Japan cedes control of nuclear cache to U.S.

Throwing in a ‘life extension program’ for the U.S. nuclear arsenal isn’t necessarily up a worthy upgrade — especially while Russia is modernizing its nuclear force, but by building entirely new weapons and systems, not patching up or upgrading older versions.

Japan will announce Monday that it will turn over to Washington more than 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium and a large quantity of highly enriched uranium, a decades-old research stockpile that is large enough to build dozens of nuclear weapons, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.

Japan’s agreement to transfer the material – the amount of highly enriched uranium has not been announced but is estimated at 200 kg – has both practical and political significance. For years these stores of weapons-grade material were not a secret, but were lightly guarded at best; a reporter for The New York Times who visited the main storage site at Tokaimura in the early 1990s found unarmed guards and a site less well protected than many banks. While security has improved, the stores have long been considered vulnerable.

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