BEIJING—China’s plans to process spent nuclear fuel into plutonium that could be used in weapons is drawing concern from the U.S. that Beijing is heightening the risk of nuclear proliferation.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, in Beijing for talks, said Thursday that China’s plans to build a nuclear-recycling facility present challenges to global efforts to control the spread of potentially dangerous materials.
“We don’t support large-scale reprocessing,” Mr. Moniz told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. He said China’s recent announcements that it would press ahead with building the country’s first such commercial-scale facility “certainly isn’t a positive in terms of nonproliferation.”
At the same time, larger Chinese stockpiles of isolated plutonium could prompt Japan, especially, to build up its caches.
Civilian plutonium stockpiles reached 271 metric tons by the end of 2014, up from around 150 metric tons in the 1990s, the International Panel on Fissile Materials, an independent group looking at nonproliferation policy, said in its latest annual report.