Following the nuclear catastrophe in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the great earthquake of March 11, 2011, Japan`s atomic industry has attracted much attention. Japan is located in one of the most seismically active regions of the world and, in the case of an accident nuclear energy is by far the most dangerous method of power generation. Nevertheless, before the accident, Japan operated 54 commercially used nuclear reactors. After the Triple Disaster, the question of how and why Japan had become so dependent on nuclear energy was examined from different perspectives. Especially the so called “nuclear village” – a strongly interwoven network consisting of representatives of politics, bureaucracy, science, the media, and economy – has been at the centre of analysis. The role of the scientists, however, seems to have received little attention thus far.
In order to provide new insights into the role of nuclear power in Japan, my talk will focus on the position of Japanese physicists after the end of the Second World War. I will particularly address the question of how they contributed to the launch of nuclear energy in Japan, both on a social and a political level. Based on some well-known physicists, who played a prominent role in the 1950s and 1960s, the talk will offer insights into how the involvement of scientists contributed to achieving certain public policy objectives in early post-war Japan.
Franziska John is a PhD candidate at the University of Leipzig where she studied Japanese Studies and Physics. As a doctoral fellowship recipient at the German Institute for Japanese Studies she currently carries out research for her PhD thesis on Japanese physicists and their involvement in the introduction process of nuclear energy to Japan.