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Japan-US nuclear energy pact set to renew automatically in July 2018

A nuclear energy cooperation agreement between Japan and the U.S. will renew automatically in July 2018, it is expected to be confirmed on Jan. 16.

The existing accord, officially called the Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, recognizes Japan's extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and use of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel as part of its "nuclear fuel cycle." Renewing the pact will enable Japan to continue with its nuclear fuel cycle policy.

However, after the pact is renewed, if either Japan or the U.S. gives notice, then the agreement will be halted after six months -- which would mean that Japan's nuclear policy would be more easily affected by the will of the U.S.

The nuclear energy agreements that the U.S. has in place with other countries control the handling of nuclear materials and related equipment -- from the standpoint of non-proliferation -- whenever the U.S. provides nuclear technology to those other nations.

Under the existing agreement between Japan, a non-nuclear nation, and the U.S., nuclear fuel cycle operations such as the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and also uranium enrichment are recognized, in what is considered an exceptional case.

With the pact coming into effect in July 1988, the 30-year deadline of the current agreement will be reached on July 16, 2018. As long as neither Japan nor the U.S. give notice to withdraw six months prior to the deadline, the pact will be automatically renewed.

The Japanese government did try to negotiate with the U.S. about maintaining the agreement as it is. However, the administration under U.S. President Donald Trump has not been in a position to negotiate, and so the pact looks set to renew automatically, without any serious negotiations taking place.

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