Urgent rethink needed on Japan-Turkey nuclear energy pact
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Jan. 7 with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and confirmed that Japan would export its nuclear reactor technology to Turkey.
The export strategy is a pillar of the Abe administration's push for economic growth. In this matter, we urge caution for the simple reason that a serious accident at a plant exported by Japan could have ramifications far beyond the country in question. That could result in Japan being held accountable.
Moreover, how to store or permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel is a matter of mounting international concern. But the Japan-Turkey nuclear energy pact addresses this only in vague terms.
Diet approval is necessary for the bilateral pact to take effect. Lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties would be well advised to get the Abe administration to rethink the pact. That, we believe, is their responsibility as members of the legislature.
The pact contains a provision that would enable Turkey to eventually enrich uranium and extract plutonium by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. But this could be problematic because the technologies for uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction can lead to the production of nuclear weapons. In this matter, the international community has been acting with extreme caution.
But even after the bilateral nuclear energy pact takes effect, Turkey will not be able to go right ahead and reprocess spent nuclear fuel.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida assured the Diet during the previous session that Japan would not approve fuel reprocessing by Turkey.
But this was not spelled out in the bilateral pact, and the reported reason is that Japan complied with Turkey's request that "affirmative wording" be used. The Abe administration compromised, apparently because it wanted to conclude the pact as soon as possible to pave the way for exports of nuclear-related technology to Turkey.
Until recently, only a limited number of countries relied on nuclear power generation. But the reliance is now spreading among developing nations that suffer from energy shortages. And it is precisely these nations that Abe is targeting in his efforts to sell Japanese technology and hardware.
A number of these countries that are eager to have their own nuclear power plants are undemocratic or are in politically unstable regions. Great care needs to be exercised in selling nuclear energy technologies. If too little thought is given, and countries can get away with dictating the terms of nuclear energy pacts, the world's already shaky framework of nuclear nonproliferation would be further destabilized.
It has been pointed out that there are limits to what the International Atomic Energy Agency can do, given its lack of the power to fully enforce its inspections.
Japan has failed to make its nuclear fuel recycling system a going concern. Japan's massive surplus plutonium, which has been stockpiled by entrusting fuel reprocessing to contractors overseas, has become a matter of global concern.
It is the Abe administration's responsibility to focus on resolving these problems at home and live up to its international obligations by working out how nuclear waste should be managed or disposed of.
Opposition parties in this country are against hasty exports of nuclear power plant technology and the Japan-Turkey nuclear energy pact. Even some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are preaching caution.
We hope that both the ruling and opposition camps will work together to prove their mettle as responsible members of the legislature.