Tokyo’s coming plutonium glut could pose nuclear dangers, a new report warns.
A surplus of Japanese plutonium over the next few years could pose significant nuclear dangers for the region and the world unless it is addressed now, a new report released this week by a Washington, D.C.-based think tank has warned.
Japan is the only non-nuclear-weapon state which extracts plutonium from the spent fuel produced in nuclear reactors – a process called reprocessing – to fabricate more fuel, a controversial practice since the plutonium can also be used to make nuclear weapons. While Tokyo has pledged not to produce more plutonium than it consumes, the fallout from the 2011 Fukushima incident makes it likely that Japan will violate that commitment in the next decade, with a plutonium conversion facility still in the works and only a portion of its reactors that consume plutonium likely to be restarted before the reprocessing plant is at full capacity.
Japan’s resulting plutonium glut, argues James Acton, a longtime nonproliferation analyst, must be averted by Tokyo and its partners because it would set a damaging precedent, exacerbate regional tensions and increase the likelihood of nuclear terrorism.
The report also underscores the urgency of the task at hand. While the coming plutonium glut may be a decade away according to Acton’s projection, he argues that sticking to the current path will only make it more difficult for Tokyo to convince local stakeholders about the need for policy change further down the line and waste the critical time needed to develop a credible plan to manage plutonium.
“Unfortunately, waiting will probably make the problem even more vexing,” Acton warns.
Read more at Beware Japan’s Coming Nuclear Problem: Report