The US state department has apparently pressured Japan to end their new policy of nuclear power phase out. The US cites proliferation issues and mentions in passing the US energy policy being at risk.
Former Deputy Energy Secretary Martin cites this as part of the government’s issue: “The US energy strategy would be more likely to suffer a direct damage“.
The news articles posted on September 25th and then quickly pulled back off of news websites heavily cite proliferation issues. Japan has an agreement with the US that allows them to reprocess nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho nuclear fuels facility. The facility has been under construction for 19 years and is still in a testing mode, so actual reprocessing has yet to happen at the plant. Part of the issue is that reprocessing fuel is basically the same process used to extract plutonium for making nuclear weapons. There is no mention in these reports of the US considering a fuel vitrification plan as an option. This is where the fuel materials are put into a molten glass substance that prevents them from being extracted at a later date. Another option for the proliferation issue is to send waste to France or the UK for vitrification or reprocessing for use elsewhere. Sending waste fuel to France or the UK has been the current process, The proliferation issue has very limited merit.
The same day these news articles came out the US embassy issued a vague warning to travelers to avoid the area near the embassy on the 28th due to a protest at the embassy. The warning does not specifically state the nature of the protest or why US citizens should avoid the area.
EX-SKF mentions that having an external pressure excuse benefits PM Noda and gives him a reason to ditch the policy. The issue has had zero news coverage in the US and likely plays no role in US elections going on now. The current 1988 nuclear energy agreement between the US and Japan expires in 2018 and is at a phase for renegotiation now. This provides a prime opportunity to write a new agreement that solves the proliferation issue.
This incident does not show the US in a positive light. There are already many strained relations with Japan over the Okinawa military base, stationing Osprey aircraft in Japan and the TPP trade talks. The US attempt to influence something so important to the lives of individual people as the energy policy in Japan may prove to be a diplomatic nightmare over time. The large majority in Japan want to end nuclear power production in their country. The country is still suffering the massive impact of the Fukushima disaster and will be for generations. In a country where large earthquakes are common and tsunami the size of the one on March 11th are not unheard of, an external power demanding the public shoulder this risk is an unacceptable request.
If the true motivation of the US is to prop up the failing US nuclear industry the request becomes even more unacceptable.
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