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Friday, June 22, 2012
'Security' wording in nuke power law change raises arms questions
By MIZUHO AOKI
An Upper House session Wednesday revised the main principles of the basic law on nuclear power for the first time in 34 years, leading to speculation the amendment could be used to legally allow the development of atomic weapons in the future.
Article 2 of the Atomic Energy Basic Law, which was altered at the request of the Liberal Democratic Party, now stipulates that the safety of nuclear power must be ensured for the "security of our nation," among other goals — making some wonder whether the new wording might result in Japan one day building a nuclear arsenal. However, the triple-meltdown crisis in Fukushima has effectively left part of the country in an insecure state.
The revised law's wording, however, still limits the use and research of nuclear power to "peaceful purposes."
During the Upper House session, Kuniko Tanioka of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan questioned the new term's incorporation into the basic law, voicing the concerns of many that it may be the first crack in Japan's nonaggressive nuclear policy.
Senior government officials immediately moved to quash such allegations, however, saying the government interprets "security of our nation" to mean safeguard against the abuse of nuclear materials.
" 'Security' means nonproliferation," Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told the Diet on Wednesday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura reiterated the government's stance Thursday, assuring reporters that "our principles over the peaceful use of nuclear power will be firmly observed."
LDP lawmaker Masayoshi Yoshino also dismissed concerns by the antinuclear lobby.
"The phrase 'security of our nation' simply refers to securing the safety of Japan. (We are) not planning on (using nuclear power) for military purposes," he said.
Yoshino also stressed the term is not the first step toward abolishing the country's three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing or introducing nuclear weapons onto Japanese territory.
Enacted in 1955, the Atomic Energy Basic Law outlines Japan's fundamental policies about the use, research and development of nuclear power.
Wednesday's change came about under a new law to establish a nuclear power regulatory committee.