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Japanese Atomic Law Amendment Will Not Lead to Nuke Work: Minister

New language that adds "national security" as a goal of Japan's atomic energy law does not mean the country will initiate a nuclear weapons program, a senior government official said on Tuesday (see GSN, June 22).

Nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono said even with the new language, the Atomic Energy Basic Act distinctly constrains nuclear activities to the nonmilitary arena. "There is no need to be concerned," Kyodo News quoted him as saying.

The national security clause has faced opposition from antinuclear activists and experts who worry it could be used as a legal basis for nuclear weapons development.

The nation's three non-nuclear principles, which bar the country from producing, possessing, or permitting the presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, are a "well-established basic idea," according to Hosono.

He emphasized that the opposition Liberal Democratic Party had pressed for the language update in the act.

The modification was inserted into the law as Japan's new atomic oversight agency will have authority over such matters as nonproliferation standards and protections around nuclear materials and facilities, an unidentified government official said. The agency was mandated by legislation approved following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (see GSN, June 1 ;Kyodo News, June 26).

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