June 7, 2017 2:26 pm JST

Japan greenlights nuclear deal with India

In first, country outside nonproliferation treaty will get Japanese tech

The Tarapur power station, located near Boisar in the Thane District of Maharashtra, is one of India's oldest nuclear facilities.

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling party on Wednesday pushed a nuclear cooperation deal with India through the upper house of parliament, clearing the way for Japanese exports of materials and technology to the South Asian country. 

The deal is contentious because India has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT. The accord prohibits countries from possessing nuclear weapons and related technology, except for five nuclear states -- the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China. 

India stands to become the first nonsignatory to get access to Japanese nuclear tech. The governing Liberal Democratic Party accounted for most of the "aye" votes in the Diet, or parliament.

Following the approval, the government intends to revise relevant rules under the Nuclear Regulation Authority -- Japan's industry watchdog. Once India takes similar steps and the governments exchange documents, the deal will take effect, possibly by this summer.

The bilateral framework stipulates that the materials and technology supplied by Japan may only be used for peaceful purposes. It also requires India to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In conjunction, the two countries have agreed that Japan will stop cooperating if India breaks its promise to suspend nuclear tests. India's foreign minister made the pledge in 2008.

Still, some see the pact as a tacit endorsement of India's status as a nuclear-armed state.

Japan's upper house committee on foreign affairs and defense has adopted a resolution stating it will ask the government to suspend the deal if India performs even subcritical tests. Nuclear states use these tests to check for weapons degradation and upgrade their nuclear technology.

During questioning in parliament, senior Foreign Ministry official Kazuya Nashida stressed that the international ban on nuclear testing makes an exception for experiments without explosions, including subcritical tests.

From India's perspective, the deal offers hope for solving the severe power shortage that has accompanied rapid economic and population growth. The government aims to raise the country's nuclear power generation capacity tenfold by 2032.

Japan sees this as a major export opportunity, which partly explains the government's willingness to weather criticism of the deal. The partnership could see Japanese companies get involved in all stages of Indian nuclear plant projects -- from planning and construction to maintenance. 

There is virtually no prospect of a nuclear industry renaissance in Japan, not after the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Yet, the country is loath to lose its technological expertise in the sector. Exporting to India is a way to put that know-how to work.

(Nikkei)

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