Power Line
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan Vol.19
February 2003

Japan's Commitment to the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

As 2003 BEGINS, Japan's power industry continues its efforts to regain public trust, which has been weakened chiefly as a result of the Tokyo Electric Power company's (TEPCO's) inappropriate handling of voluntary inspection records at its nuclear plants. Nuclear-related laws have been amended, and nuclear utilities are now required to evaluate and submit records on equipment safety. The Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) plans to issue detailed evaluation rules, including the application of private sector standards. To future enhance safety culture, the FEPC, which comprises 10 member electric power companies, will, through evaluation of member management and operations, strengthen link within the Nuclear Safety Network (NSnet), which is composed of electricity and research organizations.

The Safeguard Program

Nuclear Energy and IAEA Safeguards System

The Atomic Energy Basic Law, promulgated in 1955, expressly declares that Japan shall use nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes. In order to demonstrate the peaceful nature of Japan's nuclear energy to the international community, we have accepted an inspection system involving the application of comprehensive safeguards. The technical objective of these safeguards, which are applicable under the treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), is to detect in a timely manner any diversions of significant amounts of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the production of nuclear weaponry or nuclear devices, or to some unknown purposes.

In 1970, the NPT came into force, and Japan joined the treaty in 1976. Article 3 of the NPT requires non-nuclear weapon state to accept IAEA safeguards. In accordance with this provision, NPT non-nuclear weapon member countries, including Japan, have entered into full-scope safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Within this framework, all nuclear materials at all nuclear installations in Japan, including nuclear power plants, uranium enrichment plants and reprocessing facilities, are subject to international safeguards.

In order to ensure the application of more extensive safeguards, Japan signed the IAEA Additional Protocol in 1998. The Additional Protocol allows the IAEA to carry out a range of additional measures to ensure there are no undeclared facilities and activities, thus conferring very important additional rights of inspection on this international agency in verifying the use of nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes.

In accordance with national laws, Japanese nuclear utilities and research institutions submit safeguards reports, including data on material accountancy and activities, to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The IAEA and the Japanese government conduct joint safeguards inspections that serve to verify the accuracy of these reports. In the process, the IAEA has the right to independently verify the accuracy of the information it receives. Japan is estimate to be the subject of about 20 percent to 30 percent of the IAEA's inspection activities.

Moreover, Japan also has bilateral cooperative agreements on peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Canada and Australia. Under these agreements, Japan has agreed to accept various additional non-proliferation conditions and controls. Additionally, Japan has been a long-time participant in the Nuclear Suppliers Group that has adopted guidelines designed to ensure the application of common and effective non-proliferation conditions to nuclear exports.

Japan not only complies with the IAEA's safeguards system, but also strives to persuade as many parties to the NPT as possible to sign the Additional Protocol. Last December, in cooperation with the IAEA, Japan hosted in Tokyo the International Conference on Wider Adherence to Strengthened IAEA Safeguards. Attended by 82 participants representing 36 countries, the conference achieved good results. The international gathering offered excellent opportunities to encourage other countries to sign the Additional Protocol through sharing the results of regional seminars held in five countries since June 2001. In addition, the conference sent the message to nuclear weapons nations and EU member countries that they were expected to ratify the Additional Protocol as soon as possible.

Peaceful Nuclear Utilization

While thus consistently ensuring the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Japan has forged ahead with its nuclear power development. As a result, a total of 52 commercial nuclear reactors are currently in operation. Nuclear power generation accounts for 35 percent of the total power production in Japan.

Japan is poor in natural resources. Domestic oil accounts for only 0.3 percent of the total crude oil supply and 87.9 percent of total imported crude oil is supplied from the Middle East. As an island nation, Japan has not international power transmission networks resembling those that exist in Europe. In order to enhance the country's fragile energy security, and from the perspective of a long-term energy policy, we consider it of the utmost importance to establish a domestic nuclear fuel cycle and create an independent fuel supply structure. Therefor, we will continue to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy by employing nuclear power generation and a nuclear fuel cycle that complies with both international and domestic safeguards systems.