Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Japanese Scientists Pursue Safer Plutonium
Japanese scientists are working to create plutonium that could not be used to make nuclear weapons, the Daily Yomiuri reported today (see GSN, June 16).
Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2003 began a five-year study on ways to create plutonium unusable for weapons. The scientists have found that if neptunium and other transuranic elements are mixed into uranium and burned as fuel, the plutonium in the resultant spent fuel consists more of plutonium 238, which is less usable for weapons, than of plutonium 239, according to the Daily Yomiuri. Institute researchers have also praised the process for eliminating neptunium, which is currently disposed of as waste.
However, there are some concerns about the process, according to the Daily Yomiuri. For example, some scientists question whether there is enough neptunium, which is only contained in small amounts in spent nuclear fuel, for the process. In addition, plutonium 238 is dangerous because of the large amount of heat it generates, the Daily Yomiuri reported.
The Tokyo Institute of Technology plans to begin an experiment with U.S. researchers that would involve uranium mixed with neptunium being used as fuel in a nuclear power plant in Idaho, according to the Daily Yomiuri.
“If the experiment is successful, it will be the first step toward making plutonium that can be used for peaceful purposes only,” Tokyo Institute of Technology associate professor Masaki Saito said (Masae Honma, Daily Yomiuri, July 20).
Note to our Readers
GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.
Sept. 23, 2015
The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.
Aug. 30, 2015
Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar urge Congress to support the nuclear agreement with Iran in an op-ed for Politico.
This article provides an overview of Japan’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.