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After years of setbacks, Japanese unfit for nuclear energy projects

According to a well-known joke about the national traits of Europeans, it is heaven if the chefs are French, the engineers are German and the bankers are Swiss and it is hell if the chefs are British, the engineers are French and the bankers are Italian."

As for the Japanese? They appear not suited to a particular field -- nuclear energy. And that is no joke. The development of nuclear technology as part of national policy and by private nuclear businesses has repeatedly experienced failure, causing problems to numerous people and wasting a massive amount of money.

Mutsu, Japan's first and only nuclear-powered ship which was launched in the early 1970s, suffered a radiation leakage and was decommissioned in 1992 after having only four experimental runs.

The government decided late last year to decommission the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture, which has hardly been in operation for more than 20 years following a fire triggered by a sodium leak broke out at the facility in 1995.

Construction work on a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, got underway in 1993, but its completion was postponed 23 times and there are no prospects that it will be put in operation in the foreseeable future.

Roughly 5 trillion yen has so far been spent on nuclear projects in Japan.

In March 2011, a serious accident occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the complex was hit by a massive tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Over 80,000 residents from areas near the atomic power station are still living outside the affected areas as evacuees. The costs of dealing with the nuclear crisis have already surpassed 20 trillion yen.

Meanwhile, Toshiba Corp. has added a new page to the negative history of Japan's nuclear development.

In 2006, Toshiba acquired Westinghouse Electric Co., a U.S. nuclear plant company, for over 600 billion yen. The deal was criticized as too costly, but Toshiba wanted to control the world nuclear power market. Toshiba's president at the time was upbeat about the takeover saying, "We'll conduct business aggressively."

Nevertheless, Toshiba will likely suffer nearly 1 trillion yen in losses from the deal because the electronics giant failed to find hidden problems involving its U.S. nuclear power unit. The world nuclear power market has shrunk since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Following revelations that it had padded its profits through accounting irregularities, Toshiba downsized its workforce by more than 10,000 people, but its rehabilitation efforts are still insufficient. Its financial difficulties have even put the company's survival in jeopardy.

Physicist and technology commentator Kiyoshi Sakurai, who is well versed in technical problems and accidents involving nuclear plants, warned in a past Mainichi Shimbun interview, "Only a handful of those concerned with a certain project loudly underscore the significance of the project. These people could self-righteously go too far without understanding the project's objectivity or necessity."

His remarks remind the public of a past silly war (World War II).

More sadly, it is feared that Japanese people traumatized by the atomic bombing tend to stick to the peaceful use of atomic energy and have lost the capacity for calm and rational judgment.

After reviewing the above, one can see that Japanese people are unfit for nuclear energy development projects. (By Hideaki Nakamura, Editorial Writer)

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