Japan has agreed to turn over its cache of weapons-grade plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, a stockpile of sensitive nuclear material large enough to build dozens of bombs, to the United States.
The agreement at a nuclear summit in The Hague gives the US control of Japan’s decades-old research stockpile of 700 lbs (320 kg) of weapons-grade plutonium and an estimated 450 lbs of uranium from the Fast Critical Assembly at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
The nuclear fuel, which could potentially be used to produce some 50 nuclear weapons, will be downgraded and disposed of in the US, the BBC reports.
The elimination of the uranium and plutonium would “help prevent unauthorized actors, criminals, or terrorists from acquiring such materials. This material, once securely transported to the United States, will be sent to a secure facility and fully converted into less sensitive forms,” according to a joint statement by the US and Japan.
The US is trying to secure worldwide supplies to avoid them from falling into the hands of terrorists as part of President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz described the deal to return to some 300 kg of plutonium as a very significant nuclear security pledge. The material was originally bought from the US in the 1960s for “research purposes.”
Japan will still retain large quantities of additional plutonium in spent fuel from its nuclear power industry. The country does not have nuclear weapons and has long said it will not seek to obtain them although some experts contest it.
China is increasingly growing wary of Japan amid a perceived shift to the far right. Chinese state media demanded Japan to explain why it was stockpiling so much plutonium.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “4.11 原発反対デモin高円寺 Anti nuclear power protests in Kouenji” by Matthias Lambrecht/Flickr