Japan is the only country of the world to be the victim of nuclear weapons during war. During August 1945, United States dropped and detonated two atomic bombs, destroying the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This terrorist action not only ended World War II between Japan and United States, but also murdered millions of the people and spread the poisonous radiation, causing more deaths and permanent illness. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you might guess that the Japanese would oppose going nuclear.
Today, Japan has nuclear power plants.
Every member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Japan, has the right to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The goal of the NPT is to reverse the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminate nuclear weapons. There is no contradiction between being a member of the NPT and using nuclear energy by a way that is not a weapon.
There is a risk that a nuclear power plant would leak poisonous radiation, or would suffer a nuclear meltdown like at Chernobyl. This may happen at Japan, at France, at United States or anywhere that has nuclear power plants. Thus some countries do not like to build nuclear power plants. New Zealand is a nuclear-free zone.
Japan has almost no domestic petroleum or natural gas, but must import them. Japan is also a group of islands, so Japan cannot connect power lines and import electricity from neighboring countries. So Japan uses other sources of energy, like nuclear energy. Japan "went nuclear" when Japan built and operated its first nuclear power plant, the Tokai Plant.
Japan is also a member of ITER, an international project to attempt creation of the first power plant that uses nuclear fusion. Japan is a member along with China, Europe, India, South Korea, Russia and United States.
Japan does not have nuclear weapons. The United States provides a nuclear umbrella to some US allies, including Japan. This means that US nuclear weapons are defending Japan.
Some scenarios have that Japan "goes nuclear" and acquires nuclear weapons. For example, if something breaks the Japan-US alliance, then Japan might develop nuclear weapons to be equal with North Korea. These scenarios are very not probable. North Korea defied the United Nations and performed a second test of the atomic bomb at 25 May 2009; but Japan and United States have carefully maintained their alliance, and Japan remains under the US nuclear umbrella. Unlike North Korea, Japan complies with the NPT and does not develop nuclear weapons.
- Relevant Wikipedia articles: Nuclear power in Japan, Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Chernobyl disaster
- The ITER Organization with list of members
- New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987
- UNODA pages about Nuclear Weapons and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- GlobalSecurity.org about Nuclear Weapons Test by North Korea at 25 May 2009
- Federation of American Scientists about Nuclear Weapons in Japan