U.S., Japan to Cooperate on Nuclear-Material Removal, Energy Research

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, right, seen last October being welcomed by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the latter's offices in Tokyo. Moniz and Yosuke Isozaki, an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Monday announced new cooperation on nuclear security initiatives at a 53-nation summit in the Netherlands.
National Journal
Sebastian Sprenger
March 24, 2014, 9:56 a.m.

THE HAG­UE, NETH­ER­LANDS — The United States will help Ja­pan re­move hun­dreds of kilo­grams of weapons-grade nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als and aid the is­land na­tion in nuc­le­ar-en­ergy re­search.

Seni­or of­fi­cials from both coun­tries an­nounced those plans on Monday here at a two-day Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit, a gath­er­ing of 53 world lead­ers aimed at bol­ster­ing safe­guards against the theft or ter­ror­ist use of sens­it­ive atom­ic ma­ter­i­als.

U.S. En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz called the bi­lat­er­al agree­ment with Tokyo a “very sig­ni­fic­ant nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity pledge and activ­ity” at a joint press brief­ing with Yosuke Isoza­ki, a spe­cial ad­viser to Ja­pan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe. An an­nounce­ment of plans to re­move weapons-us­able plutoni­um was widely ex­pec­ted to be a sum­mit out­come.

The bi­lat­er­al agree­ment un­veiled on Monday en­com­passes both plutoni­um and highly en­riched urani­um at Ja­pan Atom­ic En­ergy Agency’s Fast Crit­ic­al As­sembly in Tokai, which is used for re­search on fast-re­act­or tech­no­logy. The sub­stances are slated to be turned in­to non-sens­it­ive ma­ter­i­als in the United States.

The move “af­firms that most cut­ting-edge [re­search and de­vel­op­ment] can be ac­com­plished without weapons-us­able ma­ter­i­al,” Mon­iz said. He noted that the cre­ation of a “sus­tain­able nuc­le­ar-en­ergy in­dustry” also is a goal of the ef­fort.

Mon­iz and Isoza­ki took no ques­tions from the press.

New “en­hance­ments” are planned for the Fast Crit­ic­al As­sembly to en­able an ex­pan­ded re­search fo­cus on the trans­mu­ta­tion and dis­pos­i­tion of nuc­le­ar waste, ac­cord­ing to a joint state­ment. U.S. re­search aid, coupled with a 10-year ex­ten­sion to Wash­ing­ton’s of­fer to ac­cept spent fuel, will en­able Ja­pan to “pro­mote the ba­sic study of nuc­le­ar en­ergy,” Isoza­ki said.

Miles Pom­per, a seni­or re­search as­so­ci­ate with the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies, said re­mov­al of all weapons-grade ma­ter­i­als from the Fast Crit­ic­al As­sembly is a “good thing” be­cause it takes the site off the list of pro­spect­ive tar­gets for ter­ror­ists. But he cau­tioned that Ja­pan still has tons of re­act­or-grade plutoni­um, and is on track to pro­duce even more, once the Rokkasho mixed-ox­ide con­ver­sion plant goes on­line.

“They are cre­at­ing more of a plutoni­um prob­lem, even as they are giv­ing some away,” he said.

Mean­while, the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Monday an­nounced that re­mov­al was com­pleted of roughly 20 kilo­grams of ex­cess highly en­riched urani­um and sep­ar­ated plutoni­um from Italy, as well as an un­spe­cified amount from Bel­gi­um.

What We're Following See More »
TAKATA RECALLS COULD TAKE YEARS TO COMPLETE
Airbag Recalls Target 12 Million Automobiles
10 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."

Source:
INVESTIGATION LEADS TO LEAKER’S RESIGNATION
Secret Service Disciplines 41 Agents Over Chaffetz Leak
41 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.

Source:
#NEVERTRUMP’S LONELY LEADER
Romney Talks Cost of His Futile Anti-Trump Fight
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Source:
CONGRESS DIVIDED ON DEBT CRISIS PLAN
Puerto Rico Relief Stalled on the Hill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."

Source:
LAWMAKERS RECESS WITH NO PLAN IMMINENT
Congress Slow-walking Zika Legislation
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching. ... Instead of racing to fund efforts to thwart a potential health crisis, lawmakers are treating the Zika debate like regular legislation, approving Thursday the establishment of a House-Senate committee to hammer out differences in their competing bills."

Source:
×