July 3, 2013
A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial “pluthermal” program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi.
The revelation comes as Japan’s pluthermal project remains suspended in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to safety concerns. The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy.
Under the pluthermal plan, spent nuclear fuel generated in light-water reactors is reprocessed to extract plutonium, which is then mixed with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power generation. However, many experts have raised questions about the program, citing its high costs and the risks posed by the fuel’s comparatively low melting point and the decreased effectiveness of control rods.
The documents that the Mainichi obtained are a compilation of cables recording the Ogushi-Poneman talks in the U.S. on Sept. 12 last year. During the meeting, Ogushi explained that Japan would inject all available policy resources to break away from nuclear power generation in the 2030s, that it would steadfastly promote the nuclear fuel cycle program in the medium and long term….
Despite the country not knowing which nuclear reactors will be authorized to resume operations following the July implementation of the new regulatory standards, the government has been pushing ahead with its plans to restart the controversial pluthermal program.
“It is abnormal for sure,” said one official with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. “But it can’t be helped if the Rokkasho plant is to be put into operation.”
We explained last year:
The former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland – Mitsuhei Murata – said recently:
In the US there are 31 [sic] units the same type of that of Fukushima nuclear plant [23 are virtually identical to Fukushima]. So, if the accident be spread too far that really embarrasses the US. So that is why the crisis of Unit 4 has been toned down recently. The USA is actually the main reason.
This is not the only indication that the U.S. has had a large role in Japanese nuclear policy after the Fukushima disaster. For example – in an effort to protect the American nuclear industry – the U.S. has joined Japan in raising “acceptable” radiation levels after the disaster.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also purportedly signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite the fact that the FDA is refusing to test seafood for radiation in any meaningful fashion. So U.S. actions are helping to protect a pro-nuclear policy in Japan.
Indeed, leading Japanese newspaper Nikkei also reports that it was President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton who pressured the Japanese to re-start that country’s nuclear program after the Japanese government vowed to end all nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Japanese media has been saying for some time that it was the US government who pressured the Noda administration to drop the “zero nuke by 2030″ (which morphed into “zero nuke sometime in 2030s) from its new nuclear and environmental policy decision. Tokyo Shinbun reported it a while ago, and now Nikkei Shinbun just reported it with more details. There is no news reported in the US on the matter.
The difference of the Nikkei Shinbun’s article is that it names names: President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It’s hard for me to believe that this president has time for trivial matters like actually governing the affairs inside and outside the US in the election year (he must be very busy right now preparing for the big “debate”), but that’s what Nikkei Shinbun wants us to believe. The article also mentions Secretary of State Clinton pressuring the Noda administration officials by strongly indicating it was the wish of President Obama and the US Congress that Japan scrap that silly nuclear energy policy.
And then, one added twist: the Nikkei article has disappeared. [Washington’s Blog has located a version of the article cached by Google.]
Here’s Nikkei article:
The US request that Japan continue nuclear power plant is “the President’s idea”
It has been revealed that the United States government was strongly urging [the Japanese government] to reconsider its policy of “zero nukes in 2030s” which was part of the energy and environmental strategy of the Noda administration, as “President Obama wishes it”. [The US objection] was based on the fear that the framework of Japan-US cooperation for non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy might collapse [under the new policy]. [The Noda administration] eventually shelved the cabinet decision, but this ambiguous resolution may cause further trouble in the future.
According to the multiple government sources, as the Noda administration was moving in August toward explicitly putting down “zero nuke” in the official document, the US strongly requested that Japan reconsider the “zero nuke” policy, saying the request was “the result of discussion at the highest level of the government“, indicating it was the Obama administration’s consensus, from the president on down.
On September 8, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with the US Secretary of State Clinton during the APEC meeting in Vladivostok in Russia. Here again, representing the US president, Secretary Clinton expressed concern. While avoiding the overt criticism of the Noda administration’s policy, she further pressured Japan by stressing that it was President Obama and the US Congress who were concerned.
The Noda administration sent its officials, including Special Advisor to Prime Minister Akihisa Nagashima, to the US on an urgent mission to directly discuss matters with the high-ranking White House officials who were frustrated with the Japanese response. By treating the new strategy as only a reference material, the Noda administration averted the confrontation with the US with the “equivocal” resolution (according to the Japanese government source) which allowed the US to interpret the Japanese action as shelving the zero nuke policy.
(According to Former Deputy Energy Secretary Martin,) the US government thinks that “The US energy strategy would be more likely to suffer a direct damage” because of the Japan’s policy change toward zero nuclear energy. It is because the Japanese nuclear policy is closely linked also to the nuclear non-proliferation and environmental policies aimed at preventing the global warming under the Obama administration.
In the Atomic Energy Agreement effective as of 1988, Japan and the US agreed to a blanket statement that as long as it is at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, reprocessing of the nuclear fuel is allowed without prior consent from the US.Japan’s most important role [in the agreement] is to secure the peaceful use of plutonium without possessing nuclear weapons.
The current Japan-US agreement will expire in 2018, and the government will need to start preliminary, unofficial discussions [with the US] as early as next year. There is some time before the expiration of the agreement, but if Japan leaves its nuclear policy in vague terms the US may object to renewal of permission for nuclear fuel reprocessing. Some (in the Japanese government) say “We are not sure any more what will happen to the renewal of the agreement.”
And U.S. influence on Japanese nuclear policy started well before the Fukushima accident.
For example, archaic nuclear reactor designs such as those used at Fukushima – built by American company General Electric – were chosen because they were good for making nuclear bombs. The U.S. secretly helped Japan develop its nuclear weapons programstarting in the the 1980s. Therefore, the U.S. played a large role in Japan’s development of nuclear energy. (See this).
This article was posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 5:19 am