Shaun Burnie and Frank Barnaby: Under the guise of a civil nuclear program, Japan has become a de-facto nuclear weapons state without so far having to take that next fateful step. On Thursday, a shipment of 700 kilograms of plutonium arrived in Japan after a journey by sea from the French port of Cherbourg. That’s enough material for more than 100 nuclear weapons. The plutonium – in the form of atomic fuel known as MOX, a mix of uranium and plutonium oxide – is for use in the Takahama-4 reactor, owned by Kansai Electric Power Co. and located on Wakasa Bay, in western Japan near Osaka. There have been six shipments of such highly toxic cargoes since 1999, the result of an agreement to send radioactive spent fuel in Japan for reprocessing in France and the UK, and then to be shipped back as plutonium MOX fuel for use in Japan’s reactors. Putting aside the reactor fuel issue for the moment, Japan’s plutonium program must be seen in the context of the nuclear arms proliferation dynamic that has existed for decades in Northeast Asia, but which today has taken on even greater urgency owing to North Korea’s nuclear weapon program.
Asia Times 22nd Sept 2017 read more »