August 08, 2011

This Weekend's News: Hiroshima & the Nuclear Future

In terms of the news, we all have to agree that this was a pretty awful weekend. Dozens of Americans and their local counterparts were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. S&P downgraded the United States. And that's to say nothing of Hama or Somalia.

Amidst all this, Japan marked the 66th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima this weekend, as heightened radiation fears continue to affect the Japanese in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown last March. Survivors of the attack, Prime Minister Kan and others used the occasion to continue their push away from nuclear energy. The Asahi Shimbun, for example, includes a translation of the Hiroshima mayor's remarks tying nuclear weapons and energy:

The trust the Japanese people once had in nuclear power has been shattered. From the common admonition that "nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist," some seek to abandon nuclear power altogether. Others advocate extremely strict control of nuclear power and increased utilization of renewable energy. The Japanese government should humbly accept this reality, quickly review our energy policies, and institute concrete countermeasures to regain the understanding and trust of the people.

As The New York Times reported, the poignant remembrance underscored that we can't separate proliferation and nuclear-strategic concerns from the question of nuclear energy's future. It went further to remind us that the Japan's own entrance into the second World War was directly tied to its energy-related vulnerabilities. The Times notes that the newly vocal anti-nuclear energy positions of many bombing survivors "also made some historical sense in a country bent on not repeating past mistakes. One of the reasons resource-poor Japan went to war in 1941 was to secure new sources of energy, in that case oil, after an American embargo."

What surprised me was that as the Western media continues to report on the nuclear energy equation for Japan, coverage of how the world's nuclear energy path may be shaping up worldwide seems no different from before the March tsunami and meltdown. While Germany and Japan are tilting harder away from this energy source, countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are pushing ahead with their nuclear plans. Hopefully the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries this week will spark greater media interest in covering signs of the world's nuclear future.

The Week Ahead

As it is now firmly August, Washington appears to be mostly shutting down - just a few events on my radar for the week. Today at noon the Women's Foreign Policy Group hosts "Beyond the Headlines: Famine in the Horn of Africa." On Thursday at 10:30 head to the Wilson Center to learn about "Collaboration with Taiwan to Address Regional Environmental Challenges." If I hear of any other good ones this week, I'll Tweet them to you all. Have a good week everyone!