Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, prominent tanka poet Hirohiko Okano hearkened back to the country's ancient legends when he wrote, "Protect this beautiful group of islands/ That lie on the vast, blue ocean." Okano said his feelings in the poem sprang up when he thought about the countless disasters that have befallen the Japanese archipelago, with its many volcanoes and the unfathomable ocean trenches surrounding it.
Japan, whose nature is a mixture of beauty and ruthlessness, has been shaken by innumerable natural disasters. And yet, did the builders of the Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, operated by Hokuriku Electric Power Co., show any fear or awe for the power of nature? Rather it seems irresponsibility concerning nuclear power generation triumphed once again. It is likely that the plant stands directly above an active fault.
According to specialists, the fault is "a typically active one," and some even say they are appalled that the building passed examinations. Local residents must be enraged at the revelation. Was it a calculated deception, or did the parties concerned simply turn a blind eye? Either way, the quagmire of cozy relations between politicians, bureaucrats and the business world is deep beyond imagination.
A fault that runs beneath Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant, which resumed operations in Fukui Prefecture, is also suspected to be active. Some time ago, it came to light that samples of earth from a geological survey had been switched at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. We can only imagine how many disturbing facts remain hidden.
When a group of Japanese experts visited Britain in the late 1950s to study nuclear power generation, they showed a documentary film of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake to British engineers. Invariably, those watching are said to have been shocked that such a disaster could occur. Now, 50 nuclear reactors crowd this island chain, where tectonic plates collide to form numerous active faults.
Once an accident occurs, nuclear power systems could easily malfunction beyond control. Exposing them to natural disasters beyond human understanding is nothing short of gambling. Those who do not come to their senses after losing ruin themselves. It is an act of folly to continue risking the land without learning from the accident at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 19
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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