22 Mars 2016
March 21, 2016
A ship transporting plutonium from Japan to the United States has started its journey. The transfer is part of counter-terrorism measures aimed at preventing the material from falling into the wrong hands.
The vessel left a port in Ibaraki Prefecture, eastern Japan, at about 3 PM on Tuesday.
It will deliver 331 kilograms of highly pure plutonium to the US, where it will be processed. The amount is said to be enough to make 40 atomic bombs.
The Japanese government has not disclosed the means of transport or routes, citing security concerns. But sources said an armed ship flying British flags arrived at a port in the prefecture on Monday, and started loading the shipment on Tuesday morning.
The transfer is part of the counterterrorism measures planned by Japanese and US leaders at a 2014 nuclear security summit in the Netherlands.
Japan originally purchased the plutonium from some Western countries in the 1970s. It was used at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture. Experts say the purity of the plutonium is so high that it could easily be used in nuclear weapons. The material will be processed at a facility in the US to prevent such use.
Other than the shipment, Japan has 47 tons of plutonium, both in and outside the country. It was created by reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear power plants.
Japan had plans to use the stockpile in a fast-breeder reactor that burns plutonium. But the reactor is still under development and is not likely to go into use in the near future.