While the media are rushing to announce the “full stop” of Japan’s nuclear power production 2039, little attention has been paid to two much less publicized moves. The first is the restarting of Japan’s nuclear export industry, especially its targeting of former colonial areas in South East Asia. The second is even more discreet. It is the revision of the Atomic Energy Basic Law loosening constraints on weapons development and breaking the long-standing pledge that nuclear technology be used exclusively for peaceful ends. The amendment may be related to the apparently contradictory announcement that the Japanese government will stop nuclear production but continue to reprocess spent fuel. We propose to analyse both of these recent developments.
In the face of global decline of nuclear power and the crisis of the nuclear power industry, Arnaud Montebourg, the French minister of Industrial Recovery (and nuclear recovery) recently explained to the media that “the nuclear industryhas a bright future”. On September 17th, Montebourg declared that “the nuclear industry is not abandoned.” Rather, “on the contrary, we are building the European Pressurized Reactor in Flamanville, and will export this technology to foreign countries.”
For his part Denis Baupin, vice-president of the Green Party (EELV) in the Deputy Chamber denounced “a profession of faith out of step with reality” since “everywhere in the world, on the contrary, nuclear activities are in decline.” It is a decline confirmed by the “German decision to quit, as in Belgium, in Italy, and the de facto withdrawal in Japan, as well as the calling into question of the Chinese nuclear program and that of the United States.”
There are signs that the assessment of the nuclear situation in Japan, after the Fukushima disaster, might prove the French ecologist’s analysis to be premature.
A very radioactive diplomacy
On July 8th, anticipating Montebourg’s nuclearist statements, French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, who was at the origin of the creation of the AREVA company – supplier of the MOX used in the Fukushima Daiichi No. 3 reactor – and administrator with Anne Lauvergeon – former president of the same company – of the Institut François Mitterrand, met his Japanese counterpart Gemba Koichiro. They announced a five-year bilateral project between France and Japan which could be signed next year. Among the main fields of cooperation mentioned by the French minister are “the environment and energy, particularly nuclear.”
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