Book Review: The people of Asia say no to nuclear power
(English translation by ann-elise lewallen and Ryan Holmberg)
Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2019
This book was originally published in Japanese in 2015 by No Nukes Asia Forum (NNAF) (see the report of their latest Forum held in Taiwan in September 2019 here). The publisher describes it as “the first citizen’s history of anti-nuclear movements in Asia” and one of NNAF’s purposes in publishing the book was also to record over 25 years of the history of their movement because it is “only by knowing these histories, honoring individual struggles and understanding current conditions, will the ways to continue the fight be visible.”
The book is quite a detailed record of anti-nuclear movements in eight Asian countries, including some, such as Vietnam, where nuclear power policy has been abandoned by the government before construction could begin, and others such as Indonesia, where plans to construct commercial nuclear power plants have all been defeated so far, but the government is still considering the nuclear option. The struggles in established nuclear power countries such as South Korea and India are also extensively described.
The role of Japan as nuclear exporter is thoroughly criticized. Japan’s first export of a nuclear reactor was to Taiwan in 2003 and it has been involved in trying to set up nuclear export deals from long before this with many different Asian countries. Ironically, the book suggests that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has only spurred the efforts of the Japanese government to promote exports as the only way to save its nuclear industry. Throughout the book the contrast between government policy in each of the countries and the opinions of its citizens comes through very vividly as the point of connection and the strength of this transnational movement. Japan’s export policy is a clear case where, especially after the Fukushima disaster, despite their government, the Japanese public is against nuclear power and certainly against exporting the source of so much grief to our Asian neighbors. That many of our Asian neighbors don’t want nuclear power is the point of solidarity that unites citizens in each country in the fight against their respective government policies.
Four years have passed since the publication of the book in Japanese, but as the main focus is the history of the movement, is does not seem out of date. There is also a timeline of developments since 2015 appendixed to the English version. The book is written in an activist rather than an academic style and the translators are to be commended for capturing the passion and conviction of the movements. As the authors hoped, publication in English will surely convey these stories of struggle to a wider audience and provide lessons and inspiration for future activists.