News Watch 90 (July/August 2002) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 90

The Basic Law on Energy Policy Passes the DietOn June 7, the Basic Law on Energy Policy was approved at the House of Councilors. The law had been opposed, as it supports the development of nuclear power as the nation’s primary source of energy. This bill gives its highest priority to ‘securing a stable supply of energy’. The bill was introduced by the ruling party members, and it is obvious that nuclear energy is their main intention in enacting this law.

Reckless remarks on the three non-nuclear principles by chief Cabinet SecretaryOn May 31, the Chief Cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, remarked to the cabinet reporters’ club during an informal talk that ‘in an era of calls to amend the Constitution if the tension is mounting in the international relationship, public opinion might favor a nuclear-armed Japan even though we have three non-nuclear principles.’ The remark was initially anonymous and reported as being made by a ‘senior government official’ because it was given during an off-the-record conversation. However, increasing public criticism of this reckless pro-nuclear comment forced the government to reveal that the chief Cabinet secretary was the ‘senior government official’. Mr. Fukuda also said at an official press conference that in the light of the Constitution, Japan could possess nuclear weapon for self-defense purposes.

After being widely criticized, Mr. Fukuda made an excuse saying, ‘there will be no review of the three non-nuclear principles by the Koizumi Cabinet’; ‘under the Atomic Energy Basic Law, ‘Japan can only utilize its research, and development for peaceful purposes”. Therefore, Japan cannot possess any nuclear weapons’. Yet, Mr. Fukuda’s proviso ‘by the Koizumi Cabinet,’ does not guarantee that the three non-nuclear principles will be maintained.

The three principles were first confirmed as government policy by then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato during a Committee on the Budget at the House of Representative in December 1967. The three principles commit the nation: 1) not to possess, 2) not to manufacture, and 3) not to allow nuclear weapons on its soil. Although, the decision was made to follow the three non-nuclear principles at the plenary session of the House of Representatives in November 1971, the call for the legislation of these principles has been neglected. As for the third principle, it has been suspected that U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Japan might possess nuclear weapons. Also, U.S. warships visiting Japanese ports might be carrying nuclear weapons. Therefore, some think that the legislation of the three principles is impossible since the principles have been violated since their establishment.

Tsuruga 1 to Be DecommissionedOn May 30, the Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPCO) reported to Fukui Prefecture and Tsuruga City on their plan to terminate the operation of Tsuruga 1 (BWR, 357 MW) in 2010. Tsuruga 1 started commercial operations in March 1970, so it will be 40 years old in 2010. It was the first LWR in Japan, and will be the first LWR to be decommissioned. JAPCO estimates the decommissioning cost to be approximately 32 billion yen ($250 million).

Prior to the decommissioning of Tsuruga 1, in March 2003, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) will stop the operation of their Advanced Thermal Reactor Fugen (165 MW). Currently there are 15 nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture and the governor has stated that he would not accept any increase in the number of reactors. Since the two reactors, Fugen and Tsuruga 1, are to be shut down, JAPCO sought the contructions of Tsuruga 3 and 4 (Advanced Pressurized Water Reactors, 1538 MW each) in Fukui Prefecture and Tsuruga City, making their application on the same day of the announcement of Tsuruga 1’s decommissioning. This request was later accepted by the governor. Consequently, the total output will be sharply increased, though the number of the reactors will stay the same.

JFBA Requests the Cancellation of Kaminoseki NPP PlanOn May 15, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) submitted a letter of request to the electric company, the prefectural government, and Kaminoseki town, seeking the cancellation of construction plans for Kaminoseki nuclear power plants 1 and 2 (Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, 1373 MW each).

The letter of request points out the risk of accidents in view of the strong seismic activities which have repeatedly taken place in the area surrounding the planned site. It also indicates that there is a possibility of the destruction of the precious ecosystem in the region (See NIT 84).

The JFBA reached the resolution seeking the suspension of further construction of nuclear power plants and the gradual phase-out of existing ones. It is the first time that the JFBA has demanded the cancellation of particular nuclear power plants. The construction plans for Kaminoseki nuclear power plants were introduced in the Electric Power Development Fundamental Plan in June 2001. However, since a Shinto priest who owns part of the site has been refusing to sell it, the license applications for siting the nuclear power plants have remained unsubmitted for one year.

First Round of Safety Inspection for Remodeling Monju CompletedOn May 7, the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) concluded that there is no problem regarding the safety assessment of the Monju (Fast Breeder Reactor, 280 MW) remodeling plan. On the following day, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) consulted the Nuclear Safety Commission for reconfirmation of this assessment. In June 2001, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) submitted the license application for remodeling Monju to METI. The operation of Monju has been suspended due to the December 1995 sodium leak and fire accident.
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