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Home > Special Topics > Colloquium Last Updated: 15:15 03/09/2007
Colloquium #20: October 21, 2002

Japan and CIS Nuclear Cooperation: Status and Prospects

Yasuhide YAMANOUCHI (Professor, GLOCOM)

Presented at the Eighth Planary Meeting of the Expanded Senior Panel "Limited Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone for Northeast Asia," organized by the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia, in Ulaanbaatar in July 2002.

1. Introduction: Prospects for 2002
2. Beginning and Development of Japan's CIS Nuclear Cooperation
3. Programs by "1999 Fund"
4. Issues in the Coming Years

1. Introduction: Prospects for 2002

This paper intends to describe Japan's perspectives on the international nuclear cooperation between CIS countries that is generally acknowledged in the United States as the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) or Nunn-Lugar Programs. These programs aim financial and technical support to the implementations of nuclear disarmament. The end result would be the strategic stabilization between the United States and Russia at lower level of nuclear arsenals. "Cooperation for the elimination of nuclear weapon" is true for certain CIS countries, like Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine. These countries operate nuclear facilities for industrial purposes and became members of the NPT regime as non-nuclear weapon states when the Soviet Union dissolved into the Confederation of the Independent States.

This international cooperation for the nuclear disarmament relates to the Limited Nuclear Free Zone in Northeast Asia from the following three reasons. The first reason is that this kind of international cooperation is a logical consequence of the implementations of disarmament and nuclear free zoning because eliminations of nuclear weapons inevitably result in the dispositions of a certain amount of nuclear weapon's system. Dispositions of nuclear weapon's system include such issues as a series of dismantlement of weapons' platform, conversions of nuclear production facilities into civilian use, dispositions of weapon-grade nuclear materials, and professional re-orientations of military personnel and nuclear weapon scientists.

The second reason is that potential participants of Limited Nuclear Free Zone in Northeast Asia include those countries that have been working collaboratively in these programs. The United States and Russia are the main actors around which G-8 and other European countries working together. Governments of Japan, Finland, and other Nordic countries are among those members.

The third reason is that this international cooperation relates closely to the nuclear disarmament treaties, START I and, possibly, the new treaty that came to an agreement recently in Moscow. The development and meanings of Nuclear Free Zone in Northeast Asia are inseparable with the prospects of future global nuclear weapon's system. These disarmament treaties would shape a certain part of this future framework.

Summary of the following sections

The following sections will describe present status in Japan on this issue from four points. First, Japan had started this cooperation from 1993. It's financial pledge since then totaled about $300 million.*1 Those programs include the medical and environmental cooperation for residents at the former nuclear test field in Semipalatinsk, the financial and technical support for the introduction of IAEA Safeguard System, and the installation of the Material Protection, Control and Accountancy applications. Japan had completed the programs under "1993 Fund" and proceeded with new commitments by "1999 Fund."

The second point is that government of Japan will focus on the following two programs; (a) dispositions of the surplus plutonium through commercial fast breed reactor, BN600 at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, and (b) financial support to the dismantlement of nuclear submarines in Far Eastern Russia. These two projects might overlap slightly in presupposition that the Mayak complex would continue the reprocessing of nuclear submarine's spent fuel.

Future role of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok among Russian strategic nuclear arsenals is unclear for the outside observers. Removal of the ocean-based strategic nuclear weapon's system from this region will not only make de facto limited ocean nuclear free zone feasible but also significantly stabilize multilateral relationship among related countries.

The third point is that, although significant achievements have been gained in this decade, participating countries have encountered problems in implementation phase repeatedly and several programs were indeed abandoned. This is quite conceivable considering the political sensitivity, technological challenges these projects require, and the accompanying bureaucratic complexities in each participating county. Dismantlement of the weapon system usually accompanies relatively large scale of economic activities. Improvements in management for the programs, and more coordinately organized planning and implementations among governments, commercial entities, specialists, and NGOs are required to achieve desirable results internationally.

2. Beginning and Development of Japan's CIS Nuclear Cooperation

Current Status of the "1993 Fund"

The first phase of Japan's nuclear cooperation with the CIS started by the initiative of Munich G-7 Summit in 1992. Japanese government pledged $100 million (11.7 billion yen) for assistance in April 1993. Japan concluded the Framework Agreements on Cooperation for the Elimination of Reduced Nuclear Weapons with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by March 1994 and established the Technical Secretariat on Cooperation for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons under these treaties in Tokyo. Implementation of the projects concentrated in the period from 1996 to 1998. The following is a set of selected projects carried out during this period of time. "Table 1" summarized the items of budget for each CIS country.

Physical Protection and Material Accountancy Control

The FSU countries excluding Russia needed IAEA safeguard and inspection since they became signatory non-nuclear-weapon states of the NPT. Japan's organizations and ministries in charge of nuclear energy have contributed technically and financially for the introduction of this institution.

Medical and Environmental Support

Ukraine received a program of medical support for military personnel who operate in the process of dismantling weapons of mass destruction. A medical group from Japan assessed the environmental impact to the Kazakhstani residents at the former nuclear test field in Semipalatinsk. Equipments for medical examination and treatment have been granted and this program is scheduled to continue.

Plutonium Container at Mayak

Financial support for the plutonium pit container is an example of the cancelled projects. This project started from the construction of storage facilities at the Mayak Production Complex in Chelyabinsk. Specialists prepared several kinds of Plutonium containers for the storage of plutonium pits recovered from decommissioned nuclear warheads. The U.S. and Japan scheduled to jointly bear the expense for 50,000 sets of containers. Japanese government's intention was to order half of them from the U.S. companies by $35 million. At the implementation phase, however, Russian side requested that Japan should purchase Russian-made containers, which caused a delay of the project due to the coordination among participants. In 1998 Russian side announced that the demand of containers fell below previous estimates, caused by a delay of spent fuel reprocessing at Mayak. Japanese side withdrew the proposal of assistance as a result.

Assisting in the Disposition of Nuclear Submarines:
"1993 Fund" and Liquid Radioactive Waste Processing Plants

Russian Navy had operated more than 100 nuclear submarines in Far East. 60-70 vessels reached their working lifetimes but some of them are still left moored at piers. The Soviet Union constructed facilities in the 1970s for dispositions of decommissioned nuclear submarines at Zvezda Naval Shipyards in Bolshoi Kamen but operations have been halted because of the lack of funding.

The Soviet Navy's ocean dumping of radioactive wastes in Barents Sea, Arctic Ocean, and Sea of Okhotsk was made public through the Yablokov Report in 1993. The Greenpeace reported the dumping of nuclear submarine's secondary cooling water by Russian Pacific Fleet in 1994 through monitoring activities. Appeals were made from a wide range of domestic entities, especially from the coastal local governments along Sea of Japan, for which fishery is an important industry. Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged financial contributions to the processing plant of the low level liquid radioactive waste through negotiations between Russia's Primorsky local government, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, and Russian Navy, among others. A consortium formed by Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Environment Service and Tohmen Corporation awarded the contract through international bidding. This facility consisted of the U.S. made processing plants and the Russian made barge to carry them. Constructions of this movable facility completed in 1997. It was towed to Zvezda shipyard in November 2000 and handed over to the Russian operator successfully.

3. Programs by "1999 Fund"

Japanese Government proceeded with the commitment at Koln Summit in 1999 which covered the following two issues; (a) civilian use of plutonium recovered from dismantled nuclear warheads by MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel, and (b) additional assistance in dismantlement and disposition of decommissioned nuclear submarines in the Russian Far East. *2

Fast Reactor Option of Surplus Plutonium

Russia expects the commercial use of MOX fuel by both VVER-1000 type light water reactor and the BN-600 type fast breed reactor. JNC (Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute) and Russian counterpart, RIAR (Atomic Reactors Scientific Research Institute) in Dimitrovgrad started a series of joint research from 1999 that covered productions of MOX fuel from weapon grade plutonium, irradiation tests in an experimental reactor, and acquisitions of reactor physics' data necessary to use MOX fuel.

JNC's Activities

Some total of 20 tons of plutonium would be processed through the following three phases; (a) "Phase 0 (1999-2003)": MOX fuel fabrication and irradiation experiment, (b) "Phase 1 (2003-2006)": demonstration of disposition, upgrading RIAR facility for hybrid core and replacement of radial blanket with stainless reflector, (c) "Phase 2 (2007-2020)": conversion to full MOX core, preparation of fuel fabrication facilities and life extension of the reactor.*3 The reactor's core conversion will use Japan's technological experiences. If the project is carried out as scheduled, the fast reactor option represents a substantial portion among various proposals from the related countries. Japanese government coincidently mandated JNC to undertake re-evaluations of Japan's domestic plutonium programs. JNC and RIAR have proceeded with vibro-pack fuel production and MOX fuel's in-reactor behavior experiments through joint research. This alternative fuel production technology is one of the candidates for economically viable fast reactors' development in Japan promoted by JNC.

4. Issues in the Coming Years

Concerned countries have proceeded with the nuclear cooperation between CIS countries by the initiative of the United States and G-8 Summit. Although significant achievements have been gained in this decade, participating countries have encountered problems in implementation phase repeatedly. These cooperation programs link inseparably to the operations of factories, laboratories, and, sometimes, industrial complex. Difficulties in implementations are quite conceivable considering the political sensitivity, technological challenges these projects require, and the accompanying bureaucratic complexities in each county. Coordinately organized planning and implementations among governments, commercial entities, specialists, and NGOs are required to achieve desirable results internationally.

Cooperation for nuclear non-proliferation to the former Soviet countries provide human and diplomatic networks unimaginable during the Cold War period. Strengthening of these networks is important in making the momentum in nuclear disarmament irreversible. *4 Keeping this window of opportunity open should benefit all countries concerned.

Table 1
Recipient CountryContents of AssistanceBudget (amount originally allocated)
Russia (1) MPC&A

Emergency equipment (communication equipment, radiation measurement system, etc.)

(2) Environmental Restoration

Financial support for the nuclear submarine low level liquid waste processing plant at Zvezda Shipyard
US$ 70 million
Ukraine (1) Safeguard-related Assistance

Radiation measurement system, material protection and control (Kharikov Physical Science Institute)

(2)Grant of Medical Equipment

Equipments to Military Hospitals for personnel in charge of dismantling nuclear and chemical weapons
US$ 15 million
Kazakhstan (1)Safeguard-related Assistance

Radiation measurement system, material protection and control (Fast Breed Reactor (BN-350) in Aktau)

(2)Grant of Medical Equipment

Diagnosis and treatment equipment for military personnel dismantling nuclear weapons and civilian residents living at the outskirts of nuclear weapons test site

Remote medical diagnosis support system (Semipalatinsk Nagasaki hospitals)
US$ 10 million
Belarus (1)Safeguard-related Assistance

Radiation measurement system, material protection and control (Sosnui Institute)

(2)Military-Civilian Conversion

Veterans' retraining center at the City of Lida, former manufacturing position of ICBM
US$ 5 million


*1 The implementation of the "1993 Fund" is expected to remain around $65 million by the cancellation of the plutonium container project to the Mayak Production Complex, etc.. As a financial procedure, the unspent $35 million carries forward to the 1999 budget. Therefore, the cumulative assistance will amount to $265 million at the completion of the "1999 Fund."

*2 "Japanese Government's Assistance for the denuclearization of Russia, New Initiative in Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation," May 29, 1999, "Japan-Russian Federation Joint Efforts for Disarmament and Environmental Protection"

*3 JNC document; "On the Conclusion of the Joint Research Contract with Russian RIAR"

*4 Document #4; "The Report of the Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" (jointly held by The Japan Institute of International Affairs and Hiroshima Peace Institute) "Facing Nuclear Dangers: An Action Plan for the 21st Century" July 25, 1999.

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