TOKYO – Japan and the United States are on Tuesday to renew the terms of a nuclear pact which makes the Asian country the only power without atomic weapons that is authorized to recycle spent nuclear fuel, state broadcaster NHK reported.
The agreement came into effect in July 1988 and has allowed Tokyo to reprocess spent nuclear fuel – extracting plutonium and enriching uranium reserves – for the last 30 years.
The pact was set to be renewed automatically as neither side objected to it, reported NHK, but Washington has expressed concern over Japan’s plutonium reserves.
The Asian country has about 47 tons of plutonium, of which 10 tons are stockpiled in its territory, with the rest in the United Kingdom and France, according to official data.
This amount is enough to produce 6,000 nuclear warheads, although Japan said it has limited its research, development and use of nuclear energy to peaceful purposes.
Japan uses spent fuel from nuclear reactors to extract uranium and plutonium, which are then reprocessed into mixed oxide (or nuclear) fuel, called MOX.
Japan, a country with a 90 percent nuclear energy dependency, had made major investments in nuclear energy, but the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011 led to a nuclear outage for two years and currently only seven of its 42 reactors are operational.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has maintained its pro-nuclear policy and expects its nuclear energy dependency to be between 20 to 22 percent in 2030.