The Japanese government on Tuesday authorized the construction of additional facilities to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. The product is known as mixed oxide fuel, which contains plutonium blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium, or depleted uranium.
Construction of the MOX processing plant was halted following the nuclear accident in Fukushima last year. Some critics worry that the authorization was rushed through to give Japan a plutonium production facility that can be transformed for military use.
Last week, the Japanese Diet revised the Atomic Energy Basic Act to include a controversial clause that nudges open the door to defensive use of nuclear arms.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency gave the green light to continue construction of the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
The approval apparently means that Tokyo intends to maintain the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture, according to experts, despite growing public doubts over nuclear energy. The Monju reactor has been plagued with safety problems amid soaring costs and is not expected to become operational until 2050.
The Mainichi Shimbun reported that the revision of the act provided the legal basis to continue constructing the plutonium reprocessing facility in Rokkasho, which could be used for military purposes.