Destination of Japanese Plutonium Unclear

Japan intends to continue generating plutonium despite having paused preparation of a facility at its Rokkasho site for generating nuclear power plant fuel from the bomb-usable material, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

The developmental facility was originally scheduled in 2014 to begin converting the plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, but construction has been on hold since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

Japan has stockpiled sufficient plutonium to power hundreds of atomic armaments, and the island nation would run afoul of nonproliferation commitments by potentially determining it has no peaceful use for the substance.

If the country stopped separating plutonium from spent atomic fuel at Rokkasho, domestic atomic energy sites with limited room would be forced to retake custody of roughly 3,000 tons of unwanted material. Political appetite appears limited for constructing a site to deal with such substances over an extended period, according to AP.

Tokyo last year halted preparation of the Monju fast-breeder reactor, which was intended to recycle used power plant material as an alternative to reprocessing it for plutonium.

Meanwhile, a high-level South Korean Foreign Ministry insider on Monday said his country does not plan to seek Japanese treatment of its used atomic reactor material, Kyodo News reported.

January 8, 2013
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Japan intends to continue generating plutonium despite having paused preparation of a facility at its Rokkasho site for generating nuclear power plant fuel from the bomb-usable material, the Associated Press reported on Monday.