Japanese protest at plan to use plutonium

Tokyo - Several hundred people demonstrated yesterday against Japan's controversial plans to stockpile plutonium, as the first batch of the radioactive material was delivered to the Monju fast-breeder reactor, 200 miles from Tokyo. That plutonium was reprocessed in Japan, and later this year shipments of plutonium reprocessed in Britain and France are scheduled to begin, writes Terry McCarthy.

Japan's Science and Technology Agency plans to acquire some 85 tons of plutonium by 2010 for use in generating electricity to reduce reliance on imported oil and other fuels. But anti-nuclear groups have protested against the plan because of the safety risk and because of fears expressed by Japan's neighbours that the material could some day be used in nuclear weapons.

The plans for delivering the plutonium are being kept secret to protect against terrorist attacks. But news of yesterday's delivery leaked out, and protesters maintained a vigil along the 375-mile route of the convoy bringing the plutonium from the Tokai reprocessing plant.