Japan's Transportation Plan for Shipment of Mixed
Plutonium/ Uranium Oxide (MOX) Reactor Fuel
Trom Europe to Japan
The United States in 1988 gave advance, long-term approval under the U.S.-Japan Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation for Japan to carry out transfers of mixed plutonium/uranium oxide (MOX) reactor fuel from Europe to Japan by sea. In connection with each shipment, Japan must prepare a transportation plan to document the specific arrangements that will be implemented in accordance with the transportation guidelines in Annex SR of the Agreement to ensure adequate physical protection of the MOX during shipment.
As required by the Agreement, Japan has prepared a transportation plan for the upcoming MOX shipment in close consultation with the United States. While the United States does not have a right as such to approve or disapprove the transportation plan, U.S. experts have carefully scrutinized successive drafts of the plan over a period of several years and have made significant contributions to it. In addition, the responsible U.S. Executive Branch agencies have formally reviewed the final plan. They have concluded that it fully satisfies all requirements of the 1988 U.S.-Japan Agreement, including the requirement of adequate physical protection, and thus constitutes a sound basis for the Government of Japan to undertake its responsibilities in connection with the MOX shipment.
In particular, the Department of Defense has determined that the plan is acceptable; that it provides adequate physical protection to the nuclear material being transported; and that it provides security levels commensurate with previous shipments. The Joint Staf f has determined that the MOX transportation plan is "amply robust" for the transportation mission.
Under the MOX transportation plan, there will be two armed plutonium transport vessels, each escorting and protecting the other. The two armed vessels will be "on government service," as required by a 1988 side letter to the U.S.-Japan Agreement, because the shipments will be carried out by BNFL, which is a corporation wholly-owned by the British Government, and because the armed guards on
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board each vessel will be officers of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary -- the same armed police force that protects MOX fuel and other nuclear materials at land-based installations in Britain.
In addition to the ships' armaments, the UKAEA officers will be armed with assault rifles, shotguns, and hand weapons, and they will be equipped with body armor and gas masks. They will also have available non- lethal response methods. It may be noted that the United States itself relies on civilian, rather than military, armed guards to protect nuclear materials and even nuclear weapons during production and prior to delivery to U.S. military forces.
The vessels themselves will be very well armed. They will each be outfitted with three 30mm naval guns with a rate of fire of up to 900 rounds per minute. This same type of naval gun is used on the latest British Navy frigates. There will be a total of six such naval guns, compared with the four on the single. Japanese maritime Safety Agency (MSA) armed escort vessel used in 1992-93. While the armed transport vessels do lack the speed of the MSA vessel, U.S. experts judge that speed per se is not a critical factor in having full capability to carry out the mission. The vessels are highly maneuverable, can each deploy a high speed armed boat (the MSA vessel could deploy one high speed armed boat and one slower boat), and offer the significant advantage of two platforms being able to support each other by gunfire in the event of an attack.
A UN Government Maritime Threat Assessment forms part of the MOX transportation plan. In addition, the U.S. Intelligence Community has prepared its own independent threat assessments for the planned MOX shipment, in 1997 and again this year. A copy of the most recent U.S. threat assessment has been provided to Committee staff.
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