The Diet on Wednesday endorsed the controversial Japan-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement that will allow the nation’s firms to export nuclear materials and technology to India for nonmilitary use.
The pact has been a source of contention at home and abroad because India is neither a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) nor of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Opposition lawmakers argue that the accord will damage the credibility of the NPT system and help India acquire nuclear technology and materials.
Signed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in November last year, the agreement passed a plenary session of the Upper House Wednesday with a vote of 151 to 87.
The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito voted for the pact, while opposition forces including the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party voted against it.
The agreement is set to take effect in early July.
The move is in line with Abe’s initiative to help Japanese companies export nonmilitary nuclear technology to other countries.
Under the agreement, Japanese firms may supply nuclear materials, equipment and technologies to India for “peaceful and non-explosive purposes.” The companies may also provide support services for designing, building and operating reactors.
In the face of surging power demand due to rapid economic and population growth, India is seeking to build more nuclear reactors. The population of the country is now predicted to reach 1.4 billion in 2022, which will make it the world’s most populated nation.
New Delhi aims to boost nuclear power generation nationwide so that it accounts for nearly 25 percent of all electricity in the country by 2050. Last month the government announced it will build 10 new heavy-water reactors.
The accord follows a landmark 2006 U.S.-India nuclear pact, in which Washington agreed to provide nuclear technology while New Delhi designated 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors for civil use. India has agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the nonmilitary reactors.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has argued that the Japan-Indo agreement will oblige India “to take responsible actions” and will lead to “effective participation” of India in the NPT system.
Kishida also pledged that Japan would “immediately” terminate the cooperation should India lift its declared moratorium on conducting nuclear explosion tests.
But the Japan-India agreement “will only damage the credibility of the NPT,” argued DP lawmaker Shinji Oguma at a plenary session of the Lower House on May 16.
Oguma said it would be “impossible in reality” for Japan to take back its materials and equipment if India conducts a nuclear explosion test, even if Tokyo terminates the deal.
Opposition lawmakers pointed out that the pact does not ban “subcritical experiments,” which do not involve nuclear explosions but still provide useful information for improving and maintaining nuclear weapons.
Opposition lawmakers have also said that exports of nuclear technology may not be profitable for nation firms.
Japanese industrial giant Toshiba recorded huge losses with its U.S. nuclear business and has been forced to put most of its profitable businesses up for sale.
Toshiba and other global nuclear firms have also suffered in the wake of the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
To date, Japan has concluded nuclear cooperation pacts with 13 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Jordan and Turkey, and one organization.
According to the Japan Electric Power Information Center, coal accounted for 44 percent of India’s primary energy consumption, followed by oil at 22.7 percent, gas at 5.7 percent, hydro at 1.6 percent and nuclear power at 1.2 percent as of 2013.
India exploded nuclear devices during tests in 1974 and 1998, and declared a moratorium on further testing in 2008.
Japan is the only country that has been attacked using nuclear weapons. Many survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have expressed opposition to Abe’s initiative to help firms export nuclear technologies overseas.