KAKUJOHO (Nuclear Information)


An appeal to Japan for leadership toward strengthening of the non-proliferation regime

May 24, 2005

An appeal to Japan for leadership toward strengthening of the non-proliferation regime
─Call for an indefinite postponement of the operation of the Rokkasho plutonium reprocessing plant─

The 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is nearing its end. The member states must make utmost efforts to make the conference a successful one in order to reduce the nuclear threats now facing the world. While it is vital for the nuclear-weapon states to take concrete measures towards irreversible disarmament, the halt of the proliferation of the materials usable for nuclear weapons — highly enriched uranium and plutonium — is also an integral part of the objectives of the NPT.

At the opening of the NPT Review Conference, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed the nuclear threat and warned as follows:

“The regime will not be sustainable if scores more States develop the most sensitive phases of the fuel cycle” (uranium enrichment and reprocessing) and those states “are equipped with the technology to produce nuclear weapons on short notice – and, of course, each individual State which does this only will leave others to feel that they must do the same. This would increase all the risks – of nuclear accident, of trafficking, of terrorist use, and of use by states themselves.”

Thus, efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons materials and technology are important in order also to secure progress toward nuclear abolition.

A statement released at the beginning of the NPT Review Conference by the Union of Concerned Scientists, signed by 27 US experts including four Nobel laureates, says “At a time when the non-proliferation regime is facing its greatest challenge, Japan should not proceed with its current plans for the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.”

If operated, the Rokkasho plant would be the only commercial-scale plutonium production plant in a country without nuclear weapons. Planned to start its active testing using spent nuclear fuel in December of this year and to go into commercial operation in 2007, it could separate approximately 8 metric tons of plutonium per year, enough to make 1000 nuclear bombs. To underscore how absolutely unnecessary this production would be, Japan already has more than 40 tons of plutonium stockpiled in Japan and in Europe, enough to make 5000 bombs.

Additional production and accumulation of weapons-usable materials by Japan would further complicate proliferation concerns in the Northeast Asia region. If the plant is started now this would present an excuse called “the Japanese example” to those countries seeking to acquire nuclear weapons (materials). Thus, the start up of Rokkasho and implementation of an unecomical program to use the separated plutonium as a fuel in commercial nuclear power reactors presents a global proliferation risk that simply cannot be ignored by NPT signatories.

With the closing of the NPT Review Conference at hand, we call on the government of Japan, which well knows the tragedy that could be caused by the use of nuclear weapons, to lead the world toward the disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. A critical step towards this goal would be for Japan to take the courageous decision to indefinitely postpone the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

List of Signatories

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