Who Were the Actors in the Antinuclear Movement?

This article is structured as follows. From Hiroshima to Fukushima outlines the history of the antinuclear movement in Japan from the end of the Second World War up to and including the Fukushima accident. analyzes the actors in the antinuclear movement in Tokyo after Fukushima based on survey data. In Movement Groups and Forms of Mobilization, I analyze the organizational characteristics of the antinuclear movement in Tokyo after Fukushima and its methods of mobilization, with particular attention to the role of the internet. The section on Political Structure analyzes why this large–scale movement has not been reflected in election results. Finally, I conclude with a reflect on the future of Japan’s nuclear energy policy and social movements.

Having experienced the effects of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan has long had a powerful and sustained anti-nuclear weapons movement. As in much of the world, however, the issue of nuclear power has been considered separately from that of nuclear weapons and until the 1960s, there was no significant anti-nuclear power movement in Japan. As Ran Zwigenberg points out, the demand for the “peaceful use of nuclear energy” arose precisely because of the terrible losses to human life, the built environment, and industry caused by nuclear weapons and the firebombing of 64 Japanese cities. 4 There were, however, two other major factors. The first was that the dangers of nuclear power were not widely recognized prior to the late 1960s, either in Japan or internationally. The second was that the Japan Communist Party (JCP), a leading force in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, adopted a stance in favor of nuclear power.

Growing local car title loan Kentucky state opposition to nuclear power occurred in this context

In 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower made his famous “Atoms for Peace” speech, encouraging the development of civilian nuclear power. The Japanese government introduced the Atomic Energy Basic Act in 1955 and Japan’s first experimental nuclear reactor commenced operation in 1958. The Atomic Energy Damage Compensation Law (genshiryoku songai baisho ho) was enacted in 1961. The Japanese government based the law on America’s Price Anderson Act, which regulated the provision of compensation for damages due to nuclear reactors and on simulations of a serious nuclear accident. Guidelines for siting nuclear reactors were established in 1964 and it was decided that nuclear reactors would only be built in depopulated areas. 5 These decisions suggest that the Japanese government had at least some idea of the potential consequences of a serious accident. Otherwise, however, there was little general understanding of the dangers associated with nuclear power. The first commercial nuclear reactor began operations in 1970.

Despite the Japanese government’s firm support for nuclear power, and the financial rewards that were showered on those localities that accepted nuclear power plants, a 1969 survey by the prime minister’s office revealed that only 18% of respondents were in favor of a nuclear reactor being built in their neighborhood while 41% were opposed. 6 At that time, no serious nuclear power accident had occurred anywhere in the world. Japan was, however, experiencing rapid economic growth leading to widespread water and air pollution problems. These issues spurred the development of an antipollution movement. In 1973, the government was forced to introduce the first system of subsidies to host municipalities in order to promote the construction of nuclear power plants. 7

There are a number of reasons for this

The second reason for the lack of a significant antinuclear power movement in Japan prior to the 1960s was that the Japan Communist Party (JCP), which exercised a powerful influence on Japan’s social movements up until the 1970s, was in favor of nuclear power. One reason for JCP support for nuclear power was that, according to the general ent of the productive forces was a precondition for the transition to socialism. 8 This understanding may be summarized in Lenin’s aphorism, “socialism is the electrification of the state”. In international affairs, the JCP also supported the right of the socialist camp to possess nuclear weapons and opposed that of the capitalist camp. The JCP’s policy split the movement to ban nuclear weapons into communist and non-communist blocs associated respectively with Gensuikyo (dominated by the JCP) and Gensuikin (Japan Socialist Party and independents). In this context, support for the “peaceful use” of nuclear power did not pose a contradiction for the JCP. The Japan Socialist Party (JSP), on the other hand, adopted a policy of opposition to nuclear power in 1969, when pollution was starting to become a major concern. 9 Many people regarded nuclear reactors as yet another large-scale industrial facility that might cause environmental damage.