According to Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who gave fire to humans.
The acquisition of fire allowed humankind to develop civilization. Fire derived from fossil fuels further spurred production capacity. In time, humans attained atomic fire, a feat that was also described as "superior energy." Playing with fire, however, has presented humans with a dilemma.
Humans, who achieved a civilized world through Prometheus, are now troubled by atomic fire. The series of articles contemplate the country, its citizens and electric power in light of the failure of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The second series, "The Researcher's Resignation" considers the question, "Who owns information?" The series was written by Takaaki Yorimitsu and Kentaro Uechi.
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'I'll go first for the measurements'
It was the afternoon of March 11. Shinzo Kimura, 44, was at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan (JNIOSH) in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit.
Kimura is a researcher and an expert in radiation hygiene. He is involved in studies on the radiation exposure of physicians and nurses, and on-site investigations of the Chernobyl accident.
After the major tremor, Kimura ran to the TV, shouting, "What happened to the nuclear power station?" TV reports said it was all right. He was unable to reach his family living in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, until 2 a.m. the next morning.
The next day, March 12, was a Saturday. He was able to see his family and went shopping with his 3-year-old son in the afternoon. When he returned home, his wife told him, "There's been an explosion at the nuclear power plant." Kimura flew into action. He changed into a suit and told his son, "Daddy will be gone for a while."
He returned to the institute and prepared to enter the accident site. The first thing to do to protect residents from radioactivity is to take measurements. That called for speed. The more time that goes by, the more immeasurable radioactive materials become.
While hurriedly getting ready, Kimura sent e-mails to the four researchers he most trusted, Tetsuji Imanaka and Hiroaki Koide, both at Kyoto University; Toshihiro Takatsuji at Nagasaki University; and Satoru Endo at Hiroshima University.
"I appealed to them," Kimura said. "I wrote that, if investigations aren't going to be made now, then when? I told them I was going to take samples and asked them to analyze them."
He said he chose the best.
"All of them told me they were on board. Mr. Koide was the first to respond. He told me that though he couldn't go to the site, he would do everything to help. The responses from the others came one after another."
Figuring he would need a way to publicize the collected data, Kimura also sent that appeal to some old acquaintances--three directors of Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), including Kiyoshi Nanasawa, 54.
His cellphone soon rang. It was from Nanasawa, who had been trying to contact all the researchers he knew.
"We're considering airing a special program," Nanasawa asked. "Will you help us?"
On March 13, they met in Ichikawa. As Kimura was saying goodbye after their meeting, he received a mass e-mail on his cellphone from the institute, which is an independent administrative institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The message stated, "Although there are many actions that can be taken, such as measuring radioactivity and other substances, please abide by the instructions given by this ministry and the institute. Do not take any unauthorized action."
Kimura was the only expert on radioactivity at the institute. He was sure the e-mail was meant for him. He understood that it was sent out to stop him from going to the site.