JAPAN | Japan may lose leg up in talks on N-plant deal

Posted on July 27, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | 27 July 2011

Japan may lose its preferential negotiation rights as early as this month in a Turkish project to build a nuclear power plant, it has been learned.

The Turkish government informed the Japanese government that it will cancel the preferential negotiations with Japan and start talks with other candidate countries on the project if Japan does not make clear its intention to continue the negotiations by the end of July, government sources said.

Speaking last week on Japan’s export of nuclear power plants and related technology, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “We have to restart a serious discussion on the matter from scratch.”

His remark rendered opaque Japan’s position on the export of nuclear power technology. It is thus highly likely that the preferential negotiation rights on the project will end, the sources said.

Turkey plans to construct a power plant with four 1.4 million kilowatt-class nuclear reactors in the Black Sea coastal city of Sinop. It aims to start operating the plant around 2020. Toshiba Corp. hopes to win an order to construct the plant with the cooperation of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The negotiations between Turkey and Japan have been suspended since the nuclear crisis began at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Turkey ended negotiations with South Korea last December and gave the Japanese government the preferential negotiation rights.

Turkey, which is also an earthquake-prone country, highly valued Japan’s quake-resistance technology in awarding the priority rights, according to the sources.

Turkey expects Japan to assist with the transfer of nuclear technology to the country, the development of human resources related to nuclear power plants, as well as necessary legal arrangements, the sources said.

According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the Turkish government intends to continue negotiations with Japan past July, but may ask all candidate countries, including Japan, France and South Korea, to submit competing conditions for building the plant.

After Kan’s “denuclearization declaration” on July 13, it has been increasingly unclear whether Japan will be able to extend government-level support to Turkey, even if Toshiba won the order. Meanwhile, Japan’s rivals, especially South Korea, are eager to extend such support.

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