See More on Facebook

Curiosity

Japan seeks to cut plutonium stockpile

Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission is seeking to cut the country’s plutonium stockpile for the first time in over a decade.


Written by

Updated: August 2, 2018

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has revised its basic policy for plutonium utilization for the first time in 15 years to state clearly that Japan’s plutonium stockpile should be reduced. The commission, chaired by Yoshiaki Oka, made the decision Tuesday to enhance transparency over the peaceful use of plutonium in the face of concerns over nuclear nonproliferation expressed by the international community.

47.3 tons in total

The commission also disclosed the amount of plutonium in Japan’s possession as of the end of 2017. About 36.7 tons of Japanese plutonium was held in Britain and France, while about 10.5 tons was stored domestically for a total of about 47.3 tons. This is up 0.4 tons from the end of 2016 and is equivalent to about 6,000 times the amount of plutonium in the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.

The previous policy, agreed upon in 2003, included the principle that Japan should not possess “excess plutonium without a specific purpose,” but did not say anything about reducing the size of the stockpile.

The new policy states that priority will be given to reducing the amount of plutonium held in Britain and France. Specifically, it proposes collaboration among electric power companies, such as having plutonium possessed by firms that have experienced delays in restarting nuclear power plants be consumed by other firms with reactors that have resumed operations.

Meanwhile, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. is building a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture. The plant, which would be able to extract plutonium from used nuclear fuel, is slated to be completed in fiscal 2021. If the plant operates at full capacity, it could add up to another seven tons of plutonium per year to the stockpile. Therefore, the government has laid out a new policy of only reprocessing the minimum amount necessary.

Japan’s plutonium stockpile climbed over 40 tons in 2003. While it declined slightly due to “pluthermal” power generation, which uses plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, from 2009 to 2011 and around 2016, it has stayed around 45 tons for the last 10 years or so.

N-plant delays

The biggest reason why the stockpile has not been consumed is the delay in restarting nuclear power plants after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

There are currently only four nuclear reactors that can use MOX fuel — reactors No. 3 and 4 at the Takahama plant run by Kansai Electric Power Co. in Fukui Prefecture, reactor No. 3 at the Ikata plant managed by Shikoku Electric Power Co. in Ehime Prefecture, and reactor No. 3 at the Genkai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Saga Prefecture.

The Ikata reactor is not currently operating due to a court’s provisional disposition order. The other three reactors consume only about one ton of plutonium per year. The Monju fast breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecute, was expected to consume 0.5 tons per year, but was marked for decommissioning in 2016.

‘Extremely awkward’

The lack of progress in cutting the size of plutonium stockpile has caused concern in the international community.

In 2015, China criticized Japan at the U.N. General Assembly, saying it had enough plutonium to manufacture a large number of nuclear weapons, and that this represents a significant risk to the nuclear nonproliferation framework.

“Concerns that only Japan is continuing to accumulate plutonium are extremely awkward,” Oka said Tuesday. The same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan would “continue to carefully explain itself to the international community.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Curiosity

India successfully places probe in moon’s orbit

Landing attempt will take place on September 7. In a significant step for India’s moon mission, Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was successfully placed in the moon’s orbit on Tuesday in a nerve-wracking manoeuvre, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) was completed successfully at 9.02 am as planned using the onboard propulsion system. All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 are healthy. “The duration of manoeuvre was 1,738 seconds. With this, Chandrayaan-2 was successfully inserted into a lunar orbit. The orbit achieved is 114km X 18,072km,” the ISRO said. The 3,850-kg Chandrayaan-2, a three-module spacecraft comprising an orbiter, Lander Vikram and rover, which was launched on July 22, will make a soft-land on the moon on September 7. The process of setting down Chandrayaan 2 on the Moon i


By The Statesman
August 21, 2019

Curiosity

Here’s how you can protect yourself from dengue

With the possibility of an outbreak, it’s important to understand the disease and recognise its symptoms. The WHO on Monday warned that the Kathmandu Valley might be in for a possible dengue outbreak. According to news published in the Post, in the fiscal year 2018-2019, more than 3,425 people had been infected with the dengue virus—the highest number of infections in 15 years. The mosquito-borne viral disease is transmitted by the female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The same mosquitoes also transmit the chikungunya virus, yellow fever, and Zika virus, according to the WHO. With the lurking threat of the possibility of the disease’s outbreak in


By The Kathmandu Post
August 16, 2019

Curiosity

Plastic straws are slowly being replaced in Kathmandu’s restaurants

Following global concern, a few restaurants in Kathmandu are consciously limiting their use of plastic straws by switching to sustainable alternatives. Twenty-one-year-old Asma Pun enjoys meeting her friends for a drink in cafes. And as much as she prefers to slurp her drinks with a straw, environment-conscious Pun says she has always been hesitant to use plastic ones. That was why, in July last year, when she heard of the global pledge to ban the use of plastic straws, Pun too resolved to use bamboo and copper straws for her daily use. But she had difficulty keeping


By The Kathmandu Post
August 2, 2019

Curiosity

Japanese Govt service to provide businesses with quake damage estimates

The paid service will come into effect after major quakes. The government has decided to roll out a paid service that will send notifications of nationwide damage estimates to companies soon after major earthquakes in the Nankai Trough and elsewhere. The National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience (NIED) will use the system to estimate earthquake intensities, damage to buildings and fatalities in 250-square-meter sections nationwide. This data will be sent via email to paying businesses within 20 minutes of a quake. It is hoped that providing information on potential damage to factories and clients in situations where phones may not be working will help companies get up and running again quickly. Rapid post-disaster recovery The messages are to be sent out by the Real-time Earthquake & Disaster Informati


By The Japan News
July 18, 2019

Curiosity

Japan to subsidize fishermen’s disposal of ocean plastic

The government will pay fishermen to dispose and collect ocean plastic. The government plans to provide assistance for the collection and disposing of plastic waste in the ocean (see below) picked up by fishing vessels, according to sources. It intends to subsidize most of the cost borne by municipalities in disposing of plastic garbage that is dragged up along with fish in trawl nets, among other methods. Amid growing international concern over how to deal with ocean pollution, the government hopes to work with fishermen to accelerate a reduction in plastic waste. According to the Fisheries Agency, fishermen drag up large amounts of plastic bottles, bags and other kinds of waste along with the fish they catch when using trawl nets and other methods. They have to pay to dispose of the collected waste if they bring it back to land, so the fishermen often thr


By The Japan News
July 17, 2019

Curiosity

Indonesian pre-teen writes to Trump

Why do you always export your waste to my country. A surge of waste imports into cities in East Java has prompted a teenager to write to United States President Donald Trump to protest about the incoming trash. Aeshnina Azzahra, a 12-year-old from Gresik, East Java, wrote that the river in her neighborhood was “very dirty and smelly” as many factories dispose of their waste carelessly on land and water. She said she had to write to Trump because the US was among the largest exporters of waste to Indonesia. “Why do you always export your waste to my country? Why don’t you take care of your own waste,” she wrote in her letter. Aeshnina also participated in a protest held by environmentalists in front of the United States Consulate General in Surabaya, East Java, on Friday. She said America’s waste had also polluted Indonesia’s oceans and consumed by


By The Jakarta Post
July 15, 2019