- Confused and often conflicting reports out of Fukushima
1 nuclear plant cannot be solely the result of tsunami-caused breakdowns,
bungling or miscommunication. Inexplicable delays and half-baked explanations
from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Ministry of Economy,
Trade and Industry (METI) seem to be driven by some unspoken factor.
- The smoke and mirrors at Fukushima 1 seem to obscure
a steady purpose, an iron will and a grim task unknown to outsiders. The
most logical explanation: The nuclear industry and government agencies
are scrambling to prevent the discovery of atomic-bomb research facilities
hidden inside Japan's civilian nuclear power plants.
- A secret nuclear weapons program is a ghost in the machine,
detectable only when the system of information control momentarily lapses
or breaks down. A close look must be taken at the gap between the official
account and unexpected events.
- Conflicting Reports
- TEPCO, Japan's nuclear power operator, initially reported
three reactors were operating at the time of the March 11 Tohoku earthquake
and tsunami. Then a hydrogen explosion ripped Unit 3, run on plutonium-uranium
mixed oxide (or MOX). Unit 6 immediately disappeared from the list of operational
reactors, as highly lethal particles of plutonium billowed out of Unit
3. Plutonium is the stuff of smaller, more easily delivered warheads.
- A fire ignited inside the damaged housing of the Unit
4 reactor, reportedly due to overheating of spent uranium fuel rods in
a dry cooling pool. But the size of the fire indicates that this reactor
was running hot for some purpose other than electricity generation. Its
omission from the list of electricity-generating operations raises the
question of whether Unit 4 was being used to enrich uranium, the first
step of the process leading to extraction of weapons-grade fissionable
- The bloom of irradiated seawater across the Pacific comprises
another piece of the puzzle, because its underground source is untraceable
(or, perhaps, unmentionable). The flooded labyrinth of pipes, where the
bodies of two missing nuclear workers-never before disclosed to the press-
were found, could well contain the answer to the mystery: a lab that none
- Political Warfare
- In reaction to Prime Minister Naoto Kan's demand for
prompt reporting of problems, the pro-nuclear lobby has closed ranks, fencing
off and freezing out the prime minister's office from vital information.
A grand alliance of nuclear proponents now includes TEPCO, plant designer
General Electric, METI, the former ruling Liberal Democratic Party and,
by all signs, the White House.
- Cabinet ministers in charge of communication and national
emergencies recently lambasted METI head Banri Kaeda for acting as both
nuclear promoter and regulator in charge of the now-muzzled Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Commission. TEPCO struck back quickly, blaming the prime
minister's helicopter fly-over for delaying venting of volatile gases and
thereby causing a blast at Reactor 2. For "health reasons," TEPCO
's president retreated to a hospital ward, cutting Kan's line of communication
with the company and undermining his site visit to Fukushima 1.
- Kan is furthered hampered by his feud with Democratic
Party rival Ichiro Ozawa, the only potential ally with the clout to challenge
the formidable pro-nuclear coalition
- The head of the Liberal Democrats, which sponsored nuclear
power under its nearly 54-year tenure, has just held confidential talks
with U.S. Ambassador John Roos, while President Barack Obama was making
statements in support of new nuclear plants across the U.S.
- Cut Off From Communications
- The substance of undisclosed talks between Tokyo and
Washington can be surmised from disruptions to my recent phone calls to
a Japanese journalist colleague. While inside the radioactive hot zone,
his roaming number was disconnected, along with the mobiles of nuclear
workers at Fukushima 1 who are denied phone access to the outside world.
The service suspension is not due to design flaws. When helping to prepare
the Tohoku crisis response plan in 1996, my effort was directed at ensuring
that mobile base stations have back-up power with fast recharge.
- A subsequent phone call when my colleague returned to
Tokyo went dead when I mentioned "GE." That incident occurred
on the day that GE's CEO Jeff Immelt landed in Tokyo with a pledge to rebuild
the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant. Such apparent eavesdropping is only possible
if national phone carrier NTT is cooperating with the signals-intercepts
program of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
- The Manchurian Deal
- The chain of events behind this vast fabrication goes
back many decades.
- During the Japanese militarist occupation of northeast
China in the 1930s, the puppet state of Manchukuo was carved out as a fully
modern economic powerhouse to support overpopulated Japan and its military
machine. A high-ranking economic planner named Nobusuke Kishi worked closely
with then commander of the occupying Kanto division, known to the Chinese
as the Kwantung Army, General Hideki Tojo.
- Close ties between the military and colonial economists
led to stunning technological achievements, including the prototype of
a bullet train (or Shinkansen) and inception of Japan's atomic bomb project
in northern Korea. When Tojo became Japan's wartime prime minister, Kishi
served as his minister of commerce and economy, planning for total war
on a global scale.
- After Japan's defeat in 1945, both Tojo and Kishi were
found guilty as Class-A war criminals, but Kishi evaded the gallows for
reasons unknown-probably his usefulness to a war-ravaged nation. The scrawny
economist's conception of a centrally managed economy provided the blueprint
for MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry), the predecessor
of METI, which created the economic miracle that transformed postwar Japan
into an economic superpower.
- After clawing his way into the good graces of Cold Warrior
John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's secretary of state, Kishi was elected
prime minister in 1957. His protégé Yasuhiro Nakasone, the
former naval officer and future prime minister, spearheaded Japan's campaign
to become a nuclear power under the cover of the Atomic Energy Basic Law.
- American Complicity
- Kishi secretly negotiated a deal with the White House
to permit the U.S. military to store atomic bombs in Okinawa and Atsugi
naval air station outside Tokyo. (Marine corporal Lee Harvey Oswald served
as a guard inside Atsugi's underground warhead armory.) In exchange, the
U.S. gave the nod for Japan to pursue a "civilian" nuclear program.
- Secret diplomacy was required due to the overwhelming
sentiment of the Japanese public against nuclear power in the wake of the
Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Two years ago, a text of the secret
agreement was unearthed by Katsuya Okada, foreign minister in the cabinet
of the first Democratic Party prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama (who served
for nine months from 2009-10).
- Many key details were missing from this document, which
had been locked inside the Foreign Ministry archives. Retired veteran diplomat
Kazuhiko Togo disclosed that the more sensitive matters were contained
in brief side letters, some of which were kept in a mansion frequented
by Kishi's half-brother, the late Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (who served
from 1964-72). Those most important diplomatic notes, Togo added, were
removed and subsequently disappeared.
- These revelations were considered a major issue in Japan,
yet were largely ignored by the Western media. With the Fukushima nuclear
plant going up in smoke, the world is now paying the price of that journalistic
- On his 1959 visit to Britain, Kishi was flown by military
helicopter to the Bradwell nuclear plant in Essex. The following year,
the first draft of the U.S.-Japan security was signed, despite massive
peace protests in Tokyo. Within a couple of years, the British firm GEC
built Japan's first nuclear reactor at Tokaimura, Ibaragi Prefecture. At
the same time, just after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the newly unveiled Shinkansen
train gliding past Mount Fuji provided the perfect rationale for nuclear-sourced
- Kishi uttered the famous statement that "nuclear
weapons are not expressly prohibited" under the postwar Constitution's
Article 9 prohibiting war-making powers. His words were repeated two years
ago by his grandson, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The ongoing North
Korea "crisis" served as a pretext for this third-generation
progeny of the political elite to float the idea of a nuclear-armed Japan.
Many Japanese journalists and intelligence experts assume the secret program
has sufficiently advanced for rapid assembly of a warhead arsenal and that
underground tests at sub-critical levels have been conducted with small
- Sabotaging Alternative Energy
- The cynical attitude of the nuclear lobby extends far
into the future, strangling at birth the Japanese archipelago's only viable
source of alternative energy-offshore wind power. Despite decades of research,
Japan has only 5 percent of the wind energy production of China, an economy
(for the moment, anyway) of comparable size. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,
a nuclear-power partner of Westinghouse, manufactures wind turbines but
only for the export market.
- The Siberian high-pressure zone ensures a strong and
steady wind flow over northern Japan, but the region's utility companies
have not taken advantage of this natural energy resource. The reason is
that TEPCO, based in Tokyo and controlling the largest energy market, acts
much as a shogun over the nine regional power companies and the national
grid. Its deep pockets influence high bureaucrats, publishers and politicians
like Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, while nuclear ambitions keep the
defense contractors and generals on its side. Yet TEPCO is not quite the
top dog. Its senior partner in this mega-enterprise is Kishi's brainchild,
- The national test site for offshore wind is unfortunately
not located in windswept Hokkaido or Niigata, but farther to the southeast,
in Chiba Prefecture. Findings from these tests to decide the fate of wind
energy won't be released until 2015. The sponsor of that slow-moving trial
project is TEPCO.
- Death of Deterrence
- Meanwhile in 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) issued a muted warning on Japan's heightened drive for a nuclear
bomb- and promptly did nothing. The White House has to turn a blind eye
to the radiation streaming through American skies or risk exposure of a
blatant double standard on nuclear proliferation by an ally. Besides, Washington's
quiet approval for a Japanese bomb doesn't quite sit well with the memory
of either Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima.
- In and of itself, a nuclear deterrence capability would
be neither objectionable nor illegal- in the unlikely event that the majority
of Japanese voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to Article 9.
Legalized possession would require safety inspections, strict controls
and transparency of the sort that could have hastened the Fukushima emergency
response. Covert weapons development, in contrast, is rife with problems.
In the event of an emergency, like the one happening at this moment, secrecy
must be enforced at all cost- even if it means countless more hibakusha,
or nuclear victims.
- Instead of enabling a regional deterrence system and
a return to great-power status, the Manchurian deal planted the time bombs
now spewing radiation around the world. The nihilism at the heart of this
nuclear threat to humanity lies not inside Fukushima 1, but within the
national security mindset. The specter of self-destruction can be ended
only with the abrogation of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, the root cause
of the secrecy that fatally delayed the nuclear workers' fight against
- Yoichi Shimatsu, a Hong Kongbased environmental
writer, is the former editor of the Japan Times Weekly.