Plutonium Ship Departs Japan for U.S.
A ship carrying over 330 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for 50 nuclear bombs, has left Japan for the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The nuclear material is being carried from Tokai, north of Tokyo and home to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, by an armed British vessel Pacific Egret, operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport. Pacific Egret is being accompanied by another armed vessel.
The plutonium shipment is part of a deal between Japan and the U.S. that was agreed in 2014 during a nuclear summit, reports International Business Times, and aims to alleviate concerns about Japan’s stockpile of plutonium. Japan possesses about 47 tons of plutonium, enough to make as many as 6,000 atomic bombs. The plutonium is held in various places around the world.
At the time of the summit, the U.S. environmental group Savannah River Site Watch has expressed concerns on why such materials need to be brought to the U.S. Ahead of the 2014 summit, the group reported that secret shipments of what was believed to be enriched uranium and plutonium were brought into the U.S. via the port of Charleston, South Carolina, on the Pacific Egret.
The shipments were also part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative program to recover weapons-usable materials of both U.S. and other origins. Established by Congress in 2000, the administration is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science.