June 20, 2011
The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's June 20 issue.
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The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight.
This quotation is taken from a well-known passage in "The Myth of Sisyphus," a book by French writer Albert Camus (1913-60).
Thinking about the reports on the difficulties faced in dealing with accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture over the past three months or so, I can see associations with this myth of absurd penance.
Needless to say, the task must not be abandoned. I hope the government will do its utmost to bring the nuclear crisis under control as soon as possible.
With the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the "myth of safety"--the idea that serious accidents at this nation's nuclear power plants were an impossibility--has been shattered.
Yet it would also be risky, in a different sense, to fall for the "myth of danger"--the idea that it is impossible to ensure safety at nuclear plants, and that nuclear power should be done away with.
Already, the ongoing crisis has presented many lessons. In a report submitted recently to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the government listed 28 measures for boosting the safety of nuclear plants. They include planning for tsunami of a greater scale, diversifying emergency power-supply sources and ensuring the reliability of reactors' cooling functions.
Steady progress should be made on these points, as a start.
It is said that the truth lies along the middle path. In this case, that would mean embracing neither the "myth of safety" nor the "myth of danger," but rather continuing to use nuclear power plants with enhanced safety mechanisms. This is probably the course Japan should pursue, using the collective wisdom of the Japanese people. Myths are hurdles for mankind to overcome.
(Jun. 23, 2011)