Friday, September 22, 2017

Nuclear Governmentality

I am working on an essay introducing the idea of "nuclear governmentality" as a societal governing logic.

We can see this logic circulating in Japan as tensions with North Korea rise and as the LDP aims ever more forcefully at revising Japan's pacifist constitution:
LDP to use Abe’s revision plan for Article 9 as a campaign pledge. The Asahi Shimbun, September 20, 2017 at 15:15, Available

The ruling party will turn Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revise war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution into a campaign pledge for the next Lower House election, despite lingering opposition to the amendment.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters will start working out a draft of the party’s election promise, sources said Sept. 19.

“Everybody in our party understands that Prime Minister Abe’s plan to revise Article 9 is realistic,” an executive of the task force said. “We have to show it to the people by incorporating it into our election promises.” Abe is expected to dissolve the Lower House soon and call a snap election, likely for Oct. 22. In May, Abe, who is also LDP president, proposed adding a paragraph to Article 9 to spell out the legal existence of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. But the proposal would also retain the two existing paragraphs, which renounce war and prohibit Japan from maintaining land, sea and air forces. 
Below find the introduction to my essay:

Nuclear Governmentality: Governing Nuclear Security and Radiation Risk in Post-Fukushima Japan (Majia Nadesan, Draft Version Sep 22 2017)

The March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis and its aftermath briefly ruptured the narrative of human control over the atom that was created in the post-World War II period. Nuclear safety was belied by cascading technological failures in the wake of the Great Honshu earthquake on 11 March, including failures in nuclear engineering, failures in nuclear risk-management, failures in radiation containment and monitoring, and failures in crisis communications.

Japan’s National Diet Independent Investigation Commission summarized these cascading failures in its conclusion that the Fukushima crisis was a “man-made” disaster.[i] In 2016, TEPCO’s president apologized publicly for a “cover-up” of the severity and scope of the Daiichi meltdowns that occurred during the early days of the disaster.[ii] Symptoms of the rupture in the control narrative can be found in the space of public opinion within Japan and abroad regarding support for nuclear power,[iii] falling market valuation of uranium and nuclear industries,[iv] and nuclear disinvestment efforts in states such as Germany.

Yet, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), under the leadership of Shinz┼Ź Abe since the 2012, promises to preserve Japan’s nuclear apparatus by re-starting reactors and by continuing breeder-reactor and fuel re-processing/enrichment programs, having linked these programs directly to “national security.”

Abe’s post-Fukushima policy is aimed forcefully at re-establishing faith in atomic governance and at de-stigmatizing irradiated people and places, as illustrated by the elimination of most all exclusion zones and related subsidies, a policy enabled by increasing the national allowable exposure level from 1 to 20 millisieverts a year.

Radiation refugees are encouraged to return with reassurances that exposure levels are being tracked by expert authorities and that risks are very low. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped in and offered their expertise by delimiting the “collective absorbed dose” from the disaster, a dose whose potential for excess risks is being authoritatively monitored by the Fukushima Health Management Survey (FHMS), promising mitigation against any increased risks for cancers.

However, rising thyroid cancer incidents detected by the FHMS’s thyroid-screening protocol have produced controversy about causation and the biological effects of nuclear fallout, with activists deploying rising incidents to challenge the promises of atomic governance, while others have called for ending enhanced medical-surveillance because of the potential for reputational damage.[v]

The debate about Fukushima’s biological effects is polarized, but ultimately marginalized in public discourse as nuclear security is increasingly cast within a realist view of state sovereignty. Rising tensions with North Korea have helped legitimize the LDP’s stance toward “nuclear security” in Japan, facilitating controversial constitutional interpretations and revisions that increase Japan’s “defense” capabilities and internal policing of dissent through new state secrets and conspiracy legislation.[vi]

Nuclear remains central to the LDP’s framing of national security in myriad ways. This paper offers a Foucauldian approach to explicating the nuclear dispositif or apparatus, described as nuclear governmentality, to explain the interpretation and deployments of nuclear security in Japan in the wake of the 3/11 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, a catastrophe so great that its ongoing effluents escape the most innovative technologies of human control (e.g., such as Fukushima’s “ice wall”).[vii]

Although composed of heterogeneous institutions, the nuclear dispositif described here as nuclear governmentality is unified by security logics and protocols based in a Hobbesian world ordered by “sovereign decisionality,” defined as sovereign action outside of established juridical processes: the sovereign is the one who decides on the exception.”[viii]

Sovereign decisionality is above all else illustrated in the biopolitics, or politics of life, inherent in nuclear governmentality’s “radiation protection” security protocols, particularly with respect to the conceptualization and administration of the permissible dose, as shall be explained and demonstrated in this genealogy of nuclear security and radiation protection in pre-and post-Fukushima Japan.



[i] The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Japan National Diet 2012: Executive Summary. Available at: (accessed 5 December 2012).

[ii] AP (2016, June 21) TEPCO: Delay in declaring “meltdown” was a cover-up. The Asahi Shimbun. Available at (accessed 21 June 2016).

[iii] 50% want nuclear power abolished in future: Mainichi poll. (8 July 2016). The Mainichi. Available at (accessed 8 July 2016).

[iv] Sanderson Henry (20 July 2016). Uranium prices hit 11-year low. The Financial Times. Available at (accessed 21 June 2017).

[v] Hiroko Aihara (2017) Follow up on thyroid cancer: Patient group voices opposition to scaling down the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey (trans. by Yuki Miyamoto). The Asia Pacific Journal, 15(2.3): 1-13.

[vi] McCurry Justin (13 June 2017) Japan accused of eroding press freedom. The Guardian. Available at (accessed 14 June 2017).

[vii] Tomita Kohei (2 September 2016) Typhoons cause ‘ice wall’ to melt at Fukushima nuclear plant. The Asahi Shimbun. Available at (accessed 3 September 2016).

[viii] Schmitt Carl (1985) Political Theology: Four Chapters on Sovereignty (trans. by G. Schwab). Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 7. (Original work published 1922)


  1. excellent,ty ! ps...

    1. great article:
      "In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists showed the effects of gamma rays, X-rays and radioactive particles on DNA, deciphering patterns they think will help differentiate between spontaneous and radiation-caused tumors, allowing for better cancer treatment."

      Original study here: Sam Behjati, Gunes Gundem[…]Peter J. Campbel (2016). Mutational signatures of ionizing radiation in second malignancies. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms12605


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