Japan Eyes Liability Pact to Aid Fukushima Response

Global Security Newswire Staff
June 13, 2014, 9:24 a.m.

Ja­pan may rat­i­fy a treaty for­cing atom­ic-fa­cil­ity op­er­at­ors to as­sume full li­ab­il­ity for any ac­ci­dents at the sites, Bloomberg re­ports.

The coun­try’s for­eign min­istry on Fri­day said that join­ing the pact — called the Con­ven­tion on Sup­ple­ment­ary Com­pens­a­tion for Nuc­le­ar Dam­age — would em­bolden know­ledge­able U.S. firms to sup­port de­con­tam­in­a­tion and dis­man­tle­ment ef­forts at the Fukushi­ma Daii­chi nuc­le­ar power plant. Four of the atom­ic fa­cil­ity’s six re­act­ors suffered melt­downs after the site sus­tained sub­stan­tial dam­age in a 2011 tsunami.

Ja­pan­ese law­makers would con­sider a rat­i­fic­a­tion bill for the treaty in 2014, the for­eign min­istry said. It provided no fur­ther de­tails on the le­gis­la­tion’s an­ti­cip­ated tim­ing.

U.S. Deputy En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Daniel Pone­man on Thursday said Ja­pan’s rat­i­fic­a­tion of the agree­ment would “give con­fid­ence to U.S. com­pan­ies” by shield­ing them from po­ten­tial leg­al ac­tion, the Ja­pan Times re­por­ted.

“If there is con­fu­sion about li­ab­il­ity, they’re just not about to take a busi­ness risk of get­ting in­to new mar­kets,” ac­cord­ing to the U.S. of­fi­cial.

An­ti­nuc­lear ad­voc­ates, though, con­tend that the treaty con­tains in­ap­pro­pri­ate pro­tec­tion for nuc­le­ar-fa­cil­ity build­ers, as well as oth­er prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg. Op­pon­ents noted that Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment began cov­er­ing Fukushi­ma re­cov­ery ex­penses, which now stand at roughly $108 bil­lion, after the costs forced the plant’s private op­er­at­or close to bank­ruptcy.

“Cap­ping the amount of li­ab­il­ity that either the nuc­le­ar op­er­at­or or the state would be re­spons­ible for fun­da­ment­ally lim­its the amount that vic­tims can be com­pensated for,” ac­cord­ing to Kendra Ul­rich, an act­iv­ist with Green­peace In­ter­na­tion­al in Am­s­ter­dam.

The pact has yet to enter in­to force among its sig­nat­or­ies, and only four na­tions have joined the treaty to date: the United States, Ar­gen­tina, Mo­rocco and Ro­mania.

Ja­pan’s entry would render the agree­ment leg­ally bind­ing by bring­ing the col­lect­ive nuc­le­ar-power ca­pa­city of its mem­bers to 400 gigawatts.

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