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Nuclear Weapons Policies of Japan and South Korea Challenged

UN Human Rights Council. Credit: UN Web TV

July 31, 2022

By Jaya Ramachandran

GENEVA (IDN) — The Basel Peace Office, in cooperation with other civil society organisations, has challenged the nuclear weapons policies of Japan and South Korea in the UN Human Rights Council, maintaining that these violate the Right to Life, a right enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The two East Asian countries’ nuclear strategies have been called into question in reports submitted on July 14 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the obligations of Japan, South Korea and 12 other countries under human rights treaties. (See Submission on Japan and Submission on South Korea).

The submissions, presented at a time when Russia has made nuclear threats to the US and NATO if they intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, underline the need to address the risks of nuclear deterrence policies. Besides, Russia is not the only country that possesses nuclear weapons and/or maintains options to initiate nuclear war.

“In times of high tensions involving nuclear-armed and/or allied states, plans and preparations for the use of nuclear weapons elevate the risk of nuclear war, which would be a humanitarian catastrophe, severely violating the rights of current and future generations,” says Alyn Ware, Director of the Basel Peace Office. “Compliance with the Right to Life with respect to nuclear weapons is, therefore, an urgent matter, impacting the rights of all humanity.”

In 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with the Right to Life, and that States parties to the ICCPR have obligations to refrain from developing, acquiring, stockpiling and using them. They must also destroy existing stockpiles and pursue negotiations in good faith to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

But both Japan and South Korea are engaged in extended nuclear deterrence policies which involve the threat or use of US nuclear weapons on their behalf in an armed conflict. Both have also supported the option of first use of nuclear weapons on their behalf, even when the United States has been trying to step back from such a policy.

The Basel Peace Office and other civil society organisations argue that the extended nuclear deterrence policies of Japan and South Korea violate their human rights obligations, as is their lack of support for negotiations for comprehensive, global nuclear disarmament.

The submissions make several recommendations of policies the governments could take to conform to the Right to Life. These include adopting no-first-use policies and taking measures to phase out the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines.

This they could do by establishing a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and urging at the ongoing Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference an agreement on the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, the 75th anniversary of the NPT.

The submissions are not solely critical of the two governments. They also applaud Japan and South Korea for the positive steps taken. South Kora, in particular, has deployed sports diplomacy (the 2018 Winter Olympics peace initiative) and other diplomatic efforts to rebuild dialogue and agreement with North Korea on a process for peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

If the UN Human Rights Council decides to pick up on the challenges and recommendations in the submissions, and direct these to Japan and South Korea, the two countries are required to respond.

Similar submissions were made over the past two years to the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights bodies with regard to the nuclear policies of Russia, the USA, France, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, North Korea, Netherlands and the United Kingdom (see Nuclear weapons and the UN human rights bodies).

At that time, the issues were not taken up in earnest by the relevant bodies. However, it is hoped that the increased threat of nuclear war arising from the Ukraine conflict might stimulate the Human Rights Council to make this a much higher priority for the current review cycles. [IDN-InDepthNews — 31 July 2022]

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Kishida to call for nuke-free world in historic address at U.N. treaty conference

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui (center, left) in Tokyo on Wednesday.

July 31, 2022

In a year in which nuclear disarmament hopes have been dented by not-so-subtle references by Russia to its own arsenal following its invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to make history as the first Japanese leader to address the United Nations’ nuclear nonproliferation treaty review conference, which begins in New York on Monday.

Kishida, who represents a district in Hiroshima, is expected to call for a world without nuclear weapons and for greater transparency among nuclear powers regarding their stockpiles and capabilities. His message will refer to Japan’s experience as the only country to have been attacked with an atomic bomb. The leader will also stress that all countries should neither use nuclear weapons nor threaten to use them.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Friday, the prime minister said it was important to link the treaty’s ideals with current geopolitical realities.

“The debate on nuclear disarmament is atrophying,” Kishida said, and he announced he would present a plan at the conference that would hopefully serve as a roadmap toward reaching a world without nuclear weapons.

The prime minister sees Japan’s role at the nearly monthlong conference, which will focus on keeping the buildup of nuclear weapons under control, as one of helping to bridge the differences between nuclear powers and nonnuclear states. Kishida is hoping to promote talks between China and the United States on nuclear disarmament and arms control. He’s also expected to call on the international community to work toward North Korea’s denuclearization.

In addition, Kishida will attend a side meeting of foreign ministers of 12 nonnuclear states that make up the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI).

Co-founded by Japan and nine other nations in September 2010, the NPDI works within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on steps to increase transparency efforts on nuclear disarmament.

But the last NPT review conference in 2015 ended in failure. And the establishment of a separate treaty banning nuclear weapons is supported by nonnuclear weapons states frustrated with the lack of progress at the NPT toward the disarmament goal. In that context, reaching a final agreement among the 191 NPDI member states will be a challenge.

Long-held objectives

The NPT entered into force in 1970 with the objective of preventing the buildup of nuclear weapons and related technology. It also supported the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and had the goal of eventually achieving complete disarmament. Treaty signatories include five declared nuclear weapons states — United States, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia — all of which are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates there were 12,705 nuclear warheads in existence worldwide as of January, of which about 9,440 were in military stockpiles available for potential use. An estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2,000 — nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the U.S. — were kept in a state of high operational alert. China had 350 warheads, Pakistan had 165 and India had 160.

India and Pakistan, which have declared their nuclear weapons programs, have not joined the NPT. Israel maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity on its nuclear weapons’ program and has not joined either, although it reportedly has 90 warheads. North Korea, believed to have at least 20 nuclear warheads, withdrew from the pact in 2003.

The tenth review conference is expected to consider a number of issues: universality of the Treaty; nuclear disarmament, including specific practical measures; nuclear non-proliferation, including the promoting and strengthening of safeguards; measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy, safety and security; regional disarmament and non-proliferation.

NPT member states meet every five years, with this year’s conference having been postponed since 2020 due to the pandemic.

A shift in focus?

The 2015 conference failed to produce a substantial outcome due to differences over a proposal to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The U.S. criticized the Arab League over the lack of progress, while Egypt and Russia blamed the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.

Differences over a deadline for the process and individual requirements for reaching that goal sunk the deal, which would commit 27 Arab League members and observers, plus Iran and Israel, to ban nuclear weapons. Discussions on the issue may resume this year, but it’s likely that the Middle East will take a back seat amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have to deal openly and honestly with threats to the treaty, in particular the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its reckless behaviors that impact each of the treaty’s central tenets. I have no doubt that Russia’s actions will affect the climate at the conference,” said Adam Scheinman, U.S. special representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, at a news conference on July 26.

Marianne Hanson, an international security and arms control expert at the University of Queensland, said that one way conference participants could deal with fears about nuclear warfare in Ukraine is to issue “no first use” statements. But she is pessimistic about that coming to fruition.

“Members should issue no first-use statements — China is the only one of the treaty’s nuclear weapons’ states to do so. It would be a concession that would please the nonnuclear weapons’ states. But former U.S. President Barack Obama’s attempt to issue a no first use statement was halted by Japanese and South Korean objections. I don’t expect we will see any more NFU statements at this conference,” she said. The two U.S. allies were concerned such a statement would lead to a weakening of the nuclear deterrence provided by the U.S.

Japanese lawmakers and citizens will also be watching to see how NPT members handle the Russia issue and the role the prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party will play at the conference.

“Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. It’s important to forge a path toward agreement (on the principle of no first use) after the joint statement is confirmed — an agreement that includes Russia,” Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, said at a news conference July 26. “I hope that Prime Minister Kishida will play a leading role in this process.”

‘Rival’ treaties

Another main issue the NPT conference will have to deal with is how to reach agreement in the context of the newer United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a separate agreement which went into force in January 2021.

Member states of the 2021 treaty have agreed to not develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The treaty prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory and the provision of assistance to any state in the conduct of prohibited activities. Sixty-six states have ratified the treaty so far, while another 23 have signed but not ratified it. All, however, are nonnuclear states.

The nuclear power states all refused to join the prohibition treaty, calling it incompatible with the current security environment realities.

“As a final step on the long path to eventual nuclear disarmament, the world will need a verifiable, enforceable treaty, one that is consistent with security conditions in the world and helps generate the security necessary to prevent war,” Scheinman said. “That’s not how I would characterize the TPNW. We’ll either have an NPT-based system for reducing nuclear risks or we’ll have no treaty-based system at all,” he added.

Japan’s position on the TPNW is that, while it is an important step toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, it is weakened by the fact that no nuclear weapons state is a member. Given the current international situation and Japan’s reliance on the U.S. nuclear security umbrella, Tokyo believes a more realistic approach like the NPT, which includes nuclear weapons states, is still needed.

Hanson noted, however, that while nuclear weapons states have only derided the TPNW, the fact that members met in June for the first time since the treaty went into force might push them to tone down their remarks about it at the NPT review conference.

While none of the nuclear weapons states were at the June meeting, NATO allies Norway, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Australia, participated as observers.

“I suspect that the nuclear weapons states, especially the U.S., the U.K. and France, will acknowledge that the TPNW exists and that it is ‘useful,’ even though they’ll continue to prioritize the NPT. But at least that would be better than the previous hostile statements about it,” Hanson said.

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Loss of Cooling Function Accident at Rokkesho Reprocessing Plant – High Level Radioactive Liquid Waste at Risk

July 31, 2022
On July 2, a serious accident of loss of cooling function occurred at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. As a result, cooling of high-level radioactive liquid waste (2.6 m3) stored in “Feed solution tank B” in the preliminary stage of crow solidification was interrupted for eight hours. This liquid waste is dangerous because it generates heat for a long period of time, and if the cooling function is lost, the liquid waste is expected to boil and evaporate in 24 hours and cause a hydrogen explosion in 280 hours.

Tanks of dangerous high-level radioactive liquid waste

The cause was an accidental closing of a dividing valve. The valve in question is located near the coils that cool the high-level radioactive liquid waste. When the cooling function of the internal loop is lost, the emergency response is to connect hoses from outside to inject cooling water and close this partition valve. Loss of cooling function is assumed to be caused by a major earthquake or aircraft collision, and the work will be carried out in a great hurry.

Locked with metal chains and padlocks

The dividing valve in question
Locked with a metal chain and padlock

According to the press conference materials of the nuclear fuel company, the valve was closed by mistake, so a metal chain was wrapped around the valve and padlocked so that it could not be closed easily. However, where will the master key of the padlock be kept at the site where many things may have fallen down in a major earthquake? What will you do if you cannot find the key? Where will you find the cutter to cut the metal chain when the padlock does not open?

I must say that metal chains and padlocks are the worst possible response to a minute-by-minute cooling function restoration operation. According to NFI, similar locks and additional work will be implemented at 539 locations in the vitrification building by the end of July, and at 2,500 locations throughout the plant by the end of the year. The cooling function is placed in a very dangerous situation. It is only a matter of using paper-based seals that can be cut by hand.

Those who thought of metal chains and padlocks are those who do not know what to expect in a serious accident. Furthermore, it is a “countermeasure that was done in a rush. A calm Phase 3 response is necessary to deal with a serious accident. JNFL’s post-accident response is completely in Phase 4, making a series of mistakes and “digging its own grave. JNFL should quickly move to Phase 3 and reset the metal chain and padlock measures.

Confusion at the site due to multiple drawings?

Although JNFL attributes the cause of the accident to human error in misidentifying the dividing valve, it is possible that the piping drawings and the actual piping were different. The reason to suspect this is the 2019 and 2020 applications.
This is because the hose connections and shut-off valves have been renumbered, some numbers have disappeared from the drawings, some new connections have been added, and there are two connections with the same number that cannot be distinguished.
For safety reasons, changing the numbers is not a good idea. If it were to be changed, it would require a lot of corrective work and would be a source of human error.

2019 Application Form
2020 Application form

Pick up the numbers on the 2019 and 2020 drawings in order: numbers 1-8 are the same, but number 9 in 2019 is gone and number 10 is number 9 in 2020; number 12 has two locations in 2019 and both are number 11 in 2020; number 13 in 2019 is 2020. In 2019, there are two locations with number 12, and in 2020 both are number 11; number 13 in 2019 is replaced by number 12 in 2020; numbers 15, 16, and 25 in 2019 are gone and number 14 is created where it was not in 2019.

Comparison of 2019 and 2020 numbers

KDDI’s major communications outage was a “mix-up in the operations manual. The operator who was doing maintenance on the router was working according to the manual. The work was not too difficult. But the reason for the mistake was that the manual they were referring to was an older version.”
At the reprocessing plant where the loss of cooling function accident occurred, the drawings and on-site confirmation are also urgently needed.

Also, which department at NFI approved the safety measures for the construction of System A that caused the accident? We do not even know if the Regulatory Commission approved them. I am shocked at the unbelievable response to the construction of a very dangerous facility.

The reprocessing process is a very dangerous and complicated process that must be carried out steadily, but JNFL has repeatedly responded to incidents of this magnitude in a panicked and erroneous manner. It has become clear that JNFL’s attitude toward safety is problematic and that they have not accumulated any experience. As a business operator, I cannot entrust JNFL with reprocessing.

Drawings for 2019 and 2020
2020/4/28 examination material pdf000309774
2019/3/8 examination material pdf000264093

Material on evaporation and drying

Examination Meeting on the Conformity of Nuclear Fuel Facilities, etc. to New Regulation Criteria

FY 2015 Review Meeting on Conformity of Nuclear Fuel Facilities, etc. to New Regulation Criteria h27fy/index.html
Handout for the 65th Meeting June 29, 2015
 Document 2

89th Session December 21, 2015 (2015) 00000060.html
Handout 2(1)


August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

10 years after nationalization, Tepco still faces mounting challenges

Reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture

July 31, 2022

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary since Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. was effectively nationalized after the devastating triple-meltdown nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Tepco has struggled to rebuild its business while attempting to restore its reputation and compensate for its role in the disaster that immediately followed the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. However, more competition, a string of scandals and other problems have prevented the restart of its nuclear power plants — a key to rebuilding the company — resulting in sluggish performance.

Recently, the soaring cost of oil due to the Russia-Ukraine war has taken its toll, further exacerbating uncertainties in its restructuring roadmap.

In 2012, the Japanese government placed Tepco under its control by injecting about ¥1 trillion into the firm through the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund to prevent the utility from bankruptcy and facilitate compensation efforts.

The total cost of the nuclear accident, which includes compensation, decommissioning and decontamination, is expected to be around ¥21.5 trillion ($161.3 billion), of which ¥15.9 trillion will be paid by Tepco.

Tepco, which shifted to a holding company structure in 2016 to improve management efficiency, announced a reconstruction plan in 2021 and aims to secure ¥500 billion annually for compensation and decommissioning costs. It also targets annual profits of around ¥450 billion after fiscal 2030.

But for fiscal 2021, the utility’s net profit plunged to ¥5.6 billion from ¥180.8 billion the previous year, as it saw a drop in electricity sales due to intensified competition and was hit by higher fuel costs from liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal.

In September, the fuel cost adjustment system, which allows higher fuel costs to be added to rates, will reach its limit, putting further pressure on the company’s operations. Tepco has not disclosed its outlook for this fiscal year.

Its major hope is to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, as firing up one reactor is expected to improve earnings by about ¥50 billion. Yet the plant has been hit by a series of scandals, including inadequate anti-terrorism measures. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Japan’s nuclear watchdog, has issued a de facto ban on the plant’s operation.

Although Tomoaki Kobayakawa, Tepco president and CEO, claims that “we are working on nuclear reform with the restoration of trust from the community and society as our top priority,” restarting the plant will not be easy.

The stock price is also an obstacle to denationalization. The government hopes to cover the ¥4 trillion cost of decontamination efforts with the proceeds from the sale of Tepco shares. However, the closing share price on Friday was ¥523, far from the ¥1,500 needed to secure the cost.

As its attempt to reconstruct the firm has not proceeded as expected, Tecpo has repeatedly postponed its decision to denationalize.

A government official said that Tepco “was allowed to continue to exist by fulfilling its responsibility to Fukushima, in order to make steady progress in dealing with the accident.”

To steadily continue taking care of tasks related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tepco will need to improve its business performance through strengthening its retail business by enhancing its services. The utility is also aiming to increase its corporate value by focusing on renewable energy.

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TODAY. All the fuss about Taiwan doesn’t make sense. Has anyone noticed?

Since 1979, USA, and its minions like Australia, have recognised that Taiwan is part of the Republic of China, and is NOT an independent nation.

Since 1997 USA and its minions have recognised that Hong Kong is part of the Republic of China and is NOT an independent nation. When China cracked down on the Hong Kong administration, USA, Australia tut-tutted, and there was no suggestion of doing anything about it – let alone go to war.

Now, we’ve got Nancy Pelosi, the Congress Speaker, leading the push to provoke the Chinese government to a militaristic response.

Now you might wonder why on Earth countries so far way, USA, Australia would want to invite nuclear war and destruction if China cracks down on the Taiwan administration.

I can’t see China wanting to invite nuclear war and destruction if USA cracked down on Hawaii, or Australia on Tasmania.

But of course, I forgot – American authorities are in the grip of Pentagon war hawks, and of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing – and all the rest of the weapons corporation. And they just gotta have a war – or at least – an enemy to get to the brink – and keep the profitable business going.

The whole apparently unstoppable procession towards war makes no sense. But that doesn’t matter – the mindless corporate media loves it. Roll on – Ukraine catastrophe – and then we’ll move on to Taiwan catastrophe!

August 4, 2022 Posted by | Christina's notes | 2 Comments