News Column

Critics Oppose Japan Plan To Export Nuclear Power Technology

Dec 1,2011

Takehiko Kambayashi

Japan Nuclear Plant

Anti-nuclear critics have fiercely opposed Japan's move to allow its companies to export nuclear equipment and technology abroad, in the wake of the nation's worst-ever atomic accident.

Masashi Goto, a former nuclear reactor designer, says that the fact that the very country which caused the disaster is trying to export atomic technology would be "absolute folly."

But Japan's bilateral civil nuclear cooperation accords with Jordan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam are expected to take effect this month as parliament deliberations on the pacts started Wednesday.

The pacts, which lay the legal foundations for Japanese companies to supply nuclear equipment and technology to other countries, were likely to be approved by the House of Representatives on Friday, Kyodo News reported.

On Wednesday, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which controls the upper house with smaller opposition parties, essentially agreed to support the pacts.

Critics argue that the Japanese government is making hasty decisions under growing pressure from abroad and from corporations.

In Jordan, a consortium of Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and French nuclear power company Areva is competing with Russian and Canadian companies for nuclear power contracts.

Jordan has called on Tokyo to ratify a bilateral nuclear cooperation accord by the year-end, cautioning that without it, the consortium could lose its chance of winning a bid to build a nuclear power plant there, Kyodo reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

Kanna Mitsuta, a Friends of the Earth (FoE) Japan researcher, also points out that Japanese companies are apparently eager to promote overseas sales of nuclear technology as their business prospects in Japan are grim in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

After the plant was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a series of explosions and fires triggered the massive release of radioactive material. Its three reactors suffered meltdowns. Tens of thousands of local residents have been forced to leave the area.

Only 10 of the nation's 54 reactors remain in operation due to public fears over the safety of nuclear power.

On Wednesday, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato told the government and operator Tokyo Electric Power Co to decommission all 10 of the prefecture's reactors.

Goto argues in a statement that the government and Tokyo Electric have yet to bring the damaged plant under control and "have not grasped definite causes of the accident, either."

"It is impossible to rule out the possibility that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was involved in not only the earthquake and tsunami but also operational problems, equipment failures and serious design flaws," he says.

In a statement, Japan's civic groups and NGOs including FoE Japan have urged Japan to "immediately abandon its policy of promoting exports of nuclear power plants."

They also told the government to "take the lead in realizing a worldwide phase out of nuclear power."

Source: Copyright 2011 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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