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Plutonium reprocessing plan raises alarm amid shutdown via The Japan Times

Nuclear industry officials say they hope to start producing half a ton of toxic plutonium within months, in addition to the more than 35 tons Japan already has stored around the world. That is even though all the reactors that might use it are either inoperable or offline while the government rethinks its gung-ho nuclear energy policy after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“It’s crazy,” said Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, a leading authority on nonproliferation issues and a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology. “There is absolutely no reason to do that.”

Japan’s nuclear industry produces plutonium — which is strictly regulated globally because it also is used for nuclear weapons — by reprocessing some of its spent, uranium-based fuel in a procedure that it hopes will help decrease the amount of radioactive waste that would otherwise require long-term storage.

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