

On Aug. 24, 1956, the U.S. government reported its conclusions to Price that said with existing technology, the traditional forms of electricity generation were more economical than nuclear power plants.

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