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Nuclear power treated against U.S. aid in Fukushima

June 13, 2014

Japan may ratify atomic treaty for U.S. aid in Fukushima cleanup




The Abe administration will likely introduce legislation this year to ratify a civil nuclear power treaty that will encourage U.S. companies to assist with the cleanup at Fukushima No. 1, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said.

The treaty, known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, or CSC, is being promoted by the U.S. as a means to compensate victims of accidents and to protect nuclear plant manufacturers from liability.

Atomic plant operators would take on the liability risk and that would permit U.S. companies to help out in Fukushima, Poneman said in an interview in Tokyo on Thursday. As the power plant holds three melted reactors and thousands of tons of radioactive water, the cleanup holds additional risk of accidents.

 “Everyone understands that the important thing is to do everything that we can to facilitate the cleanup and decontamination of the Fukushima site,” he said. “In so far as the CSC is a means to support U.S. companies in being active in that role, I think that is basically a critical factor in why it is getting the support you’re now seeing.”

Poneman was in Tokyo for a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, which was established after the March 2011 catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Participants in the meeting were scheduled to discuss responses to the accident, nuclear safety and security, and research and development in the field, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier this week.

U.S. companies have expressed interest in helping Tepco decommission the three stricken reactors.

Bechtel Group Inc., Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. were among 25 companies offering their services at a February business forum in Tokyo.

“If there is confusion about liability, they’re just not about to take a business risk of getting into new markets,” Poneman said. “To the extent that CSC provides for channeling of liability, focusing that liability on the operator who is the likeliest party to be able to manage and ensure that risk, that’s going to give confidence to U.S. companies.”

To cover potential damage claims, the CSC would tap member countries for a fund of 300 million “special drawing rights,” the equivalent of about $465 million. An nuclear plant operator would have access to that fund after paying out an equivalent amount itself.

The CSC was proposed after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 and adopted in 1997. The only countries to ratify the pact have been the U.S., Argentina, Morocco and Romania, which together have 316 gigawatts of installed nuclear capacity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The addition of Japan’s 131 gigawatts would carry the treaty past the 400-gigawatt threshold needed for the pact to come into force. Canada, with 46 gigawatts, introduced legislation this year to implement the treaty, though it has yet to ratify it.



June 12, 2014

Senior US official welcomes Japan's nuclear stance



A senior US official is hailing a basic energy plan recently adopted by the Japanese government. The plan calls nuclear power a key energy source.

US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman gave an interview to NHK in Tokyo on Thursday.

Poneman commented on the plan approved by the Cabinet in April. It describes nuclear power as an important, base-load source.

Poneman says Washington agrees with Tokyo, and regards nuclear power as valuable in efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

He expressed hope of further promoting technical collaboration between the US and Japanese governments, as well as private companies. He noted both countries have a high number of nuclear plants.

Japan and the US have strong ties in the nuclear power industry. Private nuclear-related firms from the two countries operate in what can be seen as consortiums. They are leading work to build nuclear plants around the globe.

Tokyo and Washington encourage the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Jun. 12, 2014 - Updated 16:44 UT

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