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Japan's growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears

29 Comments
By Shingo Ito

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But some activists fear Japan views the stockpile as a way of keeping its options open on nuclear weapons.

I have no fear that Japan would knowingly harm any other country with nuclear materials.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I do hope this plutonium isn’t being procrastinated on and that this very dangerous material is treated as such. We have enough problems for the next century with Fukushima decommissioning alone!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Arguably the most dangerous substance in the world and Japan has tons and tons of it?

Where is plan B ?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Can't eat it, can only be buried and left for several generations to deal with. Or send it to another country let them deal with it. And of course make bombs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Unfortunately given recent foreign policies it's possible that Japan would have to have the ability to join the nuclear club so they don't have to rely on an umbrella with holes in it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is the sole reason Japan is so reluctant to move away from relying on nuclear power. There is too much money invested in it to let it go. The safety and future are totally disregarded in place of current investments. How many nuclear disasters will it take for Japan to realize that, nuclear power is not safe or cheap?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs"

Sorry, I just can't call an article "journalism" when it throws about random meaningless numbers like this. It would be like saying my car weighs 400 rocks.

An atomic bomb could use as little as 1kg of nuclear fuel to reach critical mass. The Little boy, a VERY small and crude bomb had 65kg of nuclear fuel. Fat MAN, a much Bigger and more advanced bomb used 6.4kg of fuel. The W-76 uses 164kg. I am pretty sure most modern bombs, it is quit secret how much they use as there are vastly different levels of efficiency between bomb types, my point being "6,000 atomic bombs" really means nothing. For all we know after they refine it to weapons grade material, it may only make 5 modern warheads.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

so THAT'S what's in those omiyage bags

It appears that only France can deal with this, not Japan

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I believe that Japan will quickly arm if/when it turns over Article 9. This amount of plutonium is concerning, to say the least.

Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered an atomic bomb attack, insists it would never use its plutonium for military purposes.

I don't believe this one bit.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered an atomic bomb attack, insists it would never use its plutonium for military purposes

Some people in Japan say that. Others, among them members of the current LDP government, have proposed that Japan should make nuclear weapons. Of course, there is no point making them if you are not prepared to use them.

The planned reprocessing plant, in Aomori in northern Japan, has so far cost around $27 billion, but the technical problems mean there is no sign of an opening date despite decades of work.

What a bargain! No wonder there is no money for childcare.

I wonder how and where they are storing this plutonium. Having seen the actions of the clowns running Japan's nuclear industry I wouldn't be surprised if it is stored in buckets in a rickety old shack built on top of a fault line near a volcano. A location that the clowns have, of course, declared to be safe from disasters, whilst ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why Abe's govt. insists to manage with the nuclear plants? This Fukushima incident was quite enough to show how dangerous and hazardous those plants are, equivanet to 6,000 atomic bombs(!!!). The best way to those LDP lawmakers who supports Abe know how dangerous are those stockpiles is to dig some of those piles in their properties, lands and under their houses. They will automatically be against and who should know it is Abe himself. One think the Japanese citizens and residents should preview is that the electricity bill will be higher. Despite of that the nuclear plants cost much more than others the maintenance fees.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Just go with green energy for Christ's sake! Try and learn your lesson(s). Atomic bombings and nuclear disasters - what is it going to take for these knuckleheads wake up??

1 ( +3 / -2 )

knunckheads I actually think you are being polite. The technology is out there but not here due to vested interests. Old men, adverse to change, brown envelopes propping up a system that is killing any forward movement.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yeah, I've got to agree with the posts above. Nuclear power will never gain any favor in the public sector, but unfortunately, in Japan, the public vote is only for paper. The decision is left to the old fellas sitting around their huge desk in Kasumigaseki thinking about how they can best serve their crony mates. TEPCO admitted to lying and deceiving consumers and that the meltdowns were manmade due to falsified data on safety upgrades that were not actually done. However, after a few deep bows and public apologies they are still in business with a government bailout of 51% of the company. Now, any discontent and/or protest has to cross the huge desk in Kasumigaseki falling on the deaf ears of the cronies who are only interested in using up the huge stockpile of plutonium coz they have already paid for it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Arguably the most dangerous substance in the world

According to who?

Polonium-210 and Mercury are way more toxic and dangerous.

Isotopes of Plutonium used by the Nuclear power industry have a very high half life, which makes them like uranium by themselves not too dangerous.

People who know almost nothing about nuclear physics think that somehow they can asses the danger of radioactive substances because of fear of the unknown.

Can't eat it, can only be buried and left for several generations to deal with. Or send it to another country let them deal with it. And of course make bombs.

Actually, just like uranium, plutonium is a natural element found in nature. Your back yard may have plutonium in it, and you are not the wiser.

The safety and future are totally disregarded in place of current investments. How many nuclear disasters will it take for Japan to realize that, nuclear power is not safe or cheap?

Any other industry in the energy sector has had way more disasters, and have way more people dying from those disasters. Just as the Chernobyl report showed, the main problem of nuclear disasters is the mental health of people who get scared way too much about the consequences of radiation without really understanding them.

This Fukushima incident was quite enough to show how dangerous and hazardous those plants are, equivanet to 6,000 atomic bombs(!!!).

What standard are you using to say this?

As far as I know, there was no explosion that whipped out cities and killed thousands of people. In fact, NO ONE DIED from this accident.

Anti nuclear people will always try to compare nuclear power to nuclear bombs just to scare people who know no better.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

 plutonium is a natural element found in nature. Your back yard may have plutonium in it, and you are not the wiser.

In trace amounts. Not by the ton.

NO ONE DIED from this accident.

Emergency evacuation of sick and elderly likely led to many early deaths, as did the stress of living in temporary housing and shelters. (But they didn't die as a direct result of radiation, so that's OK?)

Over 150,000 people were forced to evacuate and leave behind pets and livestock, many of which starved to death. (But they didn't die as a direct result of radiation, so that's OK?)

The financial cost of (trying to) contain the radiation leaking from the plant, decontamination of the surrounding area, etc., runs into the trillions of yen, paid for by the taxpayer. Not to mention the incalculable financial damage to the agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries of Fukushima and surrounding areas.

But no one actually got zapped directly by the radiation, so everything's OK.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Emergency evacuation of sick and elderly likely led to many early deaths, as did the stress of living in temporary housing and shelters. (But they didn't die as a direct result of radiation, so that's OK?)

> Over 150,000 people were forced to evacuate and leave behind pets and livestock, many of which starved to death. (But they didn't die as a direct result of radiation, so that's OK?)

> The financial cost of (trying to) contain the radiation leaking from the plant, decontamination of the surrounding area, etc., runs into the trillions of yen, paid for by the taxpayer. Not to mention the incalculable financial damage to the agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries of Fukushima and surrounding areas.

> But no one actually got zapped directly by the radiation, so everything's OK.

So, the overreaction with no scientific basis at all by the Japanese government is equal to the actual damage of what the accident actually did?

Also, and everyone seems to forget this when talking about the Fukushima daiichi accident, there was one of the most powerful earthquakes and tsunamis in recorded history, which killed thousands.

So, if a tsunami kills thousands and many more die because of evacuation, that's ok, but if some were forced by the government to evacuate because of an accident, cause in most part by the same tsunami, then that's so evil that we must ban all nuclear power from the face of the planet?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Luis

Well, I did say ‘arguably’ but never mind.

However, your comments deserve a riposte.

Unlike polonium 210 and mercury there are not tons and tons of it in storage all over.

And of course, nobody has to transport mercury,anthrax, the plague etc to the other side of the world for processing. This allows the element at risk of theft and potential inclusion in a bomb that can wipe out millions in seconds.

The survivors are then poisoned suffer a slow and excruciating death....

Thinking of the above I propose that plutonium is not so warm and cuddly as you make out.....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With a third of globe’s nucs installed and no plan to take care of the residues its not bombs to be concerned about. 

Where the hell to put the remains of this since 3/11 mostly useless energy source?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Let’s ban nuclear weapons-why not?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jandworld

Where the hell to put the remains of this since 3/11 mostly useless energy source?

The resumption of Kyuden’s reactors is enabling it to lower rates and decommission its remaining fossil fuel plants. So much for “useless”.

And to expand on Luis’s comment above - caffeine is more lethal than plutonium, and like reactor-grade plutonium, is very, very hard to make into bombs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a program

This illegitimate ignorant phrase has been used too many times.

First off Plutonium has various isotopes in which some(240 Pu) poisons the fissile reaction making it unusable as weapons grade plutonium if it there is too much in the mix and the longer a nuclear fuel element remains in a nuclear reactor the greater the relative percentage of 240Pu in the fuel becomes.

For producing weapons grade plutonium, the irradiated fuel needs to be as low in 240 Pu as possible, usually less than 7% of the total plutonium.

Basically commercial reactors burns their fuel rods as long as possible so naturally the Plutonium within the rods would be more240 Pu than 239 Pu,

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the overreaction with no scientific basis at all by the Japanese government is equal to the actual damage of what the accident actually did?

The actual damage the accident actually did contaminated a large part of northern Japan and made the area for tens of kilometres around the plant uninhabitable until long after the life spans of the residents. Families were uprooted and livelihoods destroyed. At one point even the Tokyo water supply was contaminated. Even now, tons of irradiated water are accumulating in leaking tanks around the plant and the scientists have no idea what to do with it.

everyone seems to forget this when talking about the Fukushima daiichi accident, there was one of the most powerful earthquakes and tsunamis in recorded history, which killed thousands.

No, no-one forgets the earthquake and tsunami. It's crass of you to to make that suggestion.

 if a tsunami kills thousands and many more die because of evacuation, that's ok

Now you're being ridiculous. Where do you read that it's 'OK' for people to die in a natural disaster?

The difference is that the one is just that, a natural disaster, while the 'accident' was a man-made disaster waiting to happen.

then that's so evil that we must ban all nuclear power from the face of the planet?

No, not because it's 'evil'. Because humans are stupid and think it's a good idea to build nuclear power plants in a country constantly rattled by earthquakes, and to produce ever-growing amounts of radioactive material that needs to be stored for literally thousands of years before it's safe. All for the sake of boiling water to produce steam to turn turbines.

If proper safety measures are put in place and adhered to strictly, if the spent fuel is processed and stored responsibly, and if the plants are properly decommissioned at the end of their designated working life instead of being kept on line for twice as long as intended, then nuclear power is not cost-effective. That's why it should be banned from the face of the earth.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The actual damage the accident actually did contaminated a large part of northern Japan and made the area for tens of kilometres around the plant uninhabitable until long after the life spans of the residents. Families were uprooted and livelihoods destroyed. At one point even the Tokyo water supply was contaminated. Even now, tons of irradiated water are accumulating in leaking tanks around the plant and the scientists have no idea what to do with it.

Yes, there was and still radioactive contamination, but the idea that those places are inhabitable is extremely dubious.

Many of the places that the Japanese government put under the No-go zone had less radiation levels than those around it which had higher levels, not to mention, and this is the most important part, most of the places with higher than normal radiation for the zone do not place any real danger for people to continue to live in those places.

This is the part were the overreaction with no scientific basis comes from. Basically the Japanese government doesn't care that much on evaluating a potential relative low damage of letting people live in places with higher than normal radiation levels to a the high damage that the evacuations themselves have created.

Not only that, this kind of overreaction also made that people who weren't even on the declared "no-go zone" evacuated voluntarily because of a wrong perception on what the actual dangers of radiation are.

Let me put it more bluntly. Anti nuclear power propaganda leads to more damage to the victims of nuclear disasters because of the panic they create with their misinformation.

The difference is that the one is just that, a natural disaster, while the 'accident' was a man-made disaster waiting to happen.

Man-made disaster waiting to happen? Well, aren't cars, planes, gas plants, ovens and other potentially dangerous places and items that are man-made also disaster waiting to happen?

I mean, how many people die in accidents from any of the things I said on a yearly basis.

And not because there is the potential for harm we have banned any of those things. It has everything to do with a real assessment of the risks against the benefits.

And excuse me, even if you take into account the negligence of TEPCO, you cannot deny that this accident was brought by a natural disaster of out of scale, and that in any other circumstance (specially if you do know and understand what went wrong with the power station) this accident would not had happened.

It wasn't just that the power station lost power to cool down their reactors, it was that basically there was no way to get the help they needed in time, and that the plant itself was in ruins after the tsunami making any work on the plant extremely difficult. In fact, the only people who died in the power plant were those who drowned from the tsunami.

if the plants are properly decommissioned at the end of their designated working life instead of being kept on line for twice as long as intended, then nuclear power is not cost-effective*

This is just a lie. One of the main reasons why there are so many old plants doing "overwork" until this day is because after Chernobyl and all the anti-nuclear propaganda became mainstream, constructing a new modern plant has become extremely difficult.

So, instead of replacing old plants with new ones, the old ones are kept running until there is some way to replace that source of power.

If the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station were new models, which have passive cooling systems, there wouldn't have been any disaster.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

the idea that those places are inhabitable is extremely dubious.

Would you take your kids to live in a place that was extremely dubious?

Give them food to eat that was grown in a place that was extremely dubious?

you cannot deny that this accident was brought by a natural disaster of out of scale

You cannot deny that Japan sits on the Ring of Fire, where so-called 'out of scale' natural disasters occur on a regular basis. Just in the time I've been here, we've had the 1983 Sea of Japan earthquake, mag. 7.8 and causing a 10m tsunami: the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, mag. 7.3 that wreaked havoc in and around Kobe: the 2003 Hokkaido earthquake, mag. 8.3: and of course the big one, mag. 9.1 in 2011. In the past hundred years there have been some 38 quakes with a magnitude of 7 or higher, of which at least 10 had a magnitude of 8 or higher.

Building power plants capable of belching huge amounts of radioactivity in a place like this is sheer folly.

the plant itself was in ruins after the tsunami

The tsunami took out the cooling systems, though the emergency system was operable for a while. The plant was in ruins after the reactors exploded.

If the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station were new models, which have passive cooling systems, there wouldn't have been any disaster.

They would still be producing ever-growing amounts of spent fuel needing processing and storage measured in the tens of thousands of years. I haven't seen the cost of that on my electricity bill. If my grandkids don't see it, their grandkids will.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So, when is the radioactive spewing mess that was several reactors going to be cleaned up?

Oh,that’s right!

There is no current tech that is available to do so......

Nuff said.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Would you take your kids to live in a place that was extremely dubious?

> Give them food to eat that was grown in a place that was extremely dubious?

The claim that it is inhabitable is what is extremely dubious, since the radiation measured in those regions is comparable with natural radiation in many part of the world, not to mention that medically speaking, the risk of some problem from that level of radiation is extremely low.

So yeah, I would like there and grow my food there, since all of the radioactive fallout which is chemically similar to iodine, and present the main source of problems from nuclear disasters (According to the Chernobyl report) has disappeared many years ago, since it has a very short half-life.

You cannot deny that Japan sits on the Ring of Fire, where so-called 'out of scale' natural disasters occur on a regular basis. Just in the time I've been here, we've had the 1983 Sea of Japan earthquake, mag. 7.8 and causing a 10m tsunami: the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, mag. 7.3 that wreaked havoc in and around Kobe: the 2003 Hokkaido earthquake, mag. 8.3: and of course the big one, mag. 9.1 in 2011. In the past hundred years there have been some 38 quakes with a magnitude of 7 or higher, of which at least 10 had a magnitude of 8 or higher.

Well, this one was had a magnitude of 9.1, and if you understand ANYTHING about how the Moment magnitude scale works, you would know that it is a logarithmic scale, which means that an earthquake of 9.1 compared to one of 8.1 has 32 times the energy, and also that this earthquake was the 4th biggest ever recorded earthquake.

So no, it's not the same having a lot of 8.3 or 7.8 earthquakes to this one, not by a long shot.

The tsunami took out the cooling systems, though the emergency system was operable for a while. The plant was in ruins after the reactors exploded.

Here you show you actually do not know what happened. After the tsunami, most of the plant was underwater, and a lot of the heavy equipment and structures near the coast were wiped out.

The place was already in ruins before the accident.

They would still be producing ever-growing amounts of spent fuel needing processing and storage measured in the tens of thousands of years.

Actually storage of nuclear waste is extremely easy, and doesn't take that much space, specially when compared with waste of any other power plant.

I haven't seen the cost of that on my electricity bill. If my grandkids don't see it, their grandkids will.

Probably because you live in a place that wasn't so reliant on nuclear plants.

Here in Hokkaido, the prices went to the roof, but since it isn't you, maybe you don't care.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Here in Hokkaido, the prices went to the roof, but since it isn't you, maybe you don't care.

So much potential for renewable energy in Japan. If you want to blame someone for higher electricity prices, blame the cronies who have ignored advice and input from experts for generations, just because they are 'below' them (and because the cronies then stand to lose some of their massive profits (at the cost of Joe Citizen)).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

blame the cronies who have ignored advice and input from experts for generations

What experts? Input from "experts" doesn't change how math works.

Nuclear is still way ahead in energy production than any renewable source, and renewable sources still face many problems which cannot actually be solved (Like the paradox of solar, where the pick production is inverse to pick consumption).

There is a reason why in Japan basically had to up its use of fossil fuels after the government started to shut down nuclear plants: because it was the only actual way to replace that level of energy production.

I'm all for renewable energy, but I'm not blind to see the reality of the situation here.

Nuclear is still the best way to produce energy, buy sadly, because of the anti-nuclear lobby, we are still using fossil fuels.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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