The world has grown tired of the inexorable rise in radiation levels and propaganda-talk sourrounding nuclear issues in Japan from the government in the last few years since Fukushima changed the nation’s future. However, there is another source of nuclear materials that is increasingly angering the Chinese. The tensions and rhetoric, from WWI analogs to Nazi comparisons, have risen recently; but this time, the Chinese are asking a legitimate question… “If a country claims that it sticks by the three non-nuclear principles but at same time hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs, including a massive amount of weapon-grade plutonium, the world has good reason to ask why…. After all, Abe and his cabinet have already caused too much trouble to regional peace and stability.”
Via Xinhua (Tian Dongdong),
Tokyo owes world explanation over weapon-grade
If a country claims that it sticks by the three non-nuclear principles but at same time hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs, including a massive amount of weapon-grade plutonium, the world has good reason to ask why.
As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Japan should adhere to its international obligations. As the world’s only victim of nuclear attacks in the final stage of WWII, it should clearly understand the horrible consequences of nuclear proliferation.
However, five decades are not long enough for the island country, where some politicians wish, openly or privately, for nuclear arms, to return the 331 kilogram of weapon-grade plutonium — enough for 40 to 50 nuclear bombs — it received from the United States during the Cold War.
Some Japanese experts have said that, with necessary amounts of weapon-grade nuclear materials, their country is capable of developing nuclear bombs within a year.
Adding to the world’s concern, Japan is also reportedly hoarding more than 1.2 tons of enriched uranium and another 44 tons of plutonium, which overwhelmingly dwarf its civilian demands.
The ecological and environmental catastrophe of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 had clearly showed that the superabundant nuclear materials are actually time bombs for a seismically active country like Japan.
What’s more, storing more than necessary nuclear materials is also against the regulations of the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which require countries to keep a balance between the demand and supply of nuclear materials.
The somewhat obsessive possession of nuclear materials is not the behavior of a responsible and reliable country, as Japan portrays itself in the international community.
It brings nothing but doubt and suspicion to the already volatile East Asia.
If the Japanese government truly wants to play a constructive role for regional stability, it should honestly explain its reluctance to the world and return the stored nuclear materials as soon as possible. After all, Abe and his cabinet have already caused too much trouble to regional peace and stability.
As The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi adds,
Currently, even though Japan has shut down its nuclear reactors (and is not using plutonium), there are plans to open a new reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. According to a report by the International Panel of Fissile Materials, this new plant would separate out about 8 tons of plutonium each year—enough “to make one thousand Nagasaki-type bombs.”
There is clear concern in China that Japan’s plutonium reserves could eventually wind up being used to develop nuclear weapons. There’s historical precedent for this—India became a nuclear-armed state after using reprocessing to gain nuclear materials. For China, Japan’s plutonium stockpile is one more piece of evidence that Shinzo Abe is seeking return to Japan’s militaristic glory days.
This accumulation of plutonium also threatens global non-proliferation efforts, and thus runs directly counter to U.S. President Barack Obama’s emphasis on nuclear security. “We simply can’t go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we’re trying to keep away from terrorists,” he said in a 2012 speech at Hankuk University in Seoul. The White House has apparently been quietly pressuring Japan to drop the reprocessing plan, and to begin simply storing spent nuclear fuel rather than separating out plutonium.
There are complicated domestic reasons for Japan to continue with the opening of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, including vested interest groups that insist on the economic benefits of continuing with construction. But Tokyo should not overlook the regional and global concern caused by opening a new reprocessing plant when Japan has no concrete plan for using or disposing of its current plutonium stockpiles.
But apart from that – everything is great in the world… it must be, US stocks are at all-time highs…
Of course, this places “ally” President Obama in an awkward position given his anti-proliferation stance… though we suspect he will have an angle: “if you like your plutonium stockpile, you can keep it.”