The Hokkaido G8 Summit and Nuclear Energy

Posted in Japan | 19-Aug-08 | Author: Tetsuya Endo| Source: AJISS Commentary

The most important issue on the agenda of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit (7-9 July) was global warming. Related to this, and given the pressing challenges posed by the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, nuclear issues were also taken up more seriously than at previous G8 summits.

Nuclear issues are addressed from three aspects: the peaceful use of nuclear energy, nuclear nonproliferation, and disarmament. However, non-proliferation had dominated previous G8 discussions, with the other two subjects being hardly discussed due partly to the diversity of opinions among G8 countries. Being a major peaceful user of nuclear energy as well as the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings and boasting a proud record in nuclear non-proliferation, Japan worked hard both officially and privately to ensure that the three aspects were taken up in a balanced manner at the last summit. The following is a summary of how nuclear issues were mentioned in the Summit Leaders' Declaration.

Political Issue


- We are determined to make every effort, including strengthening relevant multilateral instruments, to overcome the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

- We support the Six-Party process towards the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the eventual normalization of relations between the relevant Six-Party members through the full implementation of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005, including the resolution of the outstanding issues of concern such as the abduction issue. While welcoming the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s provision of a declaration, we urge the DPRK to fully cooperate in the verification process. We also emphasize the importance of swift disablement of all existing nuclear facilities and the abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes by the DPRK. We also urge the DPRK to fully comply with relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).

- We urge Iran to fully comply with UNSCRs and, in particular to suspend all enrichment-related activities. We support the diplomatic efforts of the EU3 (Germany, France and Britain) + 3 (Russia, the United States and China), and urge Iran to respond positively. We also commend the high-level dialogue by Japan.

- We welcome the ongoing reductions of nuclear weapons that the nuclear-weapon States among the G8 members (the US, Russia, Britain and France) have made so far and call on all nuclear-weapon States to undertake such reductions in a transparent manner.

- Since the risks of the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction exist worldwide, we agree that the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which was launched at the Kananaskis Summit in 2002, will address these challenges.

- With regards to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, we are committed to the highest possible standards on nuclear non-proliferation, safeguards, safety and security (3S) including the IAEA Additional Protocol. We appreciate various initiatives regarding multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle and assurances of nuclear fuel supply and encourage all efforts to further develop them.

Environment and Climate Change

- We witness that a growing number of countries have expressed interest in nuclear power programs as a means of addressing climate change and energy security concerns. These countries regard nuclear power as an essential instrument in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and hence greenhouse gas emissions. We reiterate that safeguards (nuclear nonproliferation), nuclear safety and nuclear security (3S) are fundamental principles for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Against this background, an international initiative proposed by Japan on 3S-based nuclear energy infrastructure will be launched. We affirm the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in this process.

This is the first time that the three pillars of nuclear energy have been incorporated into the G8 Summit Leaders' Declaration and that nuclear disarmament has been mentioned in the declaration, albeit briefly. These should be welcomed as major developments. There was also a positive development in nuclear power programs with relation to global warming, although the opposition of one G8 country regrettably prevented the development from becoming a unanimous message.

There has recently been much talk about a "Nuclear Renaissance" (a resurgence in the worldwide need to promote nuclear energy), but the use of nuclear energy should not be welcomed with open arms. It is essential that nuclear power countries at least comply with nuclear safety, safeguards (non-proliferation) and security. I am happy to see that this "Three S's" approach, advocated by the Japanese government, is becoming an internationally acknowledged basic principle in considering the introduction of nuclear power generation.

Yet challenges remain. It is necessary to acknowledge the need for nuclear power officially in the post-Kyoto Protocol framework, to be negotiated in future as one of the most promising anti-global warming measures. Japan must work hard with concerned countries to achieve this. It is also necessary to work out the details of the "Three S's" with the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries that have recently introduced nuclear power generation. In the area of nuclear disarmament, Japan must also work hard to achieve concrete steps forward, such as the completion of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the commencement of Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations, by the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2010.

Tetsuya Endo is a former vice chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan. The views expressed in this piece are the author's own and should not be attributed to The Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies.


AJISS-Commentary is an occasional op-ed type publication of The Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies (AJISS) consisting of four leading Japanese think tanks: Institute for International Policy Studies (IIPS), The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR), The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), and Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS).