IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on March 3 had this to say about recently-voiced Chinese concerns about Japan’s plutonium inventory:
We have drawn (the) conclusion that all nuclear materials in Japan stay in peaceful purposes… Therefore, I do not have (a) reason to have concern that this (material) … will be diverted.
At issue are 331 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium long associated with the Fast Critical Assembly operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency at Tokai.
Friends in the IAEA boardroom this week expressed the view that Amano’s confidence seemed informed by the IAEA having for years reached a safeguards “broader conclusion” for Japan — as Amano himself explained that concept to a general audience in 2012: “If [a country] implements the Additional Protocol, we can provide assurance that all the activities in that country [are for] peaceful purposes.” The IAEA has annually renewed its broader conclusion for Japan since it was first given in 2004.
The broader conclusion is about IAEA safeguards, not nuclear security, and Amano in his reported remarks did not refer to the nuclear security dimension of the Tokai plutonium. But he must know that security issues–not Japan’s nonproliferation credentials–have been at the heart of five years of bilateral U.S.-Japan discussions about this plutonium inventory.