Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Prices of Nuclear Power

On this day sixty-six years ago, the world changed, but now hardly anyone remembers that the first atomic bomb in history was exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

News traveled slowly those days. I was a 21-year-old soldier in southern Germany waiting to be sent to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan, and it was only days later we learned of a new weapon that had been used there. Without TV or Internet, the news conveyed no sense of a bomb that would eventually kill at least 90,000 people and, three days later, more than 60,000 in Nagasaki.

All we knew then was that World War II was over and that we would not have to keep living with an I.O.U on our lives, held by persons unknown, that could be called in at any moment. It took much longer to understand the moral price for our ransom.

It was a year later that the New Yorker humanized the devastation by devoting an entire issue to John Hersey’s account of how six survivors lived through the carnage and millions of Americans fully realized what we had done.

In Japan today, the anniversary is being marked in the shadow of the nuclear disaster unleashed by an earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. Renouncing nuclear weapons, Japan has been relying heavily on nuclear power for energy.

But now the Mayor of Hiroshima says ruefully, "Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has occurred, the continued and ongoing fear of radiation has generated anxiety among those in the affected area and many others. The trust the Japanese people once placed in nuclear power has been shattered."

Those of us who lived through the trust that our own country put in that overpowering source of energy 66 years ago can understand how he feels.

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