Japan has failed to mention 640 kilograms of unused plutonium in its reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2012 and 2013.
An official in Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission said on Saturday that the 640 kg was part of the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, known as MOX, that was placed in an offline reactor at the time and was considered as being used.
The MOX fuel was loaded into the No. 3 reactor of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in a checkup in March 2011. It was taken out two years later as the reactor was offline following the Fukushima disaster.
On March 11, 2011, a nine-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that inflicted heavy damage on the six-reactor Fukushima nuclear plant. The cooling systems of reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactive material.
In 2012, Japan said in its annual report to the IAEA that it possessed 1.6 tons of unused plutonium in its facilities across the country, while it had 2.2 tons in 2011. It also reported 1.6 tons in its 2013 report.
The missing plutonium was first found by a nuclear information website, Kakujoho.
Japan has the largest amount of plutonium among non-nuclear countries; therefore, it is subjected to strict international monitoring.
“From the safeguards point of view, this material is still un-irradiated fresh MOX fuel regardless of its location. If it has, indeed, not been irradiated, this should be reflected in the statements,” former IAEA official Olli Heinonen said.
No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released by the meltdowns in Fukushima, but some residents of the area have committed suicide due to concerns over radioactive hazards.
Tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their houses around the crippled plant.
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