Heat rises over plutonium ship

A LEAD curtain is coming down all over the world around Japan's plan to transport tons of highly radioactive plutonium by ship from Europe to power electricity generators.

Inside the curtain is Japan, along with the UK and France, who want to sell the reprocessed plutonium, and the United States. Outside are nations who do not want the toxic cargo to pass through their territorial waters.

In Tokyo a furious debate is being waged in private over the country's avowed plutonium-based energy self-sufficiency policy. The prospect of being stuck behind an international lead curtain is boosting the arguments of those calling for a rethink of nuclear energy policy.

This week Argentina became the latest nation to complain about the passage of the plutonium close to its shores. The plutonium carrier, the Akatsuki Maru, which left Japan in August, is due in France this month and to return with its first plutonium shipment to Japan by the end of the year.

South Africa has said it will not allow the ship to pass within its 200-mile territorial waters around the Cape of Good Hope, and Chile, Brazil and Uruguay have expressed concern should the ship take the South American route.

Hawaii and an association of South Pacific islands have made official statements opposing the plutonium shipment and, tomorrow, delegates from countries on the likely routes meet in Tokyo to try to stop the return shipment.

The most likely route is through the Straits of Malacca. Several recent shipping collisions in the Straits, between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, have heightened fears of the dangers of an accident involving the plutonium carrier.

Japan is sensitive to international opinion and opposition to the plutonium shipments is thought to be causing concern in the Science and Technology Agency which oversees the country's nuclear programme. The agency has received at least 20 inquiries from foreign countries about the safety measures to be taken for the Akatsuki Maru and the single small military escort vessel that is to accompany it.

This comes on top of domestic opposition to the accumulation of plutonium. In April the head of Japan's plutonium programme caused a stir by suggesting that the plan might be reconsidered and, in July, the Science and Technology Agency said it would set up a panel to re-examine Japan's long-term nuclear energy policy. 'I think there is a lot of disagreement now,' said Yuriko Hase, a Socialist MP critical of the plutonium programme. The programme foresees Japan becoming self-sufficient in energy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy