In August 2018, members of the U.S. Congress and the Japanese Diet wrote letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. These letters urged him to cooperate with Tokyo to reduce Japan’s surplus plutonium and encourage South Korea and China to defer recycling plutonium.
Aug 31, 2018
2018 Letters to Pompeo (PDF) 1,335.90 KB
Hill, Japanese Legislators Urge Pompeo to Cut Plutonium Stocks Without Recycling
Although it went unreported, earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received two letters — one from the leadership of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HFAC), another signed by 20 members of the Japanese Diet. Both recommended that the United States cooperate with Japan to reduce the 47 tons of nuclear weapon-usable plutonium Tokyo has without recycling it in power reactors and to encourage South Korea and China to defer commercially recycling plutonium as well.
The challenge now is figuring out how to dispose of Japan’s surplus plutonium. In their letter to Pompeo, HFAC Chairman Ed Royce, Eliot Engel, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Brad Sherman noted that the Trump Administration backs disposing of America’s 34 tons of surplus nuclear weapons plutonium without recycling it. This is because recycling this material is too expensive and impractical.
The 20 Japanese Diet members made the same point in their letter to Pompeo. They warned that the Japanese government’s current plan to recycle surplus plutonium in Japan’s small fleet of power reactors would take too long. The Diet members also voiced concerns that as a part of Japan’s plan, Tokyo might open a large reprocessing plant at Rokkasho, which would increase the size of Japan’s plutonium stockpile.
What’s interesting is that the two letters’ recommendations are virtually identical. Both recommend that the US and Japan cooperate on developing alternative methods to dispose of their plutonium surpluses without recycling. They both also recommend that the US and Japan work together to discourage China and South Korea from reprocessing plutonium commercially. Both recommendations make sense.