Energy

Groups Concerned about Using Japanese Public Funds to Promote Nuclear Exports

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tokyo- A petition expressing concern about Japan's plans to construct power plants in Vietnam and other countries – including Jordan – was submitted to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akihiro Ohata on Wednesday.

The petition “Concerning Feasibility Study for Construction of Nuclear Power Plants in Vietnam” expressed concern about the Japanese government’s use of public funds for the promotion of exports of nuclear power plants.

The petition was endorsed by 79 groups (52 Japanese and 27 overseas) and 132 individuals (129 Japanese and three overseas), including the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Friends of the Earth Japan, Greenpeace Japan and the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation.

The petition stated: “We are seriously concerned that the Japanese government’s use of public funds for the incautious promotion of exports of nuclear power plants will give rise to large nuclear proliferation and nuclear safety risks, that it could cause huge social and environmental impacts on local communities where nuclear power plants are constructed, and that Japan’s taxes will be used for the profit of a limited number of companies.”

The petition added: “We believe the Japanese government’s policy of investing extravagant amounts of public money to promote nuclear exports is inappropriate.”

The petition's supporters expressed the belief that “the current policy of promoting nuclear exports is the result of an underestimation of the financial risks, as well as the social and environmental risks associated with nuclear energy in relation to nuclear proliferation, accidents, radioactive waste, worker exposure to radiation and other issues.”

Currently the Japanese government is providing official support through diplomacy, technical cooperation and feasibility studies to enable Japanese companies to export nuclear power plants to a number of countries, including the United States, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Jordan.

At a meeting between the prime ministers of Japan and Vietnam at the end of October, it was announced that the Vietnamese government had decided to choose Japan as its cooperation partner for building two reactors. The agreement included conducting feasibility studies and the provision of low-interest loans.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy has awarded 1.999 billion yen to Japan Atomic Power Company to carry out a feasibility study on Vietnam’s nuclear power plant construction project. If Japanese companies win construction contracts, it is envisaged that public finance and insurance will be provided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Nippon Export Investment and Insurance (NEXI).
The petitioners believe that such courses of action entail great risks.

“Proceeding with nuclear projects in developing countries, which face additional problems in relation to issues such as governance, technical capacity and democratic participatory processes, entails great risks for local communities,” they state.

While, recognizing that nuclear exports are already being promoted, the signatories warned: “When the Japanese government provides support for studies related to nuclear exports, or when it provides public credit for nuclear exports, it is necessary to ensure adequate transparency and to carefully examine the … nuclear risks.”
Specifically, they demanded the following in regard to feasibility studies carried out in relation to the construction of nuclear power plants overseas:

1. Since the Vietnamese feasibility study will be carried out with Japanese taxpayers’ money, the study report should be published in its entirety (with the exception of details of the bids);

2. The topics to be covered in the feasibility study should be decided after taking into account the views of various stakeholders, including NGOs;

3. The topics of the feasibility study should include consideration of whether or not information disclosure concerning the whole project and consultation with residents will be assured in the decision-making process for construction of the nuclear power plant;

4. The topics of the feasibility study should include consideration of whether or not information disclosure and consultation with residents concerning safety, etc., will be assured in relation to operation of the nuclear power plant;

5. The feasibility study should also include an assessment of the risks posed by the project covering the radioactive waste management system, accident response, accident liability, protection of workers from exposure to radiation, safety assurances, as well as other social and environmental risks.

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