U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House via The Japan Times

The United States would back a change to Japan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing program because there are concerns it may lead to an increase in its ally’s stockpile of unused plutonium, a senior White House official said.

If Japan were to change course “they would find the United States to be supportive,” Jon Wolfsthal, senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, said in a recent interview.

Wolfsthal’s remark reflected concerns in President Barack Obama’s administration about the future of Japan’s large plutonium stockpiles, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Wolfsthal said the upcoming renewal in 2018 of a bilateral nuclear agreement with Japan “has the potential to become a very controversial issue.”

The 1988 pact authorizes Japan to reprocess used nuclear fuel when the fuel includes U.S.-produced uranium.


In March, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida defended the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel, saying the United States has approved it.


Under the Japanese reprocessing program, plutonium extracted from used nuclear fuel is recycled to make plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel usable at nuclear power plants. Japan has licensed companies in foreign countries such as Britain and France to produce the so-called MOX fuel.

Japan came up with the plutonium recycling program in the face of potential international suspicion that a large stockpile of plutonium could encourage it to go nuclear.

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