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March 19, 2011

Is America Responsible for Japan's nuclear program ?

I can't recall the source - I think it's in the Analects - but an philosoper said: When you see somebody acting without wisdom, do not laugh at them but rather take it as a lesson and search for the same behavior in yourself. In that way, you can improve yourself on their dime.

I also believe that most contemporary problems are the result of what we once thought were really clever solutions, which we embraced and rewarded. When I see a problem, I try to ask what solution caused this problem?

Those are both good habits, but they're internal, ruminative, self-benefiting, and they are virtual in the sense that they do not engage the world; that is, they do not address the question of moral action.

I'm not nuanced enough for all this, so I've attempted to implement a shallower, more ego-centric version: when I see somebody (within my sphere, constrained by Dunbar's number) acting without wisdom in a significant thing, I ask myself, How might that be my fault?

If, on examination, I've contributed to the foolishness then I have an obligation to attempt to remedy the chain of events that I've caused. No blame, no guilt, just a duty.

Colin Powell said it much more elegantly when he described The Pottery Barn Rule: "You break it, you bought it".

Which is a very pedantic, verbose way of getting around to my topic:
Is Japan's nuclear crisis our (America's) fault?

From Bloomberg, today:
With almost no oil or gas reserves of its own, nuclear power has been a national priority for Japan since the end of World War II, a conflict the country fought partly to secure oil supplies.

The American vs. Japan aspect of World War Two was largely about Japan's energy needs. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War began. Japan relied on energy imports, mostly from the United States. In an attempt to modify Japanese behavior through an oil crisis, the United States declared an oil embargo (in a way, we invented OPEC) and froze the assets of Japan. They couldn't get oil, and they couldn't pay for it.

The Japanese response was not as Washington hoped for. Japan met its energy needs by extorting concessions from the Dutch East Indies, coercing Vichy France into allowing Japanese occupation of northern Indochina, and beginning negotiations for an alliance with Germany and Italy.

It's a simplistic view of a complex scenario, but the US-Japanese conflict in WW2 was proximately caused by Japan's lack of native energy supplies and American constraint on energy imports.

After World War Two, Japan addressed her energy needs through nuclear power with American encouragement.

Who developed civilian nuclear power?

From President Eisenhower's 1953 Atoms For Peace speech,
"To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you--and therefore before the world--its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma--to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life."

The United States then launched an "Atoms for Peace" program that supplied equipment and information to schools, hospitals, and research institutions within the U.S. and throughout the world. The first nuclear reactors in Iran and Pakistan were built under the Atoms for Peace program.

Which I think demonstrates my earlier point that today's problems are caused by yesterday's bright, clever solutions:
Iran and Pakistan got their first taste of nuclear reactors from the United States
. It's too facile to blame it all on A.Q. Khan

From Wikipedia:
The Shippingport Atomic Power Station, "the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, was located near the present-day Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station on the Ohio River in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, USA, about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. The reactor went online December 2, 1957.

Who sold Nuclear Power to the Japanese?

We did. From Wikipedia:
In 1954, Japan budgeted 230 million yen for nuclear energy, marking the beginning of the [Japanese nuclear] program. The Atomic Energy Basic Law limited activities to only peaceful purposes.

In the 1970s the first Light Water Reactors were built in cooperation with American companies. These plants were bought from U.S. vendors such as General Electric or Westinghouse with contractual work done by Japanese companies...

The nuclear industry in Japan has been highly affected by its United States counterpart. The industry has become confident that the U.S. will see construction of new nuclear plants. Joint [US-Japanese] venture agreements between the major nuclear fuel vendors occurred in 1999, 2006, and 2007, following from the legacy of co-operation that began when Japan imported Western technology to jump start its nuclear industry.

We continue to sell nuclear power to Japan

The United States-Japan Joint Nuclear Energy Action Plan is a bilateral agreement aimed at putting in place a framework for the joint research and development of nuclear energy technology. The agreement was signed on April 18, 2007. It is believed that the agreement is the first that the US has signed to develop nuclear power technologies with another country.

Is America responsible for Japan's nuclear program?

I think so. We caused the need, we sold them our solution, and we profited from it.


MH said...

The 2nd Sino-Japanese war was such that we'd be responsible for far worse things if we'd have continued to sell oil for use in it.

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