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Japan, U.S. to cooperate in nuclear facility design: U.S. NSC official

By Masakatsu Ota


U.S. National Security Council Senior Director Laura Holgate (in charge of weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction), who is currently visiting Japan, revealed on Feb. 4 that Japan and the U.S. agreed to put together a “roadmap” in preparation for the second Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), which will be held in Seoul next year to prevent nuclear terrorism. The roadmap mainly calls for promoting technical cooperation in designing nuclear power stations and fuel-processing plants to prevent in-house theft of nuclear materials. She made the comment in an exclusive interview with Kyodo News.


The move underscores that Japan and the U.S. are seeking a way to deepen their alliance in the nuclear security field, which the U.S. Obama administration prioritizes in order to step up the security and protection of nuclear materials and nuclear facilities. As the U.S. operates many nuclear power plants at home, it aims to deepen its partnership with Japan, which is looking to expand the export of its nuclear power generation knowhow, and make the NSS, which will be held in April 2012, successful.


According to Holgate, Tokyo and Washington agreed to the formulation of a roadmap when the “U.S.-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group” met for the first time in Tokyo last week. The two sides reached a basic agreement, though the U.S. is still waiting for final responses on the details from the Japanese side. Holgate is the leader of the U.S. side in the working group.


She noted that “when we discuss nuclear terrorism, much of it is an assumption, but the theft of nuclear materials is not a hypothetical story” and pointed out that the smuggling of nuclear materials for diversion mainly takes place through the engagement of “people who can access materials and workers at large facilities.”


To deal with “in-house threats” such as theft by insiders, the NSC official stressed the importance of “designing facilities that give priority to nuclear security.” She also noted that Japan and the U.S., which are building uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fabrication facilities respectively, will promote technological cooperation and create a manual for countries that will introduce nuclear power generation together.


The roadmap will also include (1) hosting a joint seminar for engineers in third nations at the “Integrated Support Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security” (in the Tokai village of Ibaraki Prefecture); (2) enhancing support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through mutual technological exchange between the inspectors of the two nations; (3) conducing joint technological research on the production of nuclear materials that would be difficult for terrorists to use.


Technical cooperation in “nuclear forensics,” a technique to identify the producers of nuclear materials through composition analysis, will be also included.

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