Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Japan Needs Nuclear Energy for National Defense

Although the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Shock has led Prime Minister Naoto Kan to declare denuclearization of energy sources, Japan needs to maintain nuclear power technology for national defense. I am not insisting that Japan possess nuclear weapons. Instead, I would argue that Japan consider having nuclear powered attack submarines deploying Tomahawk missiles with conventional warheads. Actually, the Japanese government explored to have nuclear powered submarines when making the Guideline of Defense Program in 2004, in view of growing pressure posed by the Chinese Navy. Kan’s energy policy will narrow the range of policy options for national security.

Let me talk about security in Japanese neighborhood, in order to assess advantages of Tomahawk nuclear attack submarine. Currently, the rise of two major threats in East Asia, i.e., China and North Korea, is increasingly critical to Japan’s national defense. In addition to rapid expansion of naval power, China is deploying carrier killer missiles for access denial capability and J-20 stealth fighters. North Korea brandishes Rodong and Taepodong nuclear ballistic missiles. These land based threats will be nullified with Tomahawk missiles before they are launched or take off. The Japanese Self Defense Forces explore to shot down North Korean missiles with the anti-ballistic missile system including Aegis destroyers. However, it is much easier to hit objects staying on the ground than flying fast in the air. Also, nuclear attack submarines can contain the Chinese fleet including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

If Japan were to have Tomahawk nuclear submarines, it would have to import them from the United States or Britain. It is cheaper and quicker than developing its own nuclear submarines. As to ground attack, American and British navies have much battle field experience, including Kosovo, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Japanese defense officials can learn tactical lessons from them, in order to explore the best way to destroy facilities of Chinese carrier killer missiles and North Korean ballistic missiles. The only sea battle experience of nuclear submarine is the Falkland War. Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine Conqueror sank Argentine cruiser General Belgrano so successfully that Argentine Navy could hardly act in the ocean during the war. This will help Japan’s naval strategy. Some nationalists like Governor Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo Prefecture and Retired General Toshio Tamogami of the Air Defense Force insist that Japan possess nuclear weapons. However, nuclear bombs have not been used in any wars for 66 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is much more realistic and rational for Japan to have Tomahawk submarines with conventional warheads.

Some media and opinion leaders say that Japan learn from Europe, as Germany and Italy decided to denuclearize their energy sources. But remember! Neither Germany nor Italy faces imminent threats in their neighborhood. Although Russia reemerges nationalist under Vladimir Putin, new NATO members in Eastern Europe are buffer to Western Europe. Also, both Germany and Italy have no ambition of becoming global military powers, unlike Britain and France. Therefore they need neither nuclear powered submarines nor nuclear weapons. Japanese people talk about Germany's and Italy's electricity import from France, but defense reasons cannot be dismissed when we discuss changes of their energy policy after the Fukushima shock.

It is not wrong that Prime Minister Kan launches clean energy initiatives after Fukushima. But we must remember that the Obama administration has not virtually even started anything of the Green New Deal, although it was one of crown jewelries in his election campaign manifesto. Green businesses are small and innovative, but not labor and capital intensive. Therefore, they are not suitable for TVA styled mega public projects. At this stage, it is a science fiction that renewable energies supplant fire and nuclear power completely. Above all, how can Tomahawk missile submarines operate with clean and renewable power sources such as solar, geothermal, tidal, and wind energies?

Current debates about nuclear energy and its alternatives focus exclusively on the economy, but national security perspectives should not be dismissed. Once we abolish nuclear power generation, it will take considerably a long time to restore technology and skills to use it again. This will narrow our policy choices for defense.