Japan Reverses Stand, Says It Will Stockpile Plutonium
TOKYO (AP) _ Japan, under fire for shipping 1.7 tons of deadly plutonium from France, went back on a pledge and announced Saturday it will stockpile the nuclear fuel.
The quasi-governmental Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. said the plutonium will not be used for at least three years because problems with fuel processing machines will delay full-scale operation at the Monju fast breeder reactor until October 1995.
Japan, which is moving to nuclear power to lessen its dependence on imported oil, had pledged to store only the amount of plutonium it needs to generate power.
The shipment of plutonium has been widely denounced by anti-nuclear groups, which fear it could be hijacked by terrorists for use in nuclear weapons or released in an accident.
Japanese citizens groups attacked the government for reversing its stand.
″With the announcement, the government has shown that its own insistence on the necessity of obtaining more plutonium was unjustified,″ said Yurika Ayukawa, a member of the anti-nuclear Citizens Nuclear Information Center.
An official for the power authority, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plutonium would be kept at a plant at Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo.
By the year 2010, the government wants 43 percent of Japan’s electricity to be nuclear-produced, up from 26 percent now, and plans to obtain 80 to 90 tons of plutonium.
That policy was set years ago, however, amid fears of shortages of uranium, a less-dangerous nuclear fuel. A speck of plutonium inhaled can kill a human.
The United States, Germany and other countries have halted plutonium-based nuclear programs for economic reasons or to quell anti-nuclear protests.