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Quake-prone Japan upgrades its nuclear power plants. Anti-nuke activists go radioactive.
"We have no natural resources in Japan, so we think if we can use plutonium from spent fuel, that's a kind of indigenous source of energy," said Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, in an interview at his Tokyo office. "We'd like to use our
resources as best as we can."
He dismissed activists' safety concerns, saying plutonium had long been used in nuclear fuel in Europe, and safety issues had been "well discussed and reviewed." And he said the government was committed to finding a final disposal site for high-level nuclear waste by 2040.
For the Japanese government, pluthermal reactors are just the next step toward the long-cherished dream of nuclear self-sufficiency. Ultimately, they hope to produce MOX fuel in Japan, feed it into a fleet of high-tech "breeder reactors," and reprocess the spent fuel from such reactors into more MOX fuel.
Even some activists admit it will be hard to stop Japan's decades-old nuclear push.
Asked whether he thought protesters could halt the government's plans, anti-nuclear activist Masahiro Kunimoto said with a wry chuckle, "maybe we can, maybe we can't."
Kunimoto said their focus now is educating the Japanese public about "pluthermal" plants.
"We have to help the people understand what pluthermal is," he said, as other activists set up tables with anti-nuclear literature at the Matsuyama city auditorium. "They know there's a battle over it, but they don't understand why."