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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ryukichi Imai, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Ambassador Ryukichi Imai--journalist, nuclear engineer, and general manager at Japan Atomic Power Company--was Japanese ambassador to the United Nations Disarmament Conference from 1982 to 1987. In the interview he conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, Imai describes a career in which he became an expert on nuclear energy and non-proliferation in ways that paralleled Japan's stages of harnessing and expanding its reliance on atomic energy. Employed by Japan Atomic Power Company at the first commercial nuclear-power station in the country, Imai worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop safeguards for nuclear technologies. He recalls that in the 1950s, few talked about the link between nuclear energy and weapons. He describes testifying on behalf of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Japan debated for six years before ratifying. Debate centered on whether Japan should have the right to arm itself and on the high costs of safeguards that would handicap industry in the global market. Imai argued in support of the NPT, and he did not want to jeopardize the 1951 mutual-security treaty with the United States that he regarded as paramount to Japan's safety. Imai explains why he believes that Japan will never embark on a nuclear-weapons program. He also predicts that, while Japan stands alone in its reliance on nuclear energy, rising energy prices--even post-Chernobyl--will revive worldwide interest in nuclear power. When U.S. president Jimmy Carter opposed Japan's first reprocessing plant at Tokai, it was Imai whom the Japanese government sent to the United States. There he successfully negotiated a solution with former colleague Joseph Nye, then deputy to the undersecretary of state for security assistance, science, and technology.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Carter's New World
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Interview with Ryukichi Imai, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

President Carter comes to office determined to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to improve relations with the Soviet Union. His frustrations are as grand as his intentions.

Carter had hoped the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. He stopped production of the B-1 bomber. He believed the SALT II negotiations would be a step toward eliminating nuclear weapons. But his intentions were frustrated by Soviet actions and by a lack of consensus among his own advisors, including Chief SALT II negotiator Paul Warnke and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who was dubious about arms control). Carter balanced Soviet aggression in Africa by improving American relations with China. He withdrew SALT II treaty from Senate consideration but its terms continued to serve as general limits on strategic nuclear force levels for both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear weapons
Nuclear energy
World War II
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Nuclear arms control
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
United States
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Atoms for Peace (U.S.)
Middle East
International Atomic Energy Agency
Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, Chornobyl?, Ukraine, 1986
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Peace movements
Nye, Joseph S.
Nuclear nonproliferation
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Tokyo, Japan
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Imai, Ryukichi, 1929- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ryukichi Imai, 1987,” 02/25/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 6, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ryukichi Imai, 1987.” 02/25/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 6, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ryukichi Imai, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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