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Japan Uncertain About Its Growing Nuclear Waste
by Staff Writers
Moscow, Russia (Sputnik) Dec 03, 2014

File image.

A nuclear waste recycling plant in Rokkasho, Japan, was supposed to start operating back in 1996, but is yet to open, Foreign Policy said. Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), the owner of the project, announced on October 31 that the plant would not be open earlier than March 2016.

This is already the twenty-first time the company has postponed the launch of the plant.

The most recent delay in Rokkasho was due to the fact that Japan has changed a number of its policies regarding nuclear safety standards in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. The evaluation process of nuclear power plants now takes longer to process.

Since Japan lacks its own uranium reserves, it has been developing the infrastructure to recover plutonium supplies by recycling used fuel. The nuclear recycling plant in Rokkasho, which cost $20 billion, is intended to recover plutonium from nuclear waste.

By mixing together recycled plutonium with uranium, Japan plans to obtain the so-called oxide fuel, which could then be used in nuclear reactors after some modifications.

The problem is that as soon as the nuclear recycling plant in Rokkasho starts operating, plutonium supplies in Japan will grow.

The country already has more than 10,000 tons of plutonium, which is enough to produce thousands of nuclear warheads, especially considering that Japan already possesses technologies capable of enriching plutonium for the production of nuclear weapons.

The uncontrolled growth of potentially dangerous materials could pose a threat to regional and even international stability.

Japan is not likely to back down from the project altogether, considering how much it has already invested. However, it would make more sense for Japan to wait until it develops the entire processing chain for recycled plutonium, Foreign Policy said.

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