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The danger of Japan’s increasing stockpile of plutonium

Japan’s plutonium stockpile climbs to 46.1 tons in 2020, first rise in 3 years, July 10, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)     TOKYO — Japan was in possession of a total of some 46.1 metric tons of plutonium at home and abroad as of the end of 2020, the Cabinet Office reported to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) on July 9. The amount represents an increase of about 0.6 tons from the previous year.

The JAEC had stated that the country would reduce its plutonium stockpile under guidelines revised in July 2018, and the amount in its possession had been on a downward trend since then. The reported increase was the first in three years.

Plutonium is extracted from spent nuclear fuel generated at nuclear plants, for the purpose of recycling. However, the international community has expressed concerns over Japan’s large plutonium stockpile, saying it could be converted into nuclear weapons.

According to the Cabinet Office report, the latest increase in the nation’s plutonium stockpile was due to the addition of roughly 0.6 tons that had been stored in Britain after being extracted from nuclear fuel but which had not been included in the stockpile due to delayed procedures. As the extraction of plutonium in Britain and France has been completed, Japan has no more unrecorded stockpiles, according to the report.

Plutonium is mixed with uranium to produce mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use at nuclear power plants. However, none of the nuclear plants in Japan used MOX fuel in 2020. As a result, the domestic stockpile remained at the same level as the previous year, at roughly 8.9 tons.

If the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, goes into full operation in fiscal 2023, Japan’s plutonium stockpile will increase. However, only 0.6 tons of plutonium is expected to be extracted from spent fuel at the plant in fiscal 2023………….

July 12, 2021 - Posted by | - plutonium, Japan

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