Japan and France should lead an energy revolution, not expand dirty nuclear power

Greenpeace reacts to the French State delegation visit to Japanese nuclear facility Rokkasho

Press release - 11 April, 2008
Greenpeace is critical of today's visit by French Prime Minister, François Fillon, to the Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant, nearing completion in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, which the organisation sees as the biggest and most dangerous obstacle to directing Japan towards a safe and clean energy future.

The French company COGEMA, now part of AREVA, has provided the plant's reprocessing technology. AREVA is aggressively promoting nuclear power expansion despite the risks, poor value for money and ineffectiveness in combating problems such as climate change.

As early as next month, the governor of Aomori Prefecture may sign the all-important "safety agreement" for the plant.  "If it goes into operation, Rokkasho will spread radioactive contamination, add to the stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium and create long-lived radioactive waste that no one knows how to successfully dispose of," said Manami Suzuki, energy and climate campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

"Technologically advanced nations like France and Japan should be leading an energy revolution based on boosting clean, renewable energy rather than backing dangerous and hugely expensive polluting nuclear programmes," she said.

Rokkasho is now in the final stage of test operation following a 20-year construction programme troubled by setbacks and delays. Operating at its design capacity, Rokkasho would separate 8 tonnes of plutonium per year - sufficient for around 1000 nuclear weapons.

Daily discharges of radioactivity from the plant, it is estimated, will be higher that those from the large nuclear reprocessing facilities at Cap de la Hague, in France, and Sellafield, in the UK. Official estimates show the volume of radioactivity discharged from Rokkasho each day could be equivalent to that from one nuclear reactor over the period of a year. A study commissioned by Greenpeace has calculated that this could result in 15,000 additional deaths from cancer worldwide.

"The French and Japanese governments' love affair with nuclear power is undermining international security and fails to help us solve climate change, the most important threat we face," said Jan Beránek, energy campaigner at Greenpeace International. "Despite all of the money that has been poured into nuclear power it remains a lame duck technology."

Greenpeace Japan this week issued an international appeal calling for objections to the opening of the plant to be sent to the governor of Aomori Prefecture.

Other contacts: Manami Suzuki, Climate/Energy campaigner, Greenpeace Japan.Tel: +81 80 5416 6506Jan Beránek, energy campaigner, Greenpeace International.Tel: +31 6 5110 9558