When the Fukushima Disaster struck Japan over three years ago, there was a national call to end nuclear power in the country. In response, practically every reactor in the country was shut down and that spelled an end to the peaceful nuclear ambitions of Japan – a country which had used nuclear power to produce approximately 25% of its power. Right?
Not quite. For in October 2014, Japan will begin operating a new $22 billion plutonium production plant. And on top of the surprising fact that Japan has not given up nuclear power completely, the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is a plutonium breeder reactor. Breeder reactors are capable of producing additional plutonium which could be used for further Japanese nuclear plants, but Japan for now is not planning to build more nuclear plants. But the plutonium used by Japanese plants is capable of being used for nuclear weapons – and while Japan currently has utterly no interest in creating nuclear weapons, the fact is that the new breeder reactor will be capable of churning out 96 tons of plutonium metal in the next dozen years.
So you have a Japan which hasn’t quite totally given up on nuclear power yet. They are building breeder reactors, which can produce weapons-grade plutonium. And on top of that, you have the fact that Japanese nuclear security is incredibly lax. While American nuclear plants have turrets with armor-piercing ammunition (no, really), Japanese nuclear security guards are unarmed and are told to flee in the face of an armed terrorist attack. All of this was detailed today in a lecture at the Brookings Institute today, and has been published by the Center of Public Integrity, a nonpartisan think tank.
However, I would like to ask a question. What is worse than a Japanese nuclear plant which produces weapons grade plutonium and has minimum security? A Japanese nuclear plant which produces weapons grade plutonium, has minimum security…and everyone knows it, courtesy of Julian Assange. One of the recently published articles by the Center of Public Integrity which discusses the weaknesses of Japanese nuclear security, cites Wikileaks three times. The first citation discusses the problems in a Japanese security drill, the second discusses cables between US and Japanese officials about the necessity of armed guards, and the third discusses sharing classified information between Japan and the US about nuclear threats and the difficulties in doing so.
Of course, Wikileaks is old news, especially in light of Mr. Snowden and his buddy Greenwald continuing to leak whatever information they darn well please ( such as say, the fact that the US and Israeli intelligence work together or the fact that America spies on foreign countries. Clearly somehow violations of American civil liberties…somehow). But what possible benefit is there in showcasing these weaknesses, so that terrorists can know the weaknesses of Japanese nuclear security and begin booking trips to the country? Is this what “freedom of information” looks like in our day and age?
The Center of Public Integrity’s essay on Japanese nuclear security is one thing and showcases a problem. But Mr. Assange didn’t give one whit about Japanese nuclear security. He, and his colleague Manning, leaked things like this en masse…because they could. Without regard for the public safety, and without worry about what terrorists could do with this information.
Ladies and gentlemen. Your heroes of the internet Age.
As for Japan? Japan has been incredibly lax in its approach to terrorism – as discussed earlier, nuclear plant security guards are unarmed and told to flee and wait for the police to arrive in the face of an armed terrorist attack. Let’s also not forget that Japanese nuclear workers do not have to undergo background checks, an unthinkable idea in the United States. Japan has been secure in the idea that its pacifist ideals, its homogenous population, and the fact that “they don’t have guns” means that it will not be a victim from terrorist attacks. But they forget the sarin attack of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese Red Army, and the Japanese Communist Revolutionary League, which attacked the Imperial Palace and the US Embassy.
Terrorism is not just the product of blowback. It is the inevitable tool of stateless actors who wish to fight against the social order – and any social order, no matter how fair it attempts to be, will produce winners and losers. Japan cannot sit back and do nothing to secure its nuclear plants – for once a little plutonium is gone, it will be far too late.