The Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has clearly stated for the first time that Japan will try to reduce its plutonium stockpiles. The new policy, incorporated in the commission’s revised guidelines, is a reflection of Japan’s principle of not holding plutonium without specific purpose of use — a stance maintained from its standpoint of nuclear nonproliferation.[…]
Plutonium is a product of the nuclear fuel cycle. The cycle was conceived out of concerns about uranium depletion, but now there is uranium aplenty. Moreover, fast-breeder reactors, which stood at the core of the cycle, have been found to be difficult to put into actual use and are not viable economically. The United States, Britain, Germany and others have already given up on such projects.
Japan, however has stuck with its nuclear fuel cycle, and to maintain it, the government lets power utilities use plutonium in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel as a stop-gap measure. But this arrangement has faced turbulence in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. As a result, the country has been left with stockpiles of about 47 metric tons of plutonium in Japan and overseas.
For a real reduction of plutonium stockpiles, the government should take drastic measures such as freezing operation of the reprocessing plant or discarding plutonium in deep, secure underground locations. Handing over Japan’s overseas stockpiles to countries now storing them is an option that merits discussion.
Japan must review the meaning of continuing with reprocessing and its nuclear fuel cycle.
Read more at Editorial: Plutonium reduction does not fit in with nuclear fuel cycle