The Diet on Dec. 9 approved bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation agreements signed with Jordan, Vietnam, Russia and South Korea before the Fukushima nuclear crisis. They will go into effect in January at the earliest, paving the way for exports of nuclear technology, including reactors, by Japanese makers. But the Noda administration’s policy is full of contradictions.
The severe accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are still going on. Thorough studies of the accidents have not yet been carried out. The government panel to examine the accidents is still doing its work. The Diet has just started examining the accidents. There are no prospects that new nuclear power reactors will be constructed in Japan because of the Fukushima fiasco. The government, finding it difficult to ignore a call for reducing the nation’s reliance on nuclear power as much as possible, is expected to reduce the weight of nuclear power in a basic energy policy to be revised next year.
But despite this situation, the Noda administration is eager to export nuclear technology. The policy is unprincipled. Testament to the concern about its problematic nature is the fact that two lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan cast “no” votes and about 15 other DPJ members abstained in voting Dec. 6 in a Lower House plenary session and that 12 DPJ lawmakers abstained in voting Dec. 9 in an Upper House plenary session.
If Japanese nuclear technology is exported, it may not be free from safety and other problems. In Jordan, for example, a 1 million kilowatt reactor is planned to be built in an extremely dry area. It is feared that not enough water could be secured if an accident happened at the plant. The country is also prone to earthquakes, and dangers from terrorism cannot be ruled out. Under the agreements, in principle, importing countries — not Japanese reactor makers — are to take care of waste from nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel.
Although the countries that signed the agreements and Japanese makers are certain to welcome the Diet approval of the agreements, the international community would regard Japan’s policy as hypocritical. Japan should give priority to thoroughly examining and determining the cause of the Fukushima plant accidents, overcoming disinformation and the withholding of information by the nuclear power establishment.
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