Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a programme to fuel its nuclear plants, but concern is growing that the stockpile is vulnerable to terrorists and natural disasters. Japan has long been the world’s only non-nuclear-armed country with a programme to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from its power plants into plutonium. On Tuesday a decades-old deal with the United States which allows Japan to reprocess plutonium was renewed, but the pact can be terminated by either side with just six months’ notice. Plutonium reprocessing is meant to create a new and emissions-free fuel source for resource-poor Japan, but the size of its stockpile has started to attract criticism, even from allies.
Daily Mail 17th July 2018 read more »
Japan and the U.S. have extended their nuclear pact as Tokyo pledged to work to reduce its plutonium stockpile to address Washington’s concern. The 30-year pact agreed upon in 1988 allowed Japan to extract plutonium and enrich uranium for peaceful uses even though the same technology can make atomic bombs. Without either side requesting a review, the pact was extended Tuesday but now can be terminated by either side giving six months’ notice. Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Japan must reduce the stockpile to keep the pact in place stably. Japan has 47 tons of plutonium — enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs. Despite security concerns and Washington’s pressure, the amount isn’t decreasing due to slow restarts of reactors that can burn plutonium amid setbacks from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Japan Today 17th July 2018 read more »
OPINION: How not to reduce Japan’s plutonium stockpile. Facing U.S. pressure and the expiration on July 16 of the initial term of the 1988 U.S.-Japan nuclear agreement, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) is expected to propose plans to reduce Japan’s massive 48-ton stockpile of unirradiated plutonium by boosting the use of plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in nuclear power reactors. However, this plan directly contradicts the lessons from a yearlong study that I recently led of all countries that have commercially used or produced MOX for thermal nuclear power plants. We found that five of the seven countries had already abandoned MOX fuel due to concerns about economics, security, and public acceptance.
Kyodo News 13th July 2018 read more »
A new report claims that nuclear materials stolen from US Department of Energy (DOE) employees last year in Texas are still missing. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) reports that plutonium and cesium were stolen from the officials’ car when they stayed overnight at a hotel. Authorities have not publicly commented on the theft, CPI reports, but a DOE official confirmed it to the BBC. A DOE official told the BBC the public is not at risk due to the theft. The security officials from the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory had driven to San Antonio in March 2017 to collect nuclear materials from a research laboratory. They had in their possession radiation detectors and disks of plutonium and cesium to calibrate the devices to ensure they would collect the right materials from the laboratory.
BBC 17th July 2018 read more »
Center for Public Integrity 16th July 2018 read more »