In a bid to show its support in decreasing nuclear energy, Japan is set to return plutonium it obtained for research purposes from the United States during the Cold War. The U.S., under the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen nuclear security, requested the plutonium back.
Japan has been keeping the plutonium to use it as nuclear fuel at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s fast critical assembly in Tokai. The facility in the prefecture of Ibaraki has been studying the characteristics of fast reactors for years. While some of the plutonium totaling 331 kilograms came from the United States, other amounts were produced in Britain. Japan is asking the U.S. to replace the plutonium with a lower-grade type to avoid disruption of the research as it complies with the requests.
Since the first nuclear summit in 2010, the United States has been pressuring its ally to return the plutonium, but Japan resisted at that time. The need to research fast reactors was cited as the reason for refusing. But the current Abe government believes that continuing to refuse will harm the relationship between the two nations. Japan and the U.S. will discuss the return of the plutonium in the third nuclear security summit scheduled for March 24-25 in Netherlands. Japan hopes that in acquiescing to the U.S. request will clear any doubts in the international community of Japan’s reluctance to part with the weapons-grade material.
[via Japan Times]