Nuclear Power and Deterrence

September 6, 2012 8:06 AM

The following news was released on Kyodo News:
"Defense Minister Morimoto had said, before he assumed the current position, that maintaining nuclear power plants serves as a nuclear deterrence to surrounding countries.

In January, Mr. Morimoto (a university professor at the time) gave a lecture on electric power. Advocating for continued reliance on nuclear power in Japan, he claimed that it was not just a matter of energy but that the nuclear power plants serve as deterrence to other countries. The existence of nuclear power plants in Japan, as he claims, forces other countries to recognize Japan's potential power to develop nuclear weapons, which would consequently lead to Japan's national defense.

In his interview with Kyodo News, Mr. Morimoto stated that he would comply to the government policy of the Three Non-nuclear Principles, while also emphasizing his support for nuclear power plants".

I have noticed the existence of politicians, both in the ruling and opposition parties, who make some ridiculous comments on nuclear; however, I had not expected Mr. Morimoto to be one of them.

Nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools are potential danger that could be targeted by terrorists' bombs or missiles, and this weakness has yet to be resolved even after the restart of the Oi nuclear power plant. Just as the tsunami on Fukushima nuclear power plant had been assumed as "impossible," a terrorist attack on Japanese nuclear power plants is assumed as "impossible."

Mr. Morimoto claims that the existence of nuclear power plants hint at our potential capability of nuclear weapons development; however, this is an incorrect statement.
Either enriched uranium or plutonium is necessary for the production of nuclear weapons. Nuclear power generator consumes uranium, and therefore is not necessary to produce weapons with enriched uranium. One could just secretly enrich uranium in a hidden facility just as Iran does.

There is another way to make nuclear weapons: reprocessing spent fuel to extract plutonium. In Japan's case, we have already extracted 45 tons of plutonium, 10 tons of which are already stored domestically.

Professor von Hippel of Princeton University says that in the US nuclear arsenal there is about 38 tons of plutonium, meaning that amount of Japanese plutonium storage exceeds that of the US weapons. Only 8kg of plutonium is necessary to produce one atomic bomb, so Japan can manage to produce approximately one thousand with its domestic storage of plutonium. If we decide to, that is. My point is, the future maintenance of nuclear power plants in Japan has no relevance to our potential in producing nuclear weapons.

If we were to develop a nuclear bomb and conduct a nuclear testing, it would violate the NPT and put a halt to the supply of uranium fuels from overseas. We need to have lowered the domestic reliance on nuclear energy, if we wished to develop nuclear technology for the sake of arms production.

Rumors tell us that Minister Morimoto was a "Trojan Horse" sent into the DPJ government by the LDP...