Japan Sending Weapons Grade Plutonium to U.S. this Weekend: Activists
Posted by feww on March 18, 2016
Joint Statement by Activists Condemning “Secret” Plutonium Shipment from Japan to U.S.
Japan will send 331kg of weapons-grade plutonium as early as this weekend to the United States, Greenpeace said in a statement.
A shipment of weapons-grade plutonium scheduled to depart the port of Tokai, Ibaraki prefecture this coming weekend highlights the failure, but also the proliferation risks, of the current Japanese nuclear policy, a coalition of five non-governmental organizations warned today. A cargo of 331kg of plutonium will be loaded on to the Pacific Egret, an armed British nuclear transport ship, prior to departure under armed escort to the United States. It will be the largest shipment of separated plutonium since 1.8 tons of plutonium was delivered to Japan by controversial Akatsuki-maru in 1992. The two month voyage to the Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station will then see the plutonium dumped at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for the shipment, has identified that storage in Japan poses a security risk justifying its removal.
“Citizen Nuclear Information Center (Japan); Green Action (Japan); Savannah River Site Watch (U.S.); CORE (England), and Greenpeace, condemn the shipment as a dangerous distraction from the major problem in Japan which is its overall nuclear energy policy, where over 9 tons of plutonium remains stockpiled and there are plans to produce many tons more during the coming decade. The representatives of the five organizations have worked together over the past quarter century against Japan`s plutonium and nuclear fuel cycle program,” said a joint statement.
Two-hundred and thirty six kilograms of the Tokai plutonium was supplied to Japan from the UK, with 2 kilograms from France and the remainder from the U.S. for neutronic testing purposes at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency Fast Critical Assembly facility at Tokai-mura in Ibaraki. The facility has been used as a basis for Japan`s failed fast breeder reactor program, in particular the MONJU reactor. For more than five decades, Japanese nuclear policy has been based on the production and use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel. However, the failure of both its breeder program and plans to use plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in light water reactors, has led to Japan acquiring the largest stockpile of weapons usable plutonium of any non nuclear weapon state.
Japan’s current stockpile of plutonium is about 46,700kg, of which 9,528kg is located locally, with the balance being stored in France and the UK. About 8kg is required for a nuclear weapon.
“Two reactors, Takahama 3 and 4, owned by Kansai Electric, began operation in January and February 2016 loaded with plutonium MOX fuel, with unit 3 operating with 24 assemblies containing 1,088kg of plutonium and unit 4 with 4 assemblies containing 184kg of plutonium. Unit 4 shutdown due to an electrical failure three days after start up, while unit 3 was forced to shutdown on March 10th following a court order. Both reactors remain shutdown and are subject of a court injunction preventing operation issued by the Otsu district court, Shiga prefecture on March 9th. They are expected to be non operational for many months. Of the 26 reactors under review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Ikata-3, Genkai-3 and Tomari-3 are all intended to operate with plutonium MOX fuel,” said the statement.
The U.S. Department of Energy reportedly “has no plans for final disposal of the Japanese plutonium, which will be added to the existing stockpile of 13 tons at the SRS, demonstrating that the shipment is largely a commercial dumping operation to secure funds for the beleaguered weapons material production site near Aiken, South Carolina, as pointed out by Savannah River Site Watch.”
An analysis of Japan’s plutonium program: Nuclear Proliferation in Plain Sight
- Another Nuclear Reactor in Japan Leaking Radioactive Water February 21, 2016