JAPAN | Gov’t unchanged on nuclear plant export negotiations after crisis

Posted on August 5, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 5 August 2011

In this undated file photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors stand in line intact in Okuma town in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

The government on Aug. 5 gave Cabinet approval to the continuation of ongoing negotiations to sell nuclear power plants overseas.

The decision follows the outbreak of a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which was crippled by the March 11 tsunami, leading to major radiation leaks.

After receiving a question on the issue of overseas nuclear sales from opposition Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Itsunori Onodera, the government produced a response saying that negotiations with other countries that are already in progress would continue, so as not to harm the relationship of trust with those countries. The Cabinet approved this response on Aug. 5.

Meanwhile, decisions on any new exports will be made following an inspection of nuclear technology safety, based on an investigation by a nuclear accident investigation panel, in line with safety standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter shows the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on March 30, 2011. (Mainichi)

A photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter shows the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on March 30, 2011. (Mainichi)

A consensus to continue negotiations that were already in place was earlier reached by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda, and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto. Japan is already in negotiations to export nuclear power plants to Vietnam and Turkey, and plans to continue those negotiations.

Prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the government had placed nuclear plant exports at the center of the nation’s growth strategy, and economic circles had asked the government to form government policies based on these exports.

At an energy and environmental conference on July 29, about 4 1/2 months after the disaster, the government presented a policy to reduce reliance on nuclear power plants as part of a revision of its energy policies. However, overseas interest in Japan’s nuclear power plant technology remains high, and the government has not ruled out new overseas exports, saying that decisions of new exports will be made based on the accident investigation panel’s probe and IAEA standards.

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant operated by Chubu Electric Power Co. is pictured in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, from a Mainichi helicopter in this February 2011 photo. (Mainichi)

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant operated by Chubu Electric Power Co. is pictured in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, from a Mainichi helicopter in this February 2011 photo. (Mainichi)

Commenting on nuclear exports, Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on July 21: “I myself put effort into them, but we must discuss the issue once more,” suggesting a revision of the government’s stance. However, Edano commented, “It is necessary to keep existing promises.” Kaieda also expressed approval of exports, raising speculation that there were disagreements within the Cabinet on the issue.

At the same time, the Turkish government had informed Japan though diplomatic routes that unless Japan clarified its stance on nuclear power plant exports, then it would cut off its prioritized negotiations with Japan and start negotiations with another country. The Japanese government, meanwhile, had been hurrying to formulate a policy on exports in the wake of the March 11 disaster and ensuing nuclear crisis.

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