Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Saving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime from Collapse
KANEKO Kumao / Professor, Tokai University

April 26, 2004
As the world's only nation ravaged by the atomic bombs, Japan has been devoted to its non-nuclear stance throughout the post-war era, and the abolition of nuclear weapons has remained an ardent wish of the majority of Japanese people. On the other hand, as a nation lacking in domestic energy resources that must depend on imports for almost 100% of its oil and natural gas needs, Japan decided to introduce nuclear power a decade after World War II, and today after fifty years, has become a major nuclear state in the world that generates one-third of its electricity through nuclear power.

Japan is unique among nations in that from the initial stages of its nuclear power program, all officials and experts involved had nothing but peaceful use in mind, and none of them entertained malevolent intentions of diverting the technology to develop nuclear weapons. To date, Japan has not only adhered to its own Atomic Energy Basic Law enacted in 1955 and the Three Non-Nuclear Principles to strictly discipline itself, but as a state party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that came into effect in 1970, has also demonstrated good faith in accepting stringent nuclear inspections (safeguards) by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), thereby securing its position as an exemplary model of peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, turning our eyes to the world at large, we find that since around the end of the Cold War there has been a successive emergence of countries which, despite their being states party the NPT, have nevertheless conspired to covertly develop nuclear weapons under the pretext of peaceful purposes. These so-called "rogue nations" including Iraq, Iran and North Korea now pose a serious issue in international politics. And the gravity of the current state of nuclear proliferation has been made ever clearer by the gradual revelation since the end of last year of the existence of a "nuclear black market" centered on Pakistan's Dr. A. Q. Kahn.

If we leave this situation unattended, the NPT regime - in reality already without substance - will inevitably collapse, eventually fulfilling a prediction made by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the Manhattan Project, and his colleagues 60 years ago, that once out of the Pandora's Box, the "nuclear genie" will spread like cancer cells and in the end destroy the earth. The pessimistic view is that it is already too late to do anything about it.

Even so, we cannot simply stand by and allow the NPT system to go to ruin. In the absence of a positive international law that bans nuclear weapons per se, the NPT, which prohibits nuclear weapons development by non-nuclear states, must be maintained by all means as the only existing legal code. What concrete actions should we take, then?

U.S. President George Bush, whose worst fear lies in the possibility that nuclear weapons may be used in future terrorist attacks against the U.S., proposed a series of new intitatives in a speech given at the National Defense University on February 11. Specifically, while the President recognizes the importance of "the Additional Protocol" aimed at reinforcing international nuclear inspections (safeguards) by the IAEA, considering the reality of the current situation where only a few countries have ratified the protocol, he proposed calling on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - 40 countries with advanced nuclear technology - outside the framework of the IAEA to ban all future exports of related equipment, facilities and technologies to "any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants."

It is commonly known that there are two types of nuclear bombs, the uranium-model (Hiroshima type) and the plutonium model (Nagasaki type), and that they require either a facility to enrich Uranium 235 to above 90% or a facility to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract Plutonium with a high level of purity. The Bush proposal will be applied to all but five major nations - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China - that already possess full-scale enrichment and reprocessing facilities, plus Japan, which had established relevant technology more than 20 years ago and has a substantial operational track record. While India, Pakistan, Israel and others also possess related technology, they will apparently continue to be discriminated because of their non-adherence to the NPT.

The Bush proposal obviously faces strong criticism for violating Article IV of the NPT, which guarantees non-nuclear states the "inalienable right" to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. For this reason, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, an Egyptian, presented his own proposal in autumn last year - earlier than the Bush proposal - and has been advocating the creation of a system that would enable non-nuclear states to reprocess, enrich nuclear fuels under multi-national control, rather than on its own. The Bush and ElBaradei proposals each have their merits and demerits, and it is difficult to speculate how their differences will be adjusted, but as long as their common goal remains to prevent nuclear proliferation, we must seek to construct an effective system that can gain approval from most nations.

Japan has an important role to play in such an endeavor. Japan possesses full-scale reprocessing plants in Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture and Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture -- the Rokkasho-mura Plant is scheduled to begin operation in 2006 -- as well as an enrichment plant, and is recognized as a country with "vested rights" under the Bush initiative. It would be both inappropriate and inadmissible, therefore, for Japan to sit back and adopt a self-centered stance of a bystander. Japan, a nation that has resolutely upheld its non-nuclear commitment as the world's only atomic bomb victim and the only nation apart from the five nuclear weapon-states whose nuclear fuel cycle activities such as enrichment and reprocessing enjoy official endorsement, must utilize its knowledge and experience to the maximum extent and strive towards the creation of an international system that guarantees the safe and effective use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. I believe this is the best path for saving the world's nuclear non-proliferation regime from collapse.

The writer is a professor at Tokai University. He is also President of the Japan Council on Nuclear Energy, Environment and Security and a former diplomat.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

金子 熊夫 / 東海大学教授

2004年 4月 26日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Saving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime from Collapse