Greenpeace Pacific, Suva, June 2002

Excerpted from Teresia K. Teaiwa, Sandra Tarte, Nic Maclellan and Maureen Penjueli

Japanese aid and the transhipment of radioactive materials through the Pacific
By Nic Maclellan

Japan is a major donor of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Pacific island nations, doubling its aid to the region between 1987 and 1995. By 1999, Japan was the largest bilateral aid donor to Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands, and the second largest donor to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Nauru and Tuvalu (1). Since 1991, Japan has participated in OECD donor coordination meetings with Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the European Union, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, as OECD countries contributed over US$7.7 billion in aid to the region in 1995-9. In spite of this, only about two per cent of overall Japanese ODA – about $138 million a year – goes to the South Pacific, and there have been reports that aid to island countries will be reduced if current plans to slash the ODA budget are implemented (2).

Since 1989, Japan has been a post-Forum dialogue partner with the Pacific Islands Forum (formerly the South Pacific Forum) – the sixteen-member body that links Australia, New Zealand and the independent island nations. For some years, Japan has been the third largest contributor to Forum Secretariat activities, after Australia and New Zealand. Between 1988 and 2000, Japan contributed US$6.7 million to the Secretariat, with the latest grant in 2001 amounting to US$401,000. Forum Secretary General Mr. Noel Levi CBE notes: “Japan’s financial support, through extra-budgetary funding, has been fundamental to the implementation of our key programs.”(3)

Japan also contributes funds to other regional inter-governmental organisations, such as the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

Japan’s aid program and diplomatic efforts support broader national interests, as noted by Japan’s Fisheries Minister in July 2001: “Japan does not have a military power, unlike US and Australia … Japanese means is simply diplomatic communication and ODA. So, in order to get appreciation of Japan’s position, of course that is natural that we must do, result on those two major truths (sic) (4).” As mentioned in Chapter One, Japan is seeking the support of the growing islands’ bloc at the United Nations, in its efforts to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Japan also seeks ongoing access to Pacific fisheries and forest resources. Japanese corporations are interested in rights to the island nations’ undersea mineral wealth in the 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) – signing an agreement in February, 2000 for deep ocean mineral exploration in EEZs around the Cook Islands, Fiji and the Marshall Islands.

Close diplomatic and development ties throughout the 1990s have not ended island concern over environmental and resource issues involving Japanese corporations, including whaling, tuna and the transhipment of plutonium, MOX fuel and high-level radioactive wastes through the Pacific. In 2000, Japan offered to establish a US$10 million “goodwill” trust fund for Forum Island countries to address concerns over a possible fire, sinking, collision or accident involving nuclear materials. The issue is subject to ongoing negotiations between the Pacific Islands Forum and the nuclear nations involved in reprocessing Japanese spent nuclear wastes.

Japan and nuclear energy

Japan has a large nuclear power industry, and arranges for its spent nuclear fuel to be reprocessed at the British reprocessing plant at Sellafield and the French reprocessing plant at La Hague. (Reprocessing involves chemically separating uranium and plutonium from used nuclear fuel, in order to reuse the plutonium). The reprocessing companies – COGEMA in France and British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) in Britain – are government owned and controlled, while ten Japanese energy corporations make up the Overseas Reprocessing Committee (ORC). These three companies own the British-based shipping firm, Pacific Nuclear Transport LTD (PNTL), which carries nuclear wastes by sea on vessels such as Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal.

Japan started transhipment of nuclear wastes to Europe back in 1969, but the program escalated in the 1990s as it attempted to develop a plutonium-fuelled fast breeder reactor. In coming years, Japanese nuclear corporations plan to ship 600 tonnes of spent fuel to France. After reprocessing, the separated plutonium and high level radioactive wastes are scheduled to be shipped back to Japan, because supply nations vetoed the use of aircraft for safety reasons. Depending on the route, the ships pass through the EEZs of Pacific or Caribbean island nations.

Japan maintains massive stockpiles of separated plutonium in Europe (20.6 tonnes in France and 6.9 tonnes in Britain, as of late 2000). Japanese corporations Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) hope to bring these stockpiles of weapons-usable plutonium from Europe to Japan by the year 2010. Shipping radioactive wastes back and forth across the oceans allows Japan’s nuclear industry to avoid responsibility for the build-up of nuclear pollution in Japan, as there is no viable method for the long-term storage of high-level nuclear wastes.

A shipment of plutonium from Europe to Japan in 1992 aboard the Akatsuki Maru brought international condemnation, culminating when the United States government ordered Japan to send an armed escort vessel with the plutonium transport ship (5). The Akatsuki Maru, carrying a tonne of plutonium, passed between Australia and New Zealand, and then through the waters of Pacific island nations, including the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Because of concerns after the Akatsuki Maru shipment and public opposition to the use of plutonium in Japan, reprocessed materials are now transported as mixed plutonium/uranium oxide (MOX) fuel, to be burnt in light water nuclear reactors. Many Japanese citizens are opposed to Japan’s plutonium economy, because of concerns over nuclear proliferation, cost and pollution. There are many safety problems with Japan’s reprocessing and nuclear industry, exemplified by the December 1995 fire and accident at the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, the March 1997 fire and explosion at Tokaimura reactor, or the April 1997 leak of heavy water coolant at the Fugen plutonium-fuelled reactor. Confidence was also shaken by the corporate and government failure to respond quickly to the September 1999 Tokaimura nuclear accident (Tokaimura hosts four nuclear power plants and was the site of Japan’s worst nuclear accident, which killed two people and exposed at least 439 others to radiation) (7).

The demand for MOX shipments has faltered, in the face of Japanese citizen opposition. In February 2001, the Governor of Fukushima Province, Eisaku Sato, acknowledged the “impossibility of MOX use at present.” Governor Sato stated: “The JCO criticality accident [at Tokaimura in 1999] and the MOX fuel data falsification problem heightened prefectural citizens anxiety and distrust over government nuclear policy, and the acceptance of the MOX use program in the prefecture has yet to recover (8).” The same month, TEPCO announced that it had suspended construction of all new nuclear power plants.

The data falsification Governor Sato referred to seriously undermined Japan’s MOX program. The first 1999 shipment from the UK’s British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) facility at Sellafield erupted in scandal when, while en-route, it was revealed that BNFL had deliberately falsified vital quality control data. For the next three months BNFL and Japanese authorities denied that quality control data for the MOX fuel had been falsified. However, after a legal challenge was mounted by Japanese NGO’s (supported by Greenpeace), BNFL finally admitted that falsification had taken place during the manufacture of the MOX fuel. The Japanese government and owners of the MOX fuel, Kansai Electric, rejected BNFL’s view that it remained safe to load the fuel into nuclear reactors and in early 2000 demanded it be returned to the UK. After negotiating for over six months, it was announced in July 2000 that the UK government had agreed to the return of the MOX fuel. BNFL agreed to a compensation package with Kansai Electric, whereby a total of 110 million UK sterling would be written off to fund direct compensation, new fuel, and the cost of a return transport. It was announced that the transport would take place within 2-3 years. This return shipment departed from Britain on April 26, 2002 – the sixteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The Japanese and British Governments recognise the sensitivity of this return shipment, conducted three years after the fact. The Agreement for the return, signed by both parties on July 11, 2000, stated that: “maximum consideration will be given to the relationship with coastal states.” However, as recently as January 30, 2002 the Japanese Foreign Ministry stated to a member of the Japanese Parliament that all three routes between Japan and the UK remained an option for this shipment and they will be used in a balanced way.

At the time of writing, the Pacific Pintail and a second armed nuclear transport ship, the Pacific Teal, are loading the plutonium MOX in Japan. The ships’ route was still unknown, and countries along the three possible routes were on alert for incursions into their territorial waters and EEZs.

Evidence that the consistent opposition of en-route states is having an impact on Japan’s plans for future shipments has emerged over recent years. In early 2001, it was revealed that the Japanese Government was considering the option of moving plutonium and vitrified high level waste from Europe via the Northern Sea Route, north of Russia. While Greenpeace is opposed to such plans, it is noteworthy that one of the motives for this is the view of the Japanese Foreign Ministry that opposition in the South Pacific, Caribbean and Latin America is growing. The Northern Sea Route would avoid these regions. Further evidence that opposition from coastal states is impacting the Japanese nuclear program also comes via the Japanese Foreign Ministry. It intervened directly during 2000 and 2001 to prevent the signing of new reprocessing contracts between utilities and the French company Cogema, citing growing opposition from en-route nations. If signed, such contracts would lead to tens of shipments of spent nuclear waste fuel from Japan to Europe.

In spite of the vulnerable financial situation of Japan’s plutonium economy, island nations have not yet been able to halt the transhipment of nuclear wastes. At the 1992 South Pacific Forum, leaders expressed their concern over the shipment of plutonium through Pacific waters, an expression of concern that has been repeated in every Forum Communiqué over the last decade.

There is widespread concern that an accident could threaten Pacific fisheries, tourism and other vital industries, especially as the nuclear industry in Japan and Britain has recently been rocked by a series of scandals over safety. In the Japanese Diet (Parliament) on July 2,1999, questions were raised about whether Japan, Britain and France made any arrangements before the shipments, as required under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted: “No arrangements exist. This has never been discussed between the three countries.” Some larger countries, like New Zealand, have sought and received assurances that the shipments will not pass through their EEZs, but these guarantees have not been given to small island Pacific states, which straddle the route to Japan through the Tasman Sea and central Pacific (9).

Under international law, ships have the (debatable) right of “innocent passage” through EEZs. Negotiations to revise the existing international liability regime, known as the Paris Convention, are underway, however there are a number of constraints:

  • Unlike France and Britain, Japan is not a party to the 1960 Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy or the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
  • Non-OECD members such as Forum members states can only accede to the Paris Convention with the unanimous consent of all state parties
  • The Paris Convention does not cover economic loss arising from the perception of risk after an incident or accident. This is a key concern for island nations, as discussed below.

In the mid-1990s, some Pacific island governments considered unilateral initiatives to restrict nuclear transport ships from passing through their EEZs (10). For example, in September 1997 Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulafa’alu stated that his government was considering legislation to charge fees for nuclear waste shipments passing through his country’s waters. Media reports quoting diplomatic sources stated that in retaliation, Japan was considering suspending a $14 million ODA grant to build a new terminal at Honiara’s

Henderson International Airport. Although the Japanese embassy then officially denied the claim, Ulafa’alu’s legislation never got off the ground (11).

Diplomatic pressure from the nuclear states on individual Pacific governments has led to a co-ordinated Forum initiative. Instead of trying to ban outright the nuclear shipments through the region, the Forum has asked for negotiations on prior notification, compensation and liability schemes in cases of accident.

Australia – Fuelling the Controversy

Throughout all of the diplomatic efforts in relation to the shipments, the concerns of the en route nations have been undermined by the very unhelpful role played by Australia. Indeed, successive Australian governments have condoned the passage of the nuclear transports. Australia sells uranium, the basic fuel for nuclear reactors, to electricity utilities in Japan. Official reports show that thousands of tonnes of Australian uranium and its by-products are held by Japan – in the form of natural uranium, enriched uranium, and depleted uranium, as well as irradiated and separated plutonium. Australian Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM) is traded under bilateral and international agreements which means that Japan needs permission from Australia before it can take part in nuclear material transfers. However, permission has been granted for both the transfer of the materials, and the shipments themselves, via a “generic consent” which covers this and every other plutonium shipment, without subjecting that particular shipment, or the Japanese plutonium program, to any scrutiny whatsoever.

Forum Negotiations with Shipping States

Even though concerns were raised formally after the Akatsuki Maru’s plutonium shipment in 1992, Japan, France and Britain dragged their feet over addressing Forum concerns. Formal consultations on the issue only commenced in 1999, involving Forum Secretariat officials and ambassadors, plus government officials of the three shipping nations (Britain, France and Japan), and nuclear industry representatives (12).

After a mandate given by the 1998 Forum meeting, the first round of discussions on nuclear shipments was held in Suva, Fiji in August, 1999. Ironically, at the time, two shiploads of MOX fuel were passing through the region (13). In spite of agreement to continue dialogue, the second round of discussions in Auckland, New Zealand, was not held until September, 2000 – one year after the first meeting. At this consultation, in Auckland, New Zealand in September 2000, the three nuclear powers claimed that existing international maritime law on “innocent passage” allows nuclear transhipment through islands EEZs. They refused to acknowledge any liability for potential accidents beyond the existing international regime.

In February 2001, at the time of another MOX shipment, the Forum publicly expressed its concern over the slow pace of negotiations:

“At the Forum meetings in Kiribati and Palau, island leaders noted the continuation of discussions with France, Japan and the United Kingdom on the current liability regime for compensating the region for economic losses caused to tourism, fisheries and other affected industries as a result of an accident involving a shipment of radioactive materials, even if there is no actual environmental damage caused. The Forum has noted that amendments to existing international liability regimes were currently under negotiation and that, once concluded, would take some time to enter into force. It is therefore necessary that discussions focus on intermediate innovative arrangements or assurances to address the Forum’s concerns. The Forum has reaffirmed its desire to continue these discussions with France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have also called for a high-level commitment from the three shipping states to carry the process forward.(14)”

A third meeting with the shipping states and nuclear industry representatives was held on 3-5 July 2001 in Nadi, Fiji. It was the first time that substantial discussion and negotiations occurred, and Forum concerns were addressed.

A central issue from Forum member countries is not only the potential catastrophic environmental consequences of an accident involving a shipment of radioactive materials and MOX fuel, but also economic impacts arising from any incident where there is no release of radioactivity (“…even if there is no actual environmental damage caused.” ) (15). Cook Islands Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate has noted that for his and similar countries, a nuclear waste shipment accident would “create immediate and widespread perception of danger and ruin a booming tourism industry” (16).

There are precedents for such economic losses, as shown with the resumption of French nuclear testing at Moruroa Atoll in 1995-6. International hostility to the testing and public perceptions of nuclear hazards caused a significant drop in tourism to many Pacific countries, even though they are some distance from the nuclear test sites. Tourism to French Polynesia dropped 20 per cent in the last quarter of 1995 in comparison to the previous year, but other Pacific countries were also affected: tourism for the period to the Cook Islands dropped 14.7 per cent, New Caledonia 6.9 per cent and Fiji 3.4 per cent. Japanese honeymooners and tour groups are an important source of tourism revenue, but Japanese tourism to the South Pacific dropped 36.9 per cent in the last quarter of 1995, in large part because of concern over nuclear hazards (17).

While giving assurances on the prevention of incidents and response to an accident, the three shipping nations refuse to give commitments on compensation and liability, especially for economic losses caused by perceived dangers from a nuclear accident. Japan has maintained a rigid position that it will not provide compensation for economic loss; concerned that so-called “misreporting” of a nuclear accident may increase the economic losses. Such commitments from the shipping states will only come after sustained political pressure.

Japan’s Trust Fund

Japan has responded to ongoing pressure over the issue by offering to pay an initial grant of US$10 million into a “good will” trust (funded by Japanese nuclear corporations). The trust fund was announced publicly at the October 2000 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Kiribati. Annual interest of some US$500,000 from this Pacific Islands Development Cooperation Fund could be used to finance projects for Forum Island Countries in the fields of environment, energy and tourism.

A more controversial element of the fund was the announcement that “the principal of the trust fund would be available to cover the costs of the initial response to incidents during shipment of radioactive materials and MOX fuel through the region (18).” However, the UK and France are worried that the trust fund has been linked to the nuclear shipments, and Japan is seeking to revise its original advice that the fund has any connection to nuclear transport accidents, in order to avoid liability. The Japanese Government has not publicly clarified details of the Trust Fund and is still negotiating the details of the MOU and a Management Council to govern its operations.

Even this gesture has not mollified critics of the nuclear shipments, who call for a complete cession of all transport of nuclear materials through Pacific waters. Motarilavoa Hilda Lini of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) has noted: “We are concerned that our governments’ position could be compromised by accepting Japan’s offer to establish a US$10 million ‘goodwill’ trust fund to placate concerns about the plutonium shipments threat to Pacific fisheries, tourism and other vital industries. US$10 million is peanuts. It will not cover a fraction of the costs incurred by a nuclear accident at sea. (19) ”

It is worth noting that the domestic liability agreements in Japan in relation to nuclear accidents are far more generous than what has been offered to en route states.

Japanese Lobbying

In an effort to prop up their troubled nuclear industry, Japanese government and industry lobbyists now argue that nuclear power is a solution to global warming and subsequent sea-level rise – key issues of concern for small atoll states in the Pacific. Nuclear corporations have hired public relations companies like Burson-Marsteller to soften public opinion, saying there are no hazards from the shipments. Delegations from COGEMA and BNFL have toured the South Pacific, and company officials have lobbied at Pacific Island Forum meetings. Australia and Britain also included nuclear experts in their delegations to the 1999 South Pacific Forum in Palau, to lobby against any restrictions on the transport of plutonium and nuclear wastes.

A delegation of nuclear officials from Japan, France and Britain toured the Pacific between 7-19 August 1999, to lobby on the issue. The delegation, which travelled to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, included representatives from BNFL, the French nuclear company Transnucleaire, the British Embassy in Tokyo, the Japanese Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry, and the Overseas Reprocessing Committee, which links Japanese energy corporations. The “atomic energy counsellor” from the UK Embassy in Japan was part of this delegation, assuring Pacific officials of the safety of nuclear shipments – BNFL pays 500,000 pounds a year to the British government so that one of their former employees can work as a diplomat in the British Embassy in Tokyo, to promote the British nuclear industry.

Public opposition to the shipments was apparent when community and environmental groups joined students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in a rally at the Embassy of Japan in Suva on August 11. The USP students from Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu were gathered outside the meeting between Pacific island ambassadors and the French, British and Japanese nuclear officials. Churches and NGOs in Fiji also placed newspaper advertisements calling for an end to all shipments of plutonium and high level wastes through the region (20).

Summit Diplomacy

Japan has long had close historic and cultural ties with Micronesian countries such as Palau (21). But there have been increased diplomatic efforts with all Forum leaders since th- 1988 Japan-Pacific summit hosted by Japanese billionaire Ryoichi Sasakawa (who was jailed as a Class A war criminal between 1945-48) (22). Official Japan-South Pacific summits have been described as “an apparent fuseki attempt to obtain support from Forum members in a bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council” (23). (A fuseki move, in the Japanese game of go, involves placing stones in an area as wide as possible at the start of the game).

On October 13-14, 1997 leaders from the member nations of the South Pacific Forum met in Tokyo with the Japanese government, at the inaugural Japan-South Pacific Forum Summit (24). Addressing the summit, then Chair of the South Pacific Forum Sir Geoffrey Henry, spoke of the islands “enduring concern” over both “adverse climate change and sea level rise”, and “the shipment of plutonium and radioactive wastes through the region.” The final Summit Communiqué “noted continuing concerns over shipment of plutonium and high level wastes” but diplomatically acknowledged “Japan’s sincere efforts in dealing with the Forum island countries concerns”! The Summit Communiqué listed a range of issues of concern and co-operation – economic and private sector development, public sector reform, fishing, climate change, youth exchanges and more – but contained no action agenda or plans for implementation.

The next Japan-South Pacific Summit was held as the Pacific Area Leaders Meeting (PALM) in April 2000, in Miyazaki, Japan (25). Before travelling to Miyazaki, Pacific leaders attended a lunch in Tokyo hosted by Japanese corporations, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Japan Employers Federation Association, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and the Japan Foreign Trade Council.

The official summit issued the “Miyazaki PALM Declaration: Our Common Vision For The Future”, outlining joint co-operation in economic, trade and aid issues. Japan announced it would continue support for the Tokyo office of the Pacific Islands Centre, created in 1996 to encourage Japanese business investment and tourism in the Pacific. The Japanese government would send more than 3000 JOCV volunteers to the Pacific islands over the next five years. Japan also pledged a funding package worth US$4 million, including about $1 million for information technology training and support, $2 million for “human security” projects (AIDS, malaria and eradication of infectious diseases), and $1 million in support of a Partnership Program to fund student exchanges and training through the Forum Secretariat (Japan has since offered to pay for a staff position at the Secretariat to administer this program) (26).

The summit issued a special statement on environmental co-operation, pledging Japan-Pacific co-operation on climate change, biodiversity and environmental education. However, a notable silence in the summit communiqué was nuclear issues (unlike the 1997 summit communiqué, which officially detailed South Pacific concerns over the transhipment of plutonium and high level wastes through the South Pacific and Japan’s commitment to act on these concerns).

At PALM 2000, Japanese officials lobbied hard on nuclear issues, arguing that nuclear energy is a valuable tool in reducing the use of fossil fuels and the generation of greenhouse gases that cause warming of the earth and sea level rise. On April 24, 2000 Pacific leaders and officials met in Tokyo with Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies to discuss energy and environment issues. Challenged about Japan’s carbon dioxide emissions, Japanese officials advanced spurious arguments that nuclear power was cheaper than solar and wind power, that the MOX fuel system contributed to nuclear disarmament and that nuclear power provided a key solution to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels! (27)

The next day, Pacific journalists, Forum officials and two Pacific Island leaders (Cook Islands’ Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate and Niue Premier Sani Lakatani) travelled by bullet train to the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, about 140 miles west of Tokyo. After a tour of the nuclear power plant, Maoate stated: “I have learned a lot of things that I didn’t know about nuclear power stations. I am convinced of the safety measures that have been shown to us, of the plant itself. (28)” Opposition politicians in the Cook Islands questioned Dr Maoate’s request that the Japanese nuclear industry looks into whether small and safe nuclear power plants might be used in the Pacific (29).

Following the PALM 2000 Summit, Japan sent three missions to the region to investigate potential economic, political and cultural exchanges. The missions visited Palau and the Marshall Islands (November 2000), Fiji, Tonga and Samoa (March 2001) and Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu (May 2001). Diplomatic exchanges are being extended – each year, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum is invited to Japan by the Japanese government, for high-level discussions with Japanese leaders.

In February 2001, the President of Kiribati, Teburoro Tito, visited Japan over six days in his capacity as Forum Chair. In meetings with then Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, President Tito agreed on the “need to bridge their differences over Tokyo’s whaling and nuclear fuel shipments” (30). Tito also expressed support for Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. During the visit, Japan’s Foreign Minister told Tito that Japan would send a mission to Kiribati to survey whether Japanese ODA could be used to improve the country’s electricity supply. Japan and Kiribati have close ties, with Kiritimati (Christmas) island hosting a Japanese tracking station to monitor rockets launched from Tanegashima Space Centre in Kagoshima Prefecture. The two countries are extending their co-operation over Japan’s space program, with the planned construction of a rocket landing area in Kiribati.

The visit erupted in controversy on Tito’s return to Fiji, after a newspaper quoted him as saying that the Forum should “revise” its policy towards nuclear energy, that nuclear power helps reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and that nuclear power generation “is a matter of survival” for Japan (31). The Forum and the Kiribati government quickly issued statements that the President had been misquoted and reaffirmed the Forum and Kiribati’s opposition to nuclear power (32). However, the incident highlights public concern that Japanese ODA is being used to woo Pacific leaders to soften their opposition to the plutonium economy.

With the issues of global warming and sea-level rise high on the agenda for Forum island countries, the island nations have resisted the integration of nuclear power into the climate change negotiating process. The official intergovernmental Pacific Islands Regional Submission to the 9th Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) session in 2000 stressed: “Nuclear energy sources are neither appropriate nor acceptable for use in the region, or for designation as a Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.(33)”

Concluding Remarks

Of the four cargoes of plutonium, either in the plutonium dioxide or MOX form, transported to Japan during the last ten years, not one gram of plutonium has yet been used. In total the British-flagged transport vessels have travelled a total of over 120,000 kilometers to deliver their cargoes of weapons usable plutonium to Japan. Although each of these transports have been justified by Japan, as well as the British transporters, as essential for Japan’s energy program, not one gram of plutonium fuel has been loaded into in a nuclear reactor. Not one kilowatt of electricity has been generated. Increasingly in Japan, the nuclear electrical utilities are signaling that this program makes no economic sense. So, as with the deliberate deception by BNFL of their Japanese clients, the Japanese government and utilities are deceiving en-route governments and their citizens by continually claiming these shipments are required for energy purposes.

The international nuclear industry is in trouble. The number of nuclear power plants under construction is dropping and nuclear power generation is being phased out in many industrialised countries, such as Germany. The nuclear industry has not found a solution for the long-term storage of plutonium and high level radioactive waste, which lasts for thousands of years (though many nuclear corporations are still pushing to use the vast “empty” spaces of the Pacific as a dumping ground for nuclear wastes). Few people today believe the myth that nuclear power is a cheap, safe energy source. Pacific islands are already living with the radioactive legacies of fifty years of nuclear testing by France, Britain and the United States, and are calling for compensation and clean-up. Meanwhile the nuclear industry is desperately trying to avoid any liability for the hazardous business of shipping nuclear wastes back and forward across Pacific fishing grounds.
(1) Sandra Tarte: Japan’s aid diplomacy and the Pacific Islands (NCDS, Canberra, 1998).
(2) In November 2000, a senior LDP policy maker, Shizuka Kamei, called for a 30 per cent reduction in ODA, and in December a study group of LDP, New Komeito and New Conservative party politicians has recommended “a qualitative cut in the overall size of the ODA budget” in the 2001 fiscal year; and “Study group considers reduction in Japanese development assistance”, Japan Times, December 9, 2000; “Japanese government opts for selective aid policy” IPS/PINA Nius, December 16, 2000.
(3) “Japan funds for Secretariat”, Forum Secretariat Press release 3001, April 3, 2001.
(4) Japanese Fisheries Minister Masayuki Komatsu, head of Japan’s whaling delegation at the International Whaling Commission, explaining Japan’s use of ODA as leverage in negotiations over the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, quoted on ABC radio, July 18, 2001.
(5) “Japan’s plan to ship plutonium has big and little lands roaring”, New York Times, October 5, 1992.
(6) Frank von Hippel and Suzanne Jones: “The slow death of the breeder reactor”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol.53, No.5, September/October 1997.
(7) Dr. Jinzaburo Takagi: Criticality Accident at Tokaimura (CNIC, Tokyo, 2000). See also: “Tokaimura accident, Japan – third party liability and compensation aspects”, Nuclear Law Bulletin No.66, December 2000 (OECD Nuclear Energy Agency).
(8) “Outlook for MOX use now completely unclear”, Asahi Shimbun February 26, 2001; “MOX use this year now hopeless for Kashiwazaki Kariwa”, Denki website (electricity utility daily newspaper), February 26, 2001.
(9) In a statement by Foreign Minister Phil Goff opposing a shipment of MOX fuel to Japan, it was noted that ‘the shipment is unlikely to go through New Zealand’s EEZ as assurances that this would not occur have been sought and given in the past’. See “New Zealand condemns nuclear shipment to leave France”, Pacnews, Thursday, January 18, 2001.
(10) Jon Van Dyke: “The legitimacy of unilateral actions to protest the ocean shipment of ultrahazardous radioactive materials”, mimeo, December 1996.
(11) “Solomon Islands may charge for Pacific nuclear waste shipments”, Radio Australia, September 19, 1997;
“Japan may suspend support for Honiara airport terminal”, SIBC and Radio Australia, November 10, 1997;
“Japan denies reports its is reconsidering grant to Solomon Islands”, Pacnews, November 11, 1997.
(12) The Forum has established a “Forum Working Group on Liability and Compensation for the Shipment of Radioactive Materials through the Region”, to represent Forum member countries at negotiations.
(13) “Pacific protests plutonium MOX shipments”, Pacific News Bulletin, August 1999, p 1.
(14) Forum Secretariat Press release, February 23, 2001.
(15) Forum Communiqué, 30th Pacific Islands Forum, Koror, Palau, 1999 (emphasis added).
(16) “PM insists Japan’s US$10 million trust fund separate from liability regime”, Pacnews, December 1, 2000.
(17) Robert Keith Reid: “After the Bomb” in “Selling the Islands – What’s Hot for Tourism?”, Islands Business, June 1996, p29.
(18) “Trust Fund for the purposes of cooperation between Japan and Pacific Island Countries”, Section 32-33, Forum Communiqué, 31st Pacific Islands Forum, Tarawa, Kiribati, October 2000.
(19) “Stop plutonium shipments – strengthen the conventions” PCRC Media release, January 20, 2001.
(20) Fiji Times, August 11, 1999.
(21) For an overview, see His Excellency Kuniwo Nakamura (former President of Palau), “How best to cultivate solidarity between Japan and Pacific Island countries”, speech to Pacific Islands seminar, Tokyo, February 9, 2001. See also “Japan, Palau ties praised in Tokyo meeting”, PINA Nius Online, August 9, 2001.
(22) “Sasakawa’s interest adds up to dollars”, Islands Business, February 1990. Today, the Sasakawa Pacific Islands Nations Fund (SPINF) contributes to development programs, especially in Hawai’i and Micronesia.
(23) Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, 1997.
(24) Nic Maclellan: “Japan’s aid diplomacy” Pacific News Bulletin, November 1997.
(25) Nic Maclellan “PALM 2000: Japan-South Pacific summit” Pacific News Bulletin, May 2000.
(26) “Japan funds for Secretariat”, Forum Secretariat Press release 3001, April 3, 2001.
(27) “Island leaders impressed with nuclear power”, Islands Business, June 2000, p43.
(28) Ibid.
(29) “Cook Islands investigates nuclear power as energy source”, Radio Australia, June 22, 2000. By January 2001, Dr Maoate was calling for more action to establish a liability and compensation regime in case of accident in Pacific waters: “PM calls for a nuclear spillage compensation regime”, Pacnews, January 24, 2001.
(30) BBC Monitoring Asia-Pacific, February 20, 2001.
(31) “Tito calls on Pacific to revise nuclear stand”, Fiji Daily Post, February 26, 2001.
(32) A Forum Secretariat letter to the media and environmental NGOs on February 28, 2001 states: “President Tito did note that the Forum had taken no stand on the question of nuclear energy, apart from the Forum’s continuing concern with the shipment of nuclear materials through the region. He also made it clear that the region opposed nuclear materials that would be harmful to our people”. See also “Kiribati position on nuclear energy”, Pacific News Bulletin, May 2001, p12.
(33) CROP: Pacific Islands Regional Submission to the 9th Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), 2000.