Terrie's Take 815 -- Does Japan Have Nuclear Weapons? Ebiz news from Japan.

Terrie's Take 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
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Alligators in Shizuoka, Vegan dogs in Izu
- News Credits

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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 
nuclear weapons).

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[...Article continues]

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 
weapons program.

[Ed: Our thanks to this reader for this very thought provoking commentary.]

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- 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 
01, 2015)


=> 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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No feedback this week.



=> 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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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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