Japan, IAEA in Talks on Unreported Nuclear Materials

Japan is in quiet discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding significant amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium that were not reported or inventoried as required, Kyodo News reported on Thursday (see GSN, March 24).

Unexpected atomic materials were discovered in October 2010 within nuclear waste at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Oarai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki prefecture, according to high-level government officials. The waste had been placed there prior to the 1977 enactment of Japan's safeguards deal with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which is intended to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials for illicit purposes.

A subsequent probe identified roughly 6 pounds of highly enriched uranium encased within cement and 1.4 pounds of plutonium at the agency's Nuclear Science Research Institute in Ibaraki prefecture. The material was seemingly provided by the United States for research purposes.

A broadened assessment of close to 250 sites covered by the safeguards deal identified 14 facilities in which atomic substances within nuclear waste had not been inventoried. The amount included about 4 tons of low-enriched uranium at a nongovernmental nuclear fuel operation.

Nations that sign safeguards deals must keep track of atomic substances and provide a declaration to the nuclear agency to ensure the materials are not misused.

Sources played down the threat that rogue actors might obtain the nuclear materials, but said the situation could lead to criticism from the U.N. nuclear agency or other entities (Kyodo News I/Mainichi Daily News, Dec. 15).

The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed its worries over the matter in discussions that began in February, Kyodo reported (Kyodo News II/Mainichi Daily News, Dec. 15).

December 16, 2011
About

Japan is in quiet discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding significant amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium that were not reported or inventoried as required, Kyodo News reported on Thursday.

Countries