Sunday, December 2, 2012

More on Japan's Insistence on Re-Processing Nuclear Fuel

Japan’s Nuclear Mistake By and

Frank N. von Hippel is a professor of public and international affairs at Princeton. Masafumi Takubo is a nuclear policy analyst based in Japan.

[Excerpted]….next year Japan plans to bring its long-delayed Rokkasho reprocessing plant online, which could extract as much as eight tons of weapons-usable plutonium from spent reactor fuel a year, enough for nearly 1,000 warheads. That would add to Japan’s existing stockpile of 44 tons, 9 of which are stored in domestic facilities.

Japan has repeatedly vowed never to develop nuclear weapons, and there’s no reason to doubt that now. But there’s more to worry about: reprocessing not only creates a tempting target for terrorists, it also sets a precedent for countries around the world to follow suit — and pushes the world toward rampant nuclear proliferation.

…Japan then shifted to a strategy of recycling separated plutonium back into the fuel of its existing reactors. That effort was delayed by technical problems and public opposition and, in the wake of last year’s Fukushima accident, appears completely unviable. Still, Japan continues to plan to reprocess its nuclear fuel.

And it does so despite international pressure.

… Despite the added cost of reprocessing — about $2.5 billion a year for the new facility — Japan insists it is the only viable option for the spent nuclear fuel which is filling up the cooling pools at its reactors. But there are easier alternatives…

Majia here: I posted yesterday about rising tensions between Japan and China and the potential ramifications of Japan’s secretive efforts to resume re-processing of nuclear fuel, under the nuclear umbrella “security” frame:

In the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis, secret meetings were held that allowed Japan to secretly begin re-processing (i.e., enriching) nuclear fuel:

It seems to me rather clear that Japan has the capacity to create nuclear weapons quickly, if they don't have them already. 
The world is poised for another Cold War complete with nuclear brinksmanship.

See my previous discussion of Japan's stockpiling of plutonium:
Jun 18, 2012
Japan has a major fuel storage problem and spent fuel management purportedly has been a driver in Japan's reprocessing requirements, according to Suzuki who contributed a chapter on Japan's plutonium breeder program ...

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