Murakami Haruki’s answer on atomic energy

The well known writer Haruki Murakami (村上春樹) – I have blogged about several of his books – also provides some kind of counseling service. He is running his advice page 村上さんのところ. The readers can ask him all kind of questions, and he answers some of them. Beginning of April there was a question about atom energy, and why we shouldn’t care more for traffic accidents, with approximately 5000 dead every year.


His answer is well written, and worth reading. And it is a great rebuttal of the often appearing rather lame excuse that compared to others, atomic reactors are not so dangerous.

I will try a translation, but also include the original Japanese text here.

My translation

Please keep in mind I am far from a professional translator, and would count myself intermediate level in Japanese.

Indeed, there is the problem of approximately 5000 deadly traffic accidents each year. Concerning this I think that it is necessary to take measures. (In recent years the numbers seem to decrease, though.) However, the number of persons that had to be evacuated from their birthplaces due to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant is around 150000. That are orders of magnitude different. This is only the number of people that have been forcibly removed from their own speck of land, and are now living in unacquainted places. The number of families that got torn apart is also considerable, as well as those who have died due to this anxiety. Suicide is not unheard of. Those person’s land, to which one doesn’t know whether one can ever return, is become abandoned.

In the case that your family would be told by governmental directive to throw away your home and move somewhere else, how would react? Think about this matter a bit! To allow or not to allow for nuclear power plants, this is a question that touches a country’s core as well as humanity. This is fundamentally different from one-shot talking about traffic accidents. Furthermore, the tragedy of Fukushima, the question whether the restart of nuclear energy production should be stopped, and where it would be unlikely to happen, these are structural circumstances.

What now is the performance? The performance of trampling on and making fun of the lives of 150000 person, what kind of meaning is that? Should we maybe get rid of this matter by grading it down to a ‘relative question’? That is my opinion.

Furthermore, your ‘Compared to 5000 traffic dead per year, the Fukushima accident doesn’t amount to much!‘: This is the favorite cliché of so called scholars and educated people dangling on the leash of the government and electricity companies. To make numerical comparison with things that cannot be compared, this is a track and sidesteps logic. Many times I have heard this kind of things, and every time my heart gets a bit more desolate.

(end of translation)

The original question and answer in Japanese by Haruki Murakami


もしあなたのご家族が突然の政府の通達で「明日から家を捨ててよそに移ってください」と言われたらどうしますか? そのことを少し考えてみてください。原発(核発電所)を認めるか認めないかというのは、国家の基幹と人間性の尊厳に関わる包括的な問題なのです。基本的に単発性の交通事故とは少し話が違います。そして福島の悲劇は、核発の再稼働を止めなければ、またどこかで起こりかねない構造的な状況なのです。

効率っていったい何でしょう? 15万の人々の人生を踏みつけ、ないがしろにするような効率に、どのような意味があるのでしょうか? それを「相対的な問題」として切り捨ててしまえるものでしょうか? というのが僕の意見です。


Source: Text and photo from 村上さんのところ.

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