Japan’s growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears

As said many times in the past, Japan can go nuclear within three months if it wishes. It’s already secretly working on them. The necessary materials are there and only assembly is required. All that’s needed is a catalyst.

Although it may be a farce, like the last 10-plus times it has committed to denuclearization, North Korea has slowed down the need. China at the moment is the flashpoint since it also controls North Korea, and is projecting its power throughout the Asia-Pacific and eventually into the Western Pacific.

 

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Illustration only.

 

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.

Plutonium can be used to create nuclear weapons. Although Japan has vowed the material would never be used for military purposes, it has now amassed vastly more plutonium than it can use, since many of its nuclear plants are still offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

They also fear the reserve could encourage other regional powers, including China, to press for a similar reprocessing capability, boosting the amount of weaponisable plutonium in Asia.

And some even warn that North Korea could point to the stockpile as an excuse to avoid denuclearising.

This month Japan’s government vowed for the first time to “tackle a reduction in plutonium stocks” but gave no roadmap.

The country’s Atomic Energy Commission reportedly plans a self-imposed cap on the reserve, which now stands at 10 tonnes inside the country, with another 37 tonnes in Britain and France for reprocessing.

– Costly and complicated –

– Regional race –

Tokyo’s reprocessing programme also runs the risk of sparking a regional race, warned Thomas Countryman, a former US State Department official for arms control and non-proliferation.

“In the region, it is not in the interest of the United States or Japan or the world to see South Korea or China imitate Japan and enter the field of civilian reprocessing,” he told Japanese lawmakers last month.

“This would increase the risk to nuclear security, that is, the risk terrorists or criminals might divert plutonium, and it would increase regional competition in a technology that offers more risks than it does benefits,” he added.

China is already pushing for its own reprocessing capacity with the help of French and Russian partners, while South Korea has been researching reprocessing technologies but faces objections from environmentalists.

Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered an atomic bomb attack, insists it would never use its plutonium for military purposes.

Full article: Japan’s growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears (Spacewar)

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