Japan to abandon bid to host nuclear project

27th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, June 27 (AFP) - Barring any last minute surprises, Japan will abandon its bid to host a revolutionary nuclear energy reactor at a Moscow meeting on Tuesday, but only after having fought to the end and secured substantial compensation.

TOKYO, June 27 (AFP) - Barring any last minute surprises, Japan will abandon its bid to host a revolutionary nuclear energy reactor at a Moscow meeting on Tuesday, but only after having fought to the end and secured substantial compensation.

The six partners in the multi-billion dollar project will hold a ministerial-level meeting in Moscow to decide on the site for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.

The aim of the six-way project between the European Union, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China is to emulate the sun's nuclear fusion.

Tokyo revealed last week it was going to withdraw its bid to host the project in the Japanese village of Rokkasho-mura, giving way for it to be constructed in France.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiken Sugiura, a spokesman for the government, acknowledged implicitly that Japan had agreed to the European Union offer to build the reactor in the southern French town of Cadarache after being granted compensation.

"It is not like 100 percent will go to the other party and our side will give up 100 percent," Sugiura told a news conference.

The European Union has been informed, along with South Korea and the United States, that Japan would back down from hosting the project.

During the long process of selection, European's bid for Cadarache received support from Japanese rival China and Russia, while the Japanese entry secured votes from close ally the United States and neighbour South Korea.

"The chances of Japan hosting it became very weak from the moment all European countries decided to back a common cause and more still when they warned they would make the ITER in France, with or without Japan," said an expert familiar with the project, wishing to remain anonymous.

The Japanese science ministry however defended its application to the end, driven by the will of its civil servants to give to Japan a major global role in the field of fusion.

Tokyo made its decision after winning concessions from the European Union, including a readjustment in the financing of the project, ensuring Japan does not lose face over its backdown.

Under the terms of a "technical agreement" signed between the EU and Japan on May 5 in Geneva, the "host country" would cover 50 percent, or about 570 billion yen (EUR 4.3 billion), of the cost of constructing the reactor.

For its part, the "non-host country" would finance only 10 percent of the cost.

Japan also secured a deal to construct the project's main research facility in Japan and keep 20 percent of the jobs at the head office, including the top post of the ITER organization, for Japanese nationals.

Amid the deadlock, both the EU and Japan signalled they wanted to finalize a decision before the July 6-8 summit in Scotland of the Group of Eight industrialized nations which will include Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and French President Jacques Chirac.

Despite the Japanese science ministry's enthusiasm for ITER, media reports in Japan have said the Finance Ministry is worried about burdening public finances.

There were also diplomatic reasons for Japan's decision on the reactor: Japan needs France's backing for its key objective of gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Japan's press had anticipated this moment for a long time.

"Losing the ITER project may be the best bet... In short, a defeat in the bidding war should be seen as a victory in the long run," wrote the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in a recent commentary on the issue.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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