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EDITORIAL | Do Not Dismiss Nuclear Energy’s Potential for Good

The Lucky Dragon No 5 is a reminder that hydrogen bombs are terrible weapons. But using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes will also provide clean energy.



Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Golden Dragon) at the time of the radiation exposure. Photo taken in 1954 (provided by Yaizu City Hall, Shizuoka Prefecture)

It has been 70 years since the ship and crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon No 5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru) were exposed to radioactive fallout. The nuclear accident followed the testing of a hydrogen bomb by the United States on March 1, 1954, near the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands

Radioactive ash resembling "powdered snow" rained down on the wooden longline fishing boat, which at the time was fishing for tuna in nearby waters. This fallout subjected all 23 crew members, the hull of the ship, and its catch to radioactive contamination. 

The number of Japanese who still remember that shocking incident has decreased to only about 10% of the total population. However, we must never forget the enormous destructive power of hydrogen bombs which use atomic bombs as detonators.

The hull of the Daigo Fukuryu Daigo (Golden Dragon) is on display at a Tokyo Metropolitan Exhibition Hall. February 29, 2024, in Koto-ku, Tokyo (©Kyodo)

Nuclear Warheads in the Cold War

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed to build hydrogen bombs. The exposure of Lucky Dragon No 5 to bomb radiation led to calls worldwide for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Yet, the reality is that the nuclear threat has far from disappeared. 

China is further increasing its already large stockpile of nuclear weapons. North Korea, too, is not letting up in its development of nuclear weapons and missiles. Russia has also threatened to use nuclear weapons during its invasion of Ukraine

To prevent a recurrence of the devastation caused by nuclear weapons and maintain peace, we cannot ignore the importance of nuclear deterrence based on the Japan-US alliance

North Korea launched another missile on January 14, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency ©KCNA)

Using Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes

At the same time, we need to understand the importance of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The faculty of reason with which human beings are endowed cries out for the development of this resource. 

Atomic and hydrogen bombs are weapons of mass annihilation and destruction. They use nuclear fission and fusion reactions to produce astronomical amounts of energy. Although they use the same nuclear reaction principle, nuclear power generation and fusion power generation do so for totally different purposes. 

Takahama Nuclear Power Plant Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture is in operation. (© Sankei by Kan Emori via helicopter)

There is a tendency to abhor nuclear power plants by viewing them through the same lens as nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, in recent years their reputation as a stable, carbon-free source of power has been growing internationally. Efforts to use fusion to generate electricity remain in the developmental stage. That is because of the ultra-sophisticated scientific and technological capabilities it requires. But steady progress is being made. 

Japan, Europe, the US, Russia, South Korea, China, and India participate in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. This has been underway for roughly two decades. Cooperative relationships are being maintained at the sites where experimental fusion reactors are being assembled so that scientists might realize the dream of humanity to obtain unlimited energy. Those include one north of Tokyo.  


Now, seven decades after the Lucky Dragon No 5 radiation tragedy, we are on the verge of using the same fusion used for hydrogen bombs to generate clean energy. With existing nuclear power generation constantly improving, we must not hinder the development of innovative technologies. 

Nuclear energy should be employed to create affluent and sustainable lifestyles for all humanity. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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