Photo shows equipment inside Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. | Credit: Press TV - Photo: 2013

Japan Offers Iran Help in Things Nuclear

By Richard Johnson | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

LONDON (IDN) – As western powers debate unabatedly Tehran’s real intentions behind harnessing energy from the atom, Japan is willing to provide Iran technical advice, equipment support and vast experience of abiding by nonproliferation safeguards so that it may practice its right to peacefully use nuclear power, says a Japanese government official serving as research fellow at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

The author of the ‘FAS issue brief’, titled ‘Japan’s Role as Leader for Nuclear Nonproliferation’, is Kazuko Goto, the Federation’s first research fellow selected by MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, of the Government of Japan.

“Japan could provide Iran with power reactors with the condition of the IAEA’s safeguards system and the AP,” writes Goto, adding: “Japanese technology might (in fact) be appropriate for Iran’s purposes because both countries face the threat of earthquakes. Fault lines run across Iran and Bushehr is located near a point where three fault lines converge.”

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Station was designed by Germany. In 1979, Unit 1 was 80-85 percent complete when construction was suspended. The reactor containment dome and other structures were seriously damaged by attacks during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988.

When Russia resumed the project, they constructed it using the already-built structures. But substantial differences between the two designs complicated the construction, such as replacing equipment and operations associated with this uncommon situation, according to the paper.

Operators required unique training due to the combined designs. Usually nuclear power plant operators drill at the training facilities of each plant’s type of PWR (pressured water reactor) or BWR (boiling water reactor) because the design is the same, informs the FAS issue brief.

It warns: “Because the Bushehr NPP (nuclear power plant) has an exclusive design, the operators might not receive proper operations or emergency training. This could pose a safety concern at the Bushehr NPP.”

Iran recently announced it had started operation on an enrichment facility and refused an IAEA safeguards inspection.

Goto leaves no doubt that the pre-condition for Japan’s technical advice and equipment support is that Iran adopts a transparent nuclear energy program in order for the international community to trust it to proceed with its electric power supply program.

“Iran must enter into a verifiable agreement not to proliferate nuclear technology or knowledge to other states, including any developed indigenously or provided by Japan,” she says.

Goto refers in this context to Japan’s experience in exporting a pressure vessel to China’s Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in 1984. China agreed to the condition of a visit by Japan to examine the Qinshan power plant’s construction and operation, she adds.

The AP, mentioned by Goto, is the 1997 Additional Protocol (AP: INFCIRC/540), which obligated states to declare nuclear related activities that had not been declared under the conventional “comprehensive” safeguards and bestowed IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) with the authority to access facilities other than the ones declared under conventional safeguards. Japan was the first state using nuclear power plants for electricity generation to apply the AP.

The FAS issue brief points out that though Vietnam had not agreed to the AP, it was considering importing Japanese nuclear plants. Japan gave a seminar to Vietnam on the AP, which might encourage them to adopt it, and can conditionally provide the plants.


“Countries interested in exporting Japanese products sign cooperation agreements with Japan that includes a condition of nonproliferation. Countries that import nuclear plants from the United States or France also might require agreements with Japan because at least one major component of the plants was produced in Japan. Thus, Japan has leverage to encourage these countries to apply the AP,” the brief adds.

It points out to Iran’s recent announcement that it had developed centrifuge enrichment technology and had used it to produce enriched uranium. Though Iran stated the enriched uranium was for peaceful nuclear use, countries including the United States were sceptical because of its past clandestine activities, the military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program, and the refusal of a special inspection by the IAEA.

“Though the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Iran, Japan imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran. To help support sanctions on Iran, Japan reduced oil imports from Iran, which allowed the United States to exempt it from a block of the Central Bank of Iran,” informs Goto.

She avers: “Sanctions might change Iran’s behaviour but it might not change Iran’s determination to move ahead with enrichment. Another option includes a dialogue between Iran and western countries, including the United States. If Iran accepted full safeguards, implemented the AP requirements, agreed to limit enrichment to less than 5 percent, and limited the size of its nuclear program, then it might convince the international community right of its intention to use nuclear power for peaceful uses.”

If those conditions were met, Japan could cooperate with Iran to improve its energy security., notes Goto. Iran’s current electricity sources are stressed by industrial and economic development, and an increase in population.

Though Iran uses oil and gas to power its electricity generation stations, it is exploring hydro technology and is planning to develop more nuclear power reactors. In 2011, Iran started operation of the Bushehr nuclear power station with a capacity of 1000MWe. Iran’s Five-Year Plan calls for an increase in nuclear power capacity to 20,000MWe by 2025.

The FAS issue brief adds: “Though Iran’s security environment is very different from Japan, Japan can help Iran develop nuclear power and safeguards. As a non- nuclear weapon state, Japan’s experience with technology and safeguards is different from Russia, China, or India, which are enhancing their competitiveness in the global market for nuclear energy technology.

“As Japan has nuclear facilities, other than reactors that fall under the IAEA’s safeguards, it might advise Iran on designs that ease the installation of safeguards equipment and introduce safe- guards without difficulties, in addition to establishing a domestic material accounting system.” [IDN-InDepthNews – April 1, 2013]

Photo shows equipment inside Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. | Credit: Press TV

2013 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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