Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Antinuclear Activists Look to Clinton-Gore Team

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Antinuclear Activists Look to Clinton-Gore Team

Article excerpt

AMONG the few hundred Japanese who protested against the Jan. 5 arrival of a ship carrying highly toxic plutonium, one name could be heard on many lips: Al Gore.

The incoming United States vice president is seen by many activists as a stronger force against Japan's plutonium program then they are. In the past year, Mr. Gore's strong environmental views have become well-known in Japan. "Only the Clinton administration can stop Japan from shipping more plutonium," says Jinzaburo Takagi, head of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo.

The cargo of more than 1.5 tons of plutonium, which arrived at a port north of Tokyo amid sporadic protests, is the first of about 30 shipments planned by Japan to be delivered from plants in France and Britain. The plutonium is being recycled from the spent uranium fuel of Japanese nuclear power plants for use in a prototype fast-breeder reactor, called Monju, which is due to start up in 1995.

Japan's leaders hopes this special reactor, which produces more plutonium than it consumes, will help this resource-poor nation become independent of foreign uranium and reach the goal of having 43 percent of its electricity generated by nuclear power by the year 2010, compared to the current 27 percent.

Most Japanese support the nuclear program, despite expressing anxiety about it, according to official polls. Dr. Takagi admits that the Jan. 5 protests were "not large enough" to force a policy change.

Because Japan's present uranium supplies originally came from the US, it is required to seek Washington's permission for the plutonium shipments.

Takagi, the most well-known critic of Japan's plutonium program, has written to Vice President-elect Gore and contacted the Clinton presidential transition team in hopes that they will reverse the approval of the shipments given by the Bush administration. …

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