How Japan Buys Love for Nuclear PowerS

There are 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. That's about half the number in the US—for a country 1/25th the size. So how did nuclear become massive on a tiny island? Money, the NYT reports. Buying the people.

Even throughout the Fukushima disaster, popular opposition to Japan's sprawling nuclear adoration has been weak. And why? The NYT suggests a constant flow of easy cash is making the Japanese reluctant to kick their radioactive habit: "Nothing other than a nuclear plant will bring money here. That's for sure," explains a councilman from a small Japanese town. "What else can an isolated town like this do except host a nuclear plant?"

Japan's nuclear industry has gotten people like him—and countless others—hooked on nuclear cash. Small towns and cities are often opposed to a new reactor, fearing environmental hazards, until they're simply bought out.

Take the town of Kashima. It was home to a fishing-based economy, threatened by the construction of a fresh reactor. To sway citizens of the rural, low-income area, the Japanese government built a massive sports complex, replete with tennis courts, a baseball field, and an olympic pool.

Such pro-nuclear gifting is the norm. Japanese law mandates that a slice of tax money be directed to towns that harbor nuclear plants, where public works and subsidies often bowl over hesitant residents. But these subsidies often eventually dry up, leaving municipalities screwed, having assumed nuke money would keep them floating forever. The next step? Try to get another wad: "Putting aside whether ‘drugs' is the right expression," explains the former governor of Fukushima Prefecture, "if you take [the money] one time, you'll definitely want to take them again." [NYT, Photo by Getty/Koichi Kamoshida]