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2012年3月27日 (火)


(Mainichi Japan) March 26, 2012
Japan's postwar nuclear policy lingers

There are two types of atomic weapons. One is a uranium-kind or "Hiroshima-type" bomb and the other is a plutonium-kind or "Nagasaki-type" bomb. Iran says it is stockpiling enriched uranium for peaceful purposes but is suspected of having nuclear ambitions. Japan is also maintaining plutonium but is not suspected of going nuclear.

However, it cannot be said that Japan does not have military intentions. A policy of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has implications for a diversion of nuclear energy for military use anytime. Nuclear energy is not unrelated to the military.

According to Akira Kurosaki, associate professor at Fukushima University who received the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities for his 2006 book, "Nuclear Weapons and Japan-U.S. Relations," there were many materials to support the intentions of Japanese politicians and diplomats who tried to make Japan a potential nuclear power by promoting nuclear energy in the 1960s when the nation's post-World War II nuclear policy firmed up.

The prime minister at the time was Eisaku Sato (1901-1975). Sato presented four nuclear policies -- maintaining three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, relying on an American nuclear deterrent, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power and promoting nuclear disarmament.

The promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear power has a hidden intention of potentially possessing nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Sato reacted bitterly to China's nuclear weapons test in 1964 and told then U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer that Japan was fully capable of producing nuclear weapons with its scientific and industrial technologies. It was in 1965 that Japan's first commercial nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, achieved criticality.

In 1969, a study team of senior Foreign Ministry officials secretly produced an internal document on always holding Japan's potential to maintain economic and technological prowess to produce nuclear weapons. It was prepared shortly before the conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows only the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China to possess nuclear weapons. The No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1970. The Mainichi Shimbun had a scoop on the Foreign Ministry in-house document in 1994.

Kurosaki says the four nuclear policies were not necessarily drawn up by Sato. He put together and rubber-stamped the policies formulated after heated debate through Japan-U.S. negotiations, bureaucrats in the Kasumigaseki district, industry and ruling and opposition party lawmakers.

Even after that, the undercurrent surrounding Japan's nuclear policy did not change. When North Korea's nuclear problems surfaced in the 1990s, calls for Japan to go nuclear emerged, but they are still minority opinions even to this day.

In 2007, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and three other nuclear arms experts pointed out that the traditional concept of nuclear deterrence has become obsolete in the post-Cold War era. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama drew global attention by calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, but the world has subsequently witnessed Chinese and Russian military expansion and North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons development.

I interviewed Kurosaki in his office at Fukushima University last week. High-pressure cleaning vehicles were flushing radioactive materials from the campus. A native of the city of Niigata, Kurosaki studied law at Tohoku University and served as an assistant at Rikkyo University and held other posts before assuming his current post in 2009. If atomic weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin, the March 11, 2011 twin natural disasters and resultant nuclear crisis appear to have forced Japan to radically change the course of its nuclear policy.

Japan possesses 45 tons of reprocessed plutonium which could be converted to military use. That amounts to about 4,000 "Nagasaki-type" atomic bombs. Japan can reduce its reprocessed plutonium by burning it at a fast-breeder reactor or pluthermal plant (using mixed oxide of uranium-plutonium fuel), but the prospects are bleak.

One wonders whether Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda would say Japan can carry out a nuclear fuel cycle using its own technology even though he has been unable to bring the collapsed nuclear power plant under control. Is there an option left for Japan to go nuclear today?

A two-day nuclear security summit opened in Seoul on March 26 by bringing together leaders of 53 countries. There is no argument about the need for debate on ways to prevent nuclear materials from finding their way into the hands of terrorists, but I also want these leaders to discuss a policy not to produce a dangerous and excessive volume of plutonium.

(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2012年3月26日 東京朝刊


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