The second meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was held on November 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C, with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman and Japan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama leading the discussions as Co-Chairs. The delegations included participants representing a wide range of governmental agencies.
Established at the U.S.-Japan summit held in April 2012, the Bilateral Commission serves as a standing senior-level forum to foster a comprehensive strategic dialogue and joint activities related to the safe and secure implementation of civil nuclear energy and the response to the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station (NPS), including decommissioning and decontamination.
The first meeting of the Bilateral Commission was held on July 24, 2012 in Tokyo, at which time five working groups were launched to coordinate bilateral cooperation. They cover the following subjects:
- Nuclear security;
- Civil nuclear energy research and development;
- Safety and regulatory issues;
- Emergency management; and,
- Decommissioning and environmental management.
At the November 4, 2013 meeting, each of the working groups reported on the status of their activities and their accomplishments to date. Both sides discussed the next steps for each working group and how to further enhance bilateral cooperation in each field. In addition, the Japanese delegation made presentations on the following topics:
- The current situation of the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS and decommissioning and decontamination efforts, including countermeasures against contaminated water;
- Japan’s new regulatory requirements for light-water nuclear power plants and the status of draft regulatory requirements for nuclear fuel facilities and other facilities;
- Japan’s efforts to implement comprehensive training for nuclear disaster response;
- The current situation regarding the reforms and reorganization of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency; and,
- The discussions in Japan on enhancing safety culture after the Fukushima nuclear accident.
During the Commission meeting, the Government of Japan emphasized that the implementation of countermeasures to address contaminated water at the Fukushima NPS is an urgent task.
- The Government of Japan explained that, as has been announced in the Basic Policy for the Contaminated Water Issue at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, it is determined to play a proactive role in TEPCO’s implementation of the necessary countermeasures responding to the contaminated water issue.
- For this purpose, Japan plans to actively disseminate information to the international community and mobilize the related technologies and expertise at home and abroad in an open manner.
On decommissioning and environmental management, the United States is committed to enhancing cooperation with Japan in the public sector through consultation and provision of guidance and information. The United States encouraged Japan to further engage the expertise of the U.S. private sector in remediation efforts at the Fukushima NPS. The U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers facilitate technical exchanges with U.S. national laboratories to address many of Fukushima’s critical cleanup challenges. Both sides decided to hold a video conference in December to discuss specific technical areas as well as future activities.
On civil nuclear liability, the United States welcomed Japan’s recent decision to join the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), and the two governments committed to continue close coordination regarding the CSC. Japan and the United States noted that this important Convention will enter into force 90 days after Japan’s deposit of its appropriate instrument. They recognize that Japan’s joining the CSC helps to facilitate U.S. commercial engagement in the Japanese nuclear sector, including support to the ongoing cleanup of contaminated water at the Fukushima NPS, as well as the decommissioning activities at the site.
Japan and the United States committed to work together to establish a global nuclear liability regime by encouraging other countries to join the CSC, thereby achieving a major objective of the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
On civil nuclear research and development, the United States and Japan decided to initiate nuclear energy research and development projects on advanced reactor materials, advanced reactor modeling and simulation, and advanced fuels. The Japanese side proposed to launch a bilateral collaboration on Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA). The United States responded positively to this proposal, and both Governments decided to explore holding a U.S.-Japan roundtable on PRA methodologies and their applications for nuclear safety.
On nuclear security, the United States and Japan committed to continue to strengthen the nuclear security posture of both countries and to fundamentally reduce the threat that terrorists could acquire nuclear material. Key steps towards these goals include the following:
- Reducing the quantities and attractiveness of weapons-usable nuclear material;
- Reducing insider access to nuclear material;
- Reducing the vulnerability of nuclear material to theft or diversion; and,
- Strengthening emergency response to security incidents and forensics capabilities.
Both Governments welcomed Japan’s newly-strengthened emergency management system and improved coordination channels across government ministries and with utility operators.
Japan and the United States committed to further strengthening information-sharing and cooperation within the five working groups and to report their outcomes to the next meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation to be held in May/June 2014 in Japan, supplemented as necessary by videoconferences.