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Japan to Upgrade Atomic Plant Protections

The managers of Japan's atomic facilities are expected starting next month to begin upgrading the sites' protective measures, incorporating features such as additional perimeter barriers and entryway sensors for spotting metal or potential radioactive contraband, Reuters quoted the government as saying on Friday (see GSN, Feb. 24).

The plants must install auxiliary power sources and additional systems to help atomic material control instruments remain in operation following any strike by extremists, according to Japanese Trade Minister Yukio Edano and a source at the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has provided guidelines for atomic site protections; Japan has acted on some of the advice, but its protections were still loose, according to Reuters.

Only two of Japan's 54 corporate-operated atomic reactors are now in use; other systems were still receiving repairs, and widespread fears have held up their activation after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, severely damaged the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant. The disasters left more than 20,000 people missing or dead in the island nation (see GSN, Jan. 10).

Japan was ranked 23rd on nuclear security among nations with a threshold amount of weapon-usable material in a recent assessment by the independent Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington (see GSN, Jan. 12; Reuters/Montreal Gazette, Feb. 25).

Separately, the Japanese government has donated $730,000 to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (see GSN, Feb. 22). The contribution would fund 50 percent of a new computation and storage mechanism for the Atmospheric Transport Modeling system. The system enables determination of the point of origin for air-carried radioactive particles produced by a nuclear blast and identified by separate technology.

“Japan benefited greatly from the objective data supplied by the CTBTO during the accident at [Tokyo Electric Power’s] Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station,” Toshiro Ozawa, Japan's ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Austria, said in a statement. “Our contribution is aimed at allowing the CTBTO to predict the dispersion of radioactivity with even greater precision. This will help to better inform and protect populations around the world in the event of future nuclear testing or accidents" (Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization release, Feb. 27).

[Editor's Note: The Nuclear Threat Initiative is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.]

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