KAKUJOHO (Nuclear Information)


Call for Indefinite Postponement of the Operation of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant

Press Release

Organizations Involved in the Movement for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, Opinion Leaders, Intellectuals Around the World
Call for Indefinite Postponement of the Operation of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant

May 24, United Nations building, New York -—- The Japanese NGO Peace Boat released a statement today titled, "An Appeal to Japan for Leadership Toward Strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime — Call for an Indefinite Postponement of the Operation of the Rokkasho Plutonium Reprocessing Plant". The call comes as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference draws to a close in New York.

Some 150 people including leaders of peace organizations around the world signed the appeal in response to a call by representatives of Peace Depot and Peace Boat from Japan and Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), and the Arms Control Association from the United States.

The appeal warned that start-up of operations at the Rokkasho reprocessing, a plant capable of separating enough plutonium to make 1000 nuclear weapons a year “would further complicate proliferation concerns in the Northeast Asia region.” The statement continues, “ If the plant is started now this would present an excuse called ‘the Japanese example’ to those countries seeking to acquire nuclear weapons (materials). "

The appeal points out that "the start-up of Rokkasho and implementation of an uneconomic 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" and calls on the Japanese Government "to lead the world toward the disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons" by taking "the courageous decision to indefinitely postpone the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. "

The appeal was delivered to the Japanese mission of the United Nations by Akira Kawasaki of Peace Boat and Martin Butcher of Physicians for Social Responsibility. The appeal was released at a seminar/press conference held in the UN building from 3:00pm the same day.

The US NGO Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a statement on May 5 to coincide with the beginning of the NPT Review Conference which called on Japan to indefinitely postpone the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The present appeal was released with the closing of the Review Conference at hand in a response to the UCS call signed by 27 US experts including four Nobel laureates.

The appeal this time was signed by representatives of organizations such as the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Mouvement de la Paix of France, the National Coordinating Committee of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) of India, the national branches of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Germany, Australia, and France, the International Peace Bureau, and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), as well as the above-mentioned five organizations and experts on issues related to nuclear weapons.

Signatories from Japan include well- known survivors of the atomic bombings such as Terumi Tanaka, the secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, Shoji Sawada, and Shigetoshi Iwamatsu. The former mayor of Nagasaki Hitoshi Motojima, religious leaders, prominent political scientists, and well-known individuals such as the musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and writer Hisae Sawachi are among many other signatories.

Although, due primarily to time constraints etc., the signatories signed as individuals and not under their respective organizational affiliations, the fact remains that so many people signing in such a short period is indicative of the strength of the voice against the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Akira Kawasaki, Program Director of Peace Boat, stated:

"The Japanese government has taken pride in working with NGOs, lawyers, scholars, et cetera around the world that are opposed to nuclear weapons, who are now opposing the Japanese plan to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. If started, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant could separate enough plutonium to make some 1000 nuclear bombs a year.

“The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs should abandon its method of conducting foreign policy in which it only defends decisions made years ago by bureaucrats in the nuclear power section of the government, weakening the NPT regime and complicating the ongoing international efforts toward denuclearization of Northeast Asia. If Japan truly wants to be a leader in the efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, it should face up to the implications of the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and show the courage to make the right decision by changing its past policy."

Harold Feiveson, Senior Research Policy Scientist, Program on Science & Global Security at Princeton University stated:

"A global moratorium on any new reprocessing of civilian spent fuel would be a valuable nonproliferation undertaking. Reprocessing makes no sense economically, and it is not needed for rational disposal of radioactive wastes. Already civilian fuel reprocessing has led to the accumulation worldwide of over 200 metric tons of separated plutonium which have to be rigorously and stringently secured and safeguarded. Any further accumulation is pointless and dangerous. A decision by Japan not to start-up Rokkasho would be an essential and productive first step toward a worldwide moratorium, first on new reprocessing and then on all reprocessing worldwide."

Martin Butcher Director, Security Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility stated:

“PSR has campaigned to prevent nuclear war for forty years. Each act of proliferation makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely. US NGOs oppose the nuclear policies of the Bush administration as they are destabilizing and dangerous, providing an excuse for others that would seek to breach the NPT. For the same reasons, we oppose starting reprocessing at Rokkasho. It would be an act of proliferation, and increase the nuclear dangers the world faces.

“Rokkasho would provide an excuse and a cover for countries such as Iran to pursue their own nuclear programs, increasing the world's supply of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium. In a world where we fear the threat of nuclear terrorism, the international community cannot accept such unnecessary risks.

Japan, and other nuclear countries, should support the efforts of the IAEA for a moratorium on reprocessing. Safety and security for our communities and our countries can only come from reduced availability of nuclear materials, not from renewed reprocessing.”

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