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What's behind exporting nukes

May 14, 2013



Export of nuclear technology



In his recent visits abroad, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Turkey that will enable the export of Japanese nuclear power plant technology to them. The Abe administration is also pushing talks to facilitate the conclusion of similar agreements with Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

Mr. Abe is trying to promote the export of nuclear technology at a time when the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant remains ongoing and many Fukushima residents still live in fear of exposure to radioactive substances released by the plant. Some 150,000 of them still cannot return to their homes and communities due to radioactive contamination. In addition, important questions concerning the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis have yet to be resolved despite the studies by investigation committees set up by the government and the Diet.

Mr. Abe also should realize that export of nuclear power plant technology could contribute to acceleration of nuclear proliferation as the same nuclear technology used to generate electricity can also be used to produce material for nuclear weapons. Mr. Abe must remember that Saudi Arabia has not signed an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency — a document designed to enhance the international nuclear watchdog’s ability to find undeclared nuclear-related activities and radioactive materials.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that if Iran develops the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia may consider arming itself with nuclear weapons. North Korea declared that it will use nuclear power only for civilian purposes. But it pushed forward with a nuclear weapons program and is now believed to possess nuclear bombs.

The important lesson from the Fukushima catastrophe is that nuclear power generation is an extremely difficult technology to manage and that accidents can result that cause irreparable damage to the environment and human life.

The Fukushima fiasco has exposed the simple fact that Japan has failed to properly manage its nuclear technology. Mr. Abe must answer the question of what he thinks of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1 and its implications, and explain why he is trying to sell Japanese nuclear technology at a time when the causes of the Fukushima nuclear accident are not clearly known.

Turkey plans to construct four reactors at Sinop in the northern part of the country facing the Black Sea. The total cost exceeds ¥2 trillion and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., plans to increase its involvement in the project following Japan’s acquisition of preferential negotiating rights. But Turkey is a quake-prone country like Japan. Mr. Abe should explain whether Japan’s government and manufacturers of nuclear power technology will be in a position to assume responsibility should an accident happen at a nuclear power plant overseas that was built using Japanese technology.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has just started studying how the 3/11 quake affected the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Mr. Abe is pushing the export of nuclear power plants before the effect of quakes is fully understood. Such a policy is irresponsible.

May 13, 2013

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