JAPAN'S growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears' Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a programme to fuel its nuclear plants, but concern is growing that the stockpile is vulnerable to terrorists and natural disasters.

Japan. has long been the world's only non-nuclear-armed country with a programme to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from its power plants into plutonium.

On Tuesday, a decades-old  deal with the  United States  which allows Japan reprocess plutonium was renewed, but the pact can be terminated by either side with just  six month's notice.

Plutonium reprocessing is meant to create a new and emissions-free fuel source for resource-poor Japan, but the size of the stockpile has started to attract criticism, even from allies.

Plutonium can be used to create nuclear weapons. Although Japan has vowed the material would never be used for military purposes, it has now amassed vastly more plutonium than it can use, since many of the  nuclear plants  offline after the 2011 tragedy.

Experts worn that the growing stockpile can be dangerous in case of natural disaster, like the earthquake and tsunami, that set off the Fukushima meltdown, and is also an attractive target for terrorists.

They also fear the reserve could encourage other regional powers, including China, to press for a similar reprocessing capability, boosting the amount of weaponisable plutonium in Asia.

And some even warn that North Korea could point to the stockpile to avoid denuclearizing.

This month's Japan government vowed for the  first time to "tackle a reduction on plutonium stocks,"gave no roadmap.

The country's  Atomic Energy Commission reportedly plans a self-imposed cap on the reserve, which now stands at  10 tonnes inside the country with another  37 tonnes in Britain and France for reprocessing. [Agencies] 


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