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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 27, 2006) On January 5, Japanese NGOs sent a letter to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and the Board of Governors urging the inter-governmental body to discuss and take action to ensure Japan upholds its written and unequivocal 1997 commitment made to the international organization not to produce surplus plutonium. (1)

Despite this commitment, Japan will separate out four tons of plutonium at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant; if active testing using spent nuclear fuel begins as scheduled in February 2006. The stark fact is that the Japanese nuclear power program has no use for this plutonium, now or in the foreseeable future.

The Plutonium Utilization Plan of Japan presented to the IAEA in 1997 stated that mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel in light water reactors would be the "principle way of utilizing plutonium in Japan over the next few decades." The program, however, has never gotten off the ground due to public opposition, data falsification scandals in 1999 and 2002 and the fatal accident at the Mihama nuclear power plant in 2004. Today, not a single electric utility has the go ahead to consume MOX fuel.

Furthermore, a fundamental technical problem exists. Japan lacks the capability to turn any plutonium produced at Rokkasho into MOX fuel. There is only a government "expectation" that a MOX fuel fabrication plant be fully operational by fiscal 2012. (2) Therefore, if active testing begins at Rokkasho this year, any separated plutonium will languish at the facility.

Moreover, a massive cache of Japanese plutonium already exists: thirty-seven tons sit in Europe. Japan's Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy issued in October 2005 gives priority to the consumption of this plutonium in Europe over any produced at Rokkasho (3).

Japan allowed the stockpile in Europe to grow even after the MOX program fell apart, although it was clear the plutonium could not be consumed. Now, it is set to accumulate more plutonium, this time in Japan.

Simply put, Japan already has tons of plutonium and no way to burn it. Further stockpiling is not only irresponsible but also a clear break with Japan's pledge to produce no surplus plutonium.

The petition sent to the IAEA by Green Action, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center and Greenpeace Japan states, "Japan originally made this commitment in the interests of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a field in which it is a valuable leader. Given the heightened political tension around disarmament and non-proliferation in North East Asia, and its role as Chair of the IAEA Board of Governors, Japan should not renege on this commitment."

Green Action director Aileen Mioko Smith stated, "Japanese utilities will shortly be going public with a fabricated plutonium utilization plan. The Japanese government is intending to approve it. Instead Japan should keep its promise to the IAEA and indefinitely postpone testing at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant." For these reasons, Japan should indefinitely postpone active testing at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

(1) International Atomic Energy Agency, "Communication Received from Certain Member States Concerning their Policies Regarding the Management of Plutonium", INFCIRC/549/Add. 1, 31 March 1998. Available at
(2) Japan Atomic Energy Commission, "Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy", 14 October 2005, p.34. Available at"
(3) Ibid, p.11.

Source and Contact: Joint CNIC, Green Action and Greenpeace press release, January 5, 2006
Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), 3F Kotobuki Bldg., 1-58-15 Higashi-nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, 164-0003, Japan, Tel: +81 3 5330 9520
Green Action, Suite 103, 22-75, Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto, 606-8203, Japan, Tel: +81 75 701 7223
Greenpeace Japan, N F bldg. 2F 8-13-11 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 160-0023, Japan, Tel: +81 3 5338 9800