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In what may be somewhat disappointing news for the domestic power industry, Japan will not be able to sign a long-awaited nuclear energy treaty with the European Union at a regular summit next month.

When the landmark treaty, which is aimed at promoting cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, was initialed at the end of last year after years of hectic negotiations, it was widely expected to take effect as early as this summer, after being signed and ratified by both sides.

But the treaty will not be ready for signature at the 11th regular Japan-EU summit, scheduled for July 8 in Tokyo, for purely procedural reasons on both sides, according to government sources.

Japan has yet to get a nod from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau — the government’s legislative watchdog — to sign the nuclear energy cooperation treaty, the sources said. The bureau is still examining the treaty text to see if it is compatible with domestic laws.

The EU also has yet to get approval from its 15 member countries, the sources said. The EU has taken a lot of time to translate the English text of the treaty into various languages for examination by each member country.

“The domestic nuclear power industry has long called for an early conclusion of the treaty,” one source said. “Our position remains unchanged that the treaty should be signed and ratified by both Japan and the EU as soon as possible.”

The sources said that Japan hopes to get the treaty ratified by its Diet, either during its extraordinary session expected to convene this autumn or during its 150-day ordinary session, which will open in January.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and European Commission President Romano Prodi will attend the bilateral summit. Denmark will take over the six-month, rotating EU presidency from Spain on July 1. The European Commission is the EU’s executive arm.

The treaty in question was initialed and will be signed by the Japanese government and Euratom, the EU’s organ in charge of nuclear energy. It will not only promote bilateral cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but also ban the conversion of fissionable materials for military use or the transfer of such materials to third-party countries.

Japan has so far concluded similar treaties with several countries, including the United States, Canada, Britain, France and Australia. Under these separate bilateral treaties, Japan purchases uranium from the U.S., Canada and Australia, while commissioning Britain and France to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

In addition to Britain and France, Belgium and the Netherlands are commissioned to reprocess spent Japanese nuclear fuel. But since Japan does not have nuclear energy cooperation treaties with Belgium and the Netherlands, it must conclude a special administrative arrangement with the two European countries each time reprocessing of spent Japanese nuclear fuel is commissioned.

The Japan-EU nuclear energy cooperation treaty is expected to make it possible for Japan to cooperate more smoothly with Belgium and the Netherlands in the peaceful use of nuclear energy by saving the three countries a lot of time and administrative costs.

Antinuclear groups, like Greenpeace, are critical of the planned Japan-EU treaty.

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