Reuters International

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan have completed the removal of all highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium fuels from Japan's Fast Critical Assembly research project, the two countries said on Friday.

Announced alongside the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the transfer makes good on a 2014 agreement at a previous non-proliferation summit to move the material from the site in Tokai Mura, Japan to the United States, the countries said.

"It furthers our mutual goal of minimizing stocks of (highly enriched uranium) HEU and separated plutonium worldwide, which will help prevent unauthorised actors, criminals, or terrorists from acquiring such materials," the United States and Japan said in a joint statement released during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

But the shipment has stirred some controversy over its transfer to the United States, specifically to a Department of Energy site in South Carolina where leaders and environmental activists have balked at receiving the weapons-grade plutonium.

Last month, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asked the U.S. Department of Energy for the shipment to be turned back or sent elsewhere.

Representatives for Haley and the department could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday's statement.

In its statement, the United States said it will now "downblend" the material "to low enriched uranium (LEU) for use in civilian activities and convert the plutonium into a less sensitive form for final disposition."

The countries also said they were working to move material from another site, the Kyoto University Critical Assembly, to the United States.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Brunnstromm; Additional reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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