Japan began operations at its first commercial nuclear power plant in 1966. For more than four decades, Tokyo never veered from its goals of increasing nuclear energy’s share of electricity generation and developing a self-sufficient plutonium-based nuclear fuel cycle.
Japan’s recently proposed energy strategy is seen by some as unclear on how to address fundamental policy questions on the country’s approach to spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium use.
On September 22, a day before President Barack Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in New York, 13 nongovernmental U.S. security experts released an open letter calling on the two leaders “to support a U.S. policy declaring that the only purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter, and if necessary respond to, the use of nuclear weapons by other countries.”
On May 31, a senior Japanese official suggested that Tokyo could revise its longstanding policy of forswearing nuclear weapons but was forced to issue a retraction after his remarks provoked widespread condemnation.