Japan has apparently decided to push through with a plutonium stockpile program just weeks after it decided to give up a cache of weapons-grade plutonium from its ownership. Critics have been saying that Tokyo’s leaning towards recycling its nuclear reactor fuel is risky, as the plutonium, in the wrong hands, could be used as material for nuclear weapons. Japan just also recently called out to leaders of countries with nuclear weapons to heed the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as examples of why non-proliferation is the ideal path for nuclear weapons.
“The government made a big deal out of returning several hundred kilograms of plutonium, but it brushes over the fact that Japan has so much more,” Sumio Mabuchi, an opposition lawmaker, said. “It’s hypocritical.” The nuclear fuel recycling program, which seeks to separate plutonium from used nuclear fuel so it can be reused to power reactors, is seen by supporters – mainly influential leaders from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party – as a way of pushing forward Japan’s nuclear power program, seeing that the country is poor in fossil fuels. But critics say that the stockpiled plutonium from the recycling process would be an inviting target for terrorists. To this point, the United States has been discouraging Japan in its plan to stockpile, as plutonium is far easier to weaponize than uranium.
And even in the light of government promises to lower down the percentage of energy produced by nuclear reactors, the Japanese public is still seeing worrying signs that the Abe administration is continuing its push for nuclear fuel recycling – this after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Negative public opinion against nuclear power has been slowly rising, and it is no surprise that Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors are still offline after March 2011’s twin disasters. It would be interesting to see if the LDP still plans to include the nuclear recycling program in the nation’s first comprehensive energy plan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a plan that could be approved by the Japanese cabinet as early as Friday.
[via The New York Times]
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