Editorial: Export of nuclear technology to India

Risk of diversion to military use cannot be eliminated

Does the administration place a greater priority on economic benefit than on nuclear non-proliferation? The government is expected to agree to reopen negotiations with India on a nuclear agreement that will make it possible for Japan to export nuclear technology to that country. The concern is the risk of diversion to military use.

Negotiations with India on the nuclear deal took place under the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed opposition, saying such an agreement was “totally unacceptable.” The negotiations came to a temporary halt as a result of the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

The Japanese government has accelerated its efforts to sell nuclear technology to India, where a number of new nuclear power plants are planned, presumably to give a boost to the domestic economy.

Meanwhile rapidly growing India suffers a chronic shortage of electric power. It hopes to stabilize its energy supply using Japan’s superior nuclear power technology and promote investment from overseas.

But India, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), conducted nuclear tests in 1998. There have also been repeated military conflicts with neighboring Pakistan over territorial rights to Kashmir.

India came in for harsh criticism from the international community when it went ahead with nuclear development and carried out nuclear tests after having refused to join the NPT. India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty either.

Japan has advocated nuclear non-proliferation based on the NPT. So for Japan to cooperate with India, which has turned its back on the treaty, by providing it with nuclear technology is a tremendous inconsistency.

Nuclear technology can be diverted to nuclear weapons for military use. If Japan exports instruments and other technology for nuclear power to India, which is not a party to the NPT, it could become a party to nuclear proliferation.

This would be tantamount to Japan rendering the NPT regime meaningless and would sully the nation’s non-nuclear diplomacy.

In 2008 India signed a nuclear agreement with the United States. At that time it declared a temporary halt to its nuclear testing and announced that it would accept inspections of its nuclear power plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the agreement did not apply to military facilities.

As matters stand now, the checks of nuclear weapon development can hardly be said to be strict. This will also send the wrong message to North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT and has continued to conduct nuclear tests.

There is also the problem of the fact that the NPT allows only five nations, including the U.S. and Russia, to possess nuclear weapons. But it is also the only multilateral nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and any situation that would render it meaningless must be avoided.

We are concerned that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is forging ahead with the export of nuclear technology as a strategy for growth. Early this month the prime minister signed nuclear agreements with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

A number of new nuclear power plants are planned, primarily in developing nations. The prime minister seems to be in a hurry to sign nuclear agreements, placing priority on the economy in an effort to ensure that Japanese manufacturers will not be at a disadvantage in the competition to get orders from overseas.

Needless to say, under the philosophy of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear technology should be considered at a completely different level from the economy. If the nuclear technology should happen to be misused, it would threaten world security and the global order.

When a nation that is the victim of atomic bombings pursues the export of nuclear technology from a business rationale only, its wisdom is suspect. We would like the government to conduct negotiations, being prepared to take the lead in bringing about a world without nuclear weapons, and to demonstrate the ability to bring India into the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

(Originally published on May 22, 2013)