Novelist Murakami slams nuclear policy

Kyodo

Novelist Haruki Murakami criticized his country’s pursuit of nuclear energy Thursday during his acceptance speech at the 2011 International Catalunya Prize ceremony in Barcelona, describing the ongoing crisis at the quake-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as “a mistake committed by our very own hands.”

Murakami said Japan, as the only nation to have experienced the devastation and suffering from radiation through World War II atomic bombings, should have continued saying “no” to nuclear power.

Murakami, the first Japanese to receive the prize given annually by the autonomous Catalan government, said the €80,000 (approximately ¥9.3 million) prize money would be donated to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami as well as those affected by the nuclear crisis.

“The accident at the Fukushima (No. 1) nuclear power plant is the second major nuclear detriment that the Japanese people have experienced,” he said in Japanese. “However, this time it was not a bomb being dropped upon us, but a mistake committed by our very own hands.”

The Japanese people, having “learned through the sacrifice of the hibakusha just how badly radiation leaves scars on the world and human wellbeing,” should have continued to stand firm in rejecting nuclear power, the novelist, clad in a gray blazer, said.

“Yet those who questioned (the safety of) nuclear power were marginalized as being ‘unrealistic dreamers,’ ” while the Japanese government and utility companies put priority on “efficiency” and “convenience” and turned the quake-prone nation into the world’s third-largest nuclear-powered country, he added.

Japan should have pursued on a national level the development of effective energy sources to replace nuclear power. Doing so could have been a way of taking collective responsibility for the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said.

On a more upbeat note, Murakami said he was confident Japan would rise again to rebuild after realigning its mind and spirit, just as it has survived on many occasions throughout its history.