Plutonium ship docks after two-month trip

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The Independent Online
TOKAI (Reuter) - A Japanese freighter carrying 1.7 tons of radioactive plutonium from France arrived at its final destination north of Tokyo after a controversial two-month voyage.

Japan's policy of keeping secret the route of the Akatsuki Maru, out of fear of terrorist attacks, drew wide protests from scores of countries along the way. The ship passed through the breakwater at the small port at Tokai, a nuclear research facility about 75 miles north- east of Tokyo.

The Akatsuki Maru left Cherbourg on 7 November, headed south on the Atlantic, rounded Africa and Australia and steamed north on the Pacific on its two-month journey, one of the longest non-stop voyages undertaken by a commercial ship. It played hide-and-seek with boats and planes from the environmental group Greenpeace much of the way.

Japanese officials assured the public the shipment, first in a planned long-term programme, posed no threat. But environmentalists warned of potential pollution if the ship sinks or springs a leak, and the risk of the cargo being hijacked by terrorists.