TOKYO - Japan plans to boost civilian
nuclear exports even as it tries to appease its
population angered at radiation leaks from the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, crippled by
an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, last year.
"The reason why Japan is taking these
dangerous [export] steps is to gain business
opportunities and diplomatic clout with developing
countries," said Yuki Tanabe, an expert at the
Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and
Last month, bills to
allow export of nuclear plants to Vietnam and
Jordan, as part of bilateral co-operation, were
approved by the foreign affairs committee of the
House of Representatives.
Minister Yoshihiko Noda has justified the deals
saying these countries
"badly want Japan's high-level technology". But
Noda also said that Japan must help "enhance the
safety of nuclear power plants in those
Agreements are pending with
several others countries, including India,
Bangladesh and Turkey, covering the construction
of power plants, their operation and management by
in Japan and the recipient countries have joined
hands against these projects in a campaign that
has gained momentum as a result of radiation
leakage at Fukushima.
Apart from the huge
health risks posed by radioactive contamination,
activists are pointing to the exorbitant costs of
nuclear power that have been all too evident in
Japan over the past few months.
contamination following the meltdown at Fukushima
has forced more than 150,000 people living in the
vicinity to flee.
Additionally, tens of
thousands of hectares of agricultural land have
been declared dangerous for food production. Tests
conducted this month in the surrounding sea have
indicated contamination of marine resources,
making them inedible.
Tokyo Electric Power
Company, the operator of the Fukushima reactor, is
now faced with compensation payments worth more
than US$60 billion forcing it to request public
Such difficult issues were
highlighted at an anti-nuclear conference this
week in Yokohama organized by Japanese and
international grassroot organizations lobbying for
a nuclear-free world. Speakers from countries such
as South Korea, Canada and the European Union
presented cases that illustrated strong domestic
opinion against nuclear power.
Bidwai, an internationally known Indian campaigner
for safe and renewable energy, explained the
importance of regular protests and demonstrations
by local people who live close to nuclear power
Currently 3% of India's energy
needs are met by nuclear plants, but plans are
afoot to increase this to 20% by 2020 to support
economic growth and meet power demand.
India, Bidwai said, has not signed the
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and has a poor
nuclear safety record, with several accidents,
fires, explosions and radioactive water spills
that have exposed workers and the public to
In October 2011, Noda and
Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Krishna agreed
to resume talks on how to create conditions for a
Japanese-Indian partnership in promoting peaceful
atomic energy. Officials and business
proponents of nuclear technology say that Japan's
nuclear exports would continue, and they point to
competition from South Korea.
Heyung of the South Korean Environment Movement
against Nuclear Power, explained at Yokohama that
the Fukushima accident has raised awareness among
the public about the dangers of nuclear power. A
poll conducted in October showed that 68% of South
Koreans opposed to the building of new reactors,
signaling lack of public support for six new
nuclear power sites proposed by the government.
South Korea signed a new nuclear export
pact with United Arab Emirates last year and is
competing in Finland with Japan to win orders.
Mongolia, a uranium rich country, has also
become a focal point in the anti-nuclear debate
following news reports in May last year that Japan
and the United States are planning to construct a
spent fuel disposal facility in the country.
Selnge Lkhagvajav, a member of the
Mongolian Green Party that has successfully worked
against nuclear power, told the meeting in
Yokohama that her country does not have the
experts or technology to accept nuclear power or
"Nuclear power countries see
Mongolia with its lax laws as a dumping site. We
will fight against such moves," she told IPS.
Japan, which depends on nuclear power for
30% of its energy, has been promising to implement
stringent measures to raise the protection bar
against Fukushima-type accidents. But, Tanabe from
JACSES dismisses such measures as futile.
Meanwhile, ongoing stress tests ordered on
nuclear facilities have drastically reduced
Japan's nuclear energy output. Activists see in
this an opportunity for the country to look for
safer energy sources.