Terrie's Take 815 -- Does Japan Have Nuclear Weapons? Ebiz news from Japan.
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Aug 2 22:38:21 JST 2015
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.
General Edition Sunday, August 02, 2015, Issue No. 815
- What's New -- Does Japan Have Nuclear Weapons?
- News -- Military budget to rise 10% in FY2016
- Upcoming Events
- Travel Picks -- Alligators in Shizuoka, Vegan dogs in Izu
- News Credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Two weeks ago in Terrie's Take 813, we wondered why Japan needed so much
plutonium. Given that most nuclear power plants do not need plutonium as
a fuel (although those using a mix called MOX do), the only conclusion
we could come to was that Japan is on the threshold of having nuclear
weapons -- certainly much more so than Iran is. This prompted a very
interesting letter from a long-time reader who concurs, and lays out his
reasoning so succinctly we just had to reproduce it, with some
occasional edits by us. We think you will find his reasoning very
*** Reader says:
In the larger US-Japan defense community, it has been long known, not
suspected, that Japan's only reason for supporting nuclear energy is the
weapons-grade plutonium that results. The evidence is overwhelming and
includes but is not limited to:
1) Japan's support of nuclear energy despite the legacy of
Hiroshima/Nagasaki and in light of Japan's ferocious anti-nuclear
position on everything atomic (besides electrical generation), is highly
suspect on its face.
2) Support for nuclear power plants in one's backyard but opposition to
nuclear powered ships in the middle of the ocean makes perfect sense if
your top concern is having 100% control over the reactor....and its fuel.
3) Lacking fossil fuels, but surrounded by oceans, wind, and sun, and
with some of the world's best technology, it ought to be a "no-brainer"
that Japan long ago should have made renewable energy one of the pillars
of its national economy, if not culture. There has to be a hugely
compelling reason why this is manifestly not the case, but no such
"reason" has ever been put forward by anyone. Ever.
4) Another elephant in the room is nuclear waste, not just locally, but
globally. It's the most toxic material that exists on earth, there is no
way to dispose or store it safely, and after 70 years of research we now
know that there never will be. This alone ought to stop nuclear energy
in its tracks, globally. That waste disposal is not a show stopper is
proof that there is something more important than the health of the
earth and its people at stake (i.e., the desire by nations to have
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5) There is something called "Nuclear Latency" a fancy term for how
quickly someone without The Bomb can get/make one. (Wikipedia has an
article on it.) The list of nuclear latent countries is very short, and
Japan is always at the top of the list. The underground buzz has always
been that Japan has a nuclear program and is "one screwdriver turn away"
from having a nuke, in practical terms, about 30 days (see my final
comment at the end).
6) Having a nuke is not very useful if you don't have a long-range
missile to deliver it - thus the non-commercial reason for developing
the "H2A" rocket. The world has a marked surplus of highly
price-competitive commercial space delivery vehicles. More than 30
countries have launch vehicles, with U.S., Russian, European, India, and
Chinese options leading the list. Japan's H2A is a white elephant that
is totally cost prohibitive (depending on who you ask, it is 5 to 10
times more expensive than its competitors without even factoring in its
blow-up risk, which is higher than other rockets). It serves no apparent
commercial purpose and a Japan under a mountain of public debt has no
need for such a hugely expensive toy -- unless one notes that it is
perfect for carrying a nuclear warhead.
Why do I say that the H2A is prone to blowing up? Well, JAXA claims a
success rate comparable to other launch vehicles, but this information
is "fudged" in several ways. For one thing, the success rate they claim
(about 95%) does not take into account test vehicles (rockets without
commercial payloads). For another, they don't take into account the
H2A's predecessor, which was essentially the same rocket and which blew
up with distressing frequency -- Japan basically gave the rocket a new
name to re-set the failure rate to zero. Then there is the "comparable"
success rate JAXA uses, which compares it with foreign rockets with the
highest failure rates. I'm no expert on rocket science, but I know
people who are and they say that it is common knowledge that the H2A is
the most unreliable vehicle of its class on the planet. Anyone with the
time to research can find that the number of H2A blow-ups is more than
the single one that appears on the vehicle's English Wikipedia page.
7) The 9 countries with the most nuclear reactors (in order) are the
USA, France, Japan, Russia, Korea, China, India, Canada, and the UK.
Only 8 countries in the world have acknowledged having nuclear arsenals,
and the 6 with the largest arsenals (again in order) are the USA,
Russia, UK, France, China, and India. The similarity of these two lists
is not a coincidence.
8) When Japan began its nuclear program, it had the technology,
opportunity, ability, and backing of the scientific community to build
thorium reactors. [Ed: In fact we have spoken to one Japanese scientist
who is trying to raise the US$300m he needs to commercialize a viable
Thorium reactor.] Thorium is arguably cheaper, safer, and more efficient
than uranium. If Japan really did need nuclear power for peaceful
purposes only, the most likely reason they chose uranium over thorium is
the same reason as with almost everyone else in the world who uses
uranium - because spent nuclear fuel from a uranium reactor yields
weapons-grade plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel from a thorium reactor is
useless as far as nuclear weapons are concerned.
9) As mentioned in TT814, in the space of just a few months Japan passed
a very fishy Official Secrets Act and has been trying to interpret the
Constitution to mean whatever they say it means. Combine this with the
known fact that Japan has undertaken nuclear weapons feasibility studies
on several occasions
http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/japan/nuke.htm - the fact that
Japan's constitution does not forbid nuclear weapons, and the fact that
senior officials have suggested that nukes could be for defensive
purposes only, you have a very suspicious picture indeed.
10) Finally, and while this is purely anecdotal, I personally know a
number of Japanese software engineers who do not have business cards,
offering very unconvincing descriptions of where they work and what they
do, having official offices that they only visit once or twice a year,
and who are basically carbon-copies of nuclear weapons engineers and
technicians in places like Los Alamos.
11) Well, OK, and lastly, I have also been told privately by fairly
senior (former) members of the SDF that Japan has a secret nuclear
[Ed: Our thanks to this reader for this very thought provoking commentary.]
...The information janitors/
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- Military budget to rise 10% in FY2016
- Karpeles arrested for Mt Gox charges
- TPP talks run aground, again
- Sharp in deep trouble
- Police cracking down on cyclists
=> Military budget to rise 10% in FY2016
The Nikkei reports that the Ministry of Defense is likely to request a
record budget for the next fiscal year of more than JPY5trn (US$40.3bn),
due largely to their desire to buy inflight refueling aircraft from the
USA or Europe, and to finish construction of an Aegis-class destroyer.
The budget increase also factors in the weaker yen. After 10 years of
defense spending decreases, the last 3 years under PM Abe have seen
steady increases to JPY4.9trn last year. (Source: TT commentary from
asia.nikkei.com, Aug 2, 2015)
=> Karpeles arrested for Mt Gox charges
The police have finally arrested Mark Karpeles, the former CEO of Mount
Gox, once the worlds largest bitcoin exchange. He was arrested on
suspicion of defrauding thousands of bitcoin customers of their
deposits. Karpeles has always said that hackers were responsible for
stealing almost JPY40bn of bitcoins from the exchange in 2014 and which
shut it down. However, the police now apparently believe that Karpeles
himself was accessing the core system and making changes to the
accounts. ***Ed: Ironically, given the size of the fraud, if Karpeles is
found guilty the maximum sentence will be 5 years in prison or a fine of
a mere JPY500,000.** (Source: TT commentary from theguardian.com, Aug 1,
=> TPP talks run aground, again
While the Japanese press have been quick to vilify New Zealand for being
responsible for the failure of the latest round of Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) trade talks, this fairly long article on New Zealand's
Stuff.co.nz web site sets the record straight. Essentially the TPP talks
have become stuck over two issues: protection of domestic dairy farmers
by Japan and Canada, and the definition of monopoly periods for
next-generation drugs. ***Ed: We feel that it is a bit rich for Japan
and Canada to accuse NZ of being unreasonable about their limiting NZ's
access to their dairy markets, when neither market is major for the
respective countries and for NZ it's pretty much the only thing that
nation exports in large quantities. So it's no wonder NZ, which was one
of the original promoters of TPP anyway, would be unhappy to be locked
out of those key markets.** (Source: TT commentary from stuff.co.nz, Aug
=> Sharp in deep trouble
Electronics conglomerate Sharp is in even deeper trouble, having
announced that it lost JPY28.8bn in Q1 (April-June), a plunge from the
JPY4.7bn in profit booked over the same period in FY2014. The result was
15% worse than stock analysts expected. As a result, Sharp has decided
to exit its markets in the Americas and sell the business and the brand
name rights to Chinese maker Hisense for just US$23.7m. The company has
also gone hat-in-hand to the banks for its second major loan in 3 years
- this time for JPY2.2trn, and it will cut about 10% of its workforce of
50,000. (Source: TT commentary from reuters.com, Jul 31, 2015)
=> Police cracking down on cyclists
In one of the great ironies of our age, in a nation where we should be
extolling citizens willing to cut back on energy consumption and stay
fit in the process, the authorities are instead declaring war on
cyclists. A Road Traffic law revision that went into effect on June 1st
has galvanized the police into cracking down on cyclists who breach the
road code, and will force violators to pay fines and attend re-education
sessions. ***Ed: While we do agree that young cyclists running red
lights is a serious problem and they need reigning in, the fact is that
many (a 2011 poll found 58%) cyclists are literally forced to break the
law due to bad traffic, lack of cycling lanes, legal parking of vehicles
blocking cycling lanes, and unsafe drivers and motorcyclists. If the
police were really serious about making the roads safer for cyclists,
they would focus on taxis and other unsafe drivers of motorized vehicles
in equal measure, and they would pressure the government to do something
about creating proper on-road cycle lanes.** (Source: TT commentary from
japantimes.co.jp, Jun 29, 2015)
NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of
posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.
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+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS
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+++ TRAVEL DESTINATIONS PICKS
=> Atagawa Tropical & Alligator Garden, Shizuoka
Family attraction with red pandas and baby alligators
The train journey towards the Atagawa Tropical Garden is beautiful with
mountains on the left and the Sagami-nada sea on the right. The entrance
fee to the gardens is 1,500 yen for an adult ticket, giving access to
the gardens, alligator area and the red panda area. I was impressed with
the area as it was bigger than expected and they provide a bus to take
you to the other areas of the garden, which has various birds as well.
The garden opened in 1958 and currently has 349 animal species.
I was disappointed with the alligator area, as they did not have much
space to move around and they were often crammed in with each other,
this was also the case for the manatee tank. The red pandas seemed to be
better looked after but were generally sleeping. A little building had a
friendly man who was holding a baby alligator which was less than a year
old, and visitors could pet it. In the turtle area, there was a very
large turtle which I was told was over 100 years old. Visitors can have
photographs taken with the turtle and again can pet it.
=> Cafe Sora in Ito City, Izu, Shizuoka
Lovely vegan lunches
Blue water glitters off the rocky coast to the east as we drive up the
coast from Shimoda. About an hour after departing the white sands of
Kisami, we pull into Ito City. In the back seat the window is cracked
and Chiro our dog wags her tail as she whiffs the salt air wafting in
from the cliffs of Jogasaki.
Cafe Sora makes its home in a pretty yellow house with a strategically
overgrown garden, herbs and flowers lining the path to the front door
and branches and ivy twining the entrance gate. As well mannered dogs
are welcome, we troop in together and Chi settles at my feet on the cool
tile floor as I peruse the menu and order the kuruma-fu (a kind of wheat
gluten shaped like a wheel that's popular in Japanese cooking) plate lunch.
When I head to the restroom to fill up her water bowl, I notice some
freshly baked chocolate cakes cooling on a rack and decide to add a
slice to my lunch order along with some organic iced coffee for a few
hundred yen extra. Yes, there are discounts on drinks and desserts when
ordered with a lunch plate...!
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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