The Story of Plutonium
Nuclear Power and power plants are controversial issues worldwide. Can we have them safely? Will having one mean nuclear weapons will be produced? Are all nuclear power plants run according to Homer Simpson's Springfield plant's safety rules? These and other questions would promote debate for at least half an hour. 
But here is a much more interesting issue altogether.

This is an article about 'The Story of Plutonium' video that was broadcast in Japan in the 1990s. As far as we know, no one fell for it and everyone complained about it in Japan and abroad. It just shows how some local governments try to manipulate the people for their own ends. 

So, not only will this be great discussion fodder regarding nuclear power, but you can go into a discussion on government and the people running it. Without being right-wing or left-wing you can discuss whether you should trust the government completely or you should always question authority. (Which may mean your student will start questioning you more, but, hey, that's great isn't it?)

The Story of Plutonium starring ‘Mr Pluto’ aka ‘Plutonium Boy’
Broadcast in 1993/1994 in Japan
Mr Pluto Plutonium Boy Pu and friend.‘The Story of Plutonium’ was an 11-minute promotional video distributed to Japanese schools and broadcast on TV, showing how safe and friendly Plutonium was. An anime character ‘Mr Pluto’ flew about the video sprouting ‘facts’ and even encouraged a boy to drink a glass of water laced with Plutonium, saying that there’s nothing to be afraid of and Plutonium is safe to eat. The cartoon character wore a bright green hat with a friendly PU sign on the front and was aimed at kids. The cartoon boy, who drank the water, happily visited the toilet afterwards saying “Feels great! All fresh!” In reality, Plutonium is so dangerous that micrograms of it can cause cancer.

The government-owned nuclear fuel company (PNC) distributed the video to prepare the Japanese public for the start-up of the plutonium-fueled Monju prototype breeder reactor in the Fukui prefecture. It was in response to the overwhelming protests against the building of the reactor.

The nuclear reactor started in 1993. Not long afterwards, in 1995, a major accident happened at the reactor that could have been worse than Chenobyl. A sodium leak and a fire occurred and ran for 5 hours as panicked workers could not find anyone to give them emergency instructions, confirming what many Japanese citizens had feared. While this accident was brought under control, several workers were affected and toxic fumes were released into the atmosphere. The Monju safety procedures were woefully inadequate and the construction of the reactor, and the systems in place, will do nothing to protect people from lethal quantities of radiation if an even worse accident happens. And it won’t just be the people of Fukui who suffer if radioactive material is released. Shiga, Nagano, Fukushima as well as Lake Biwa (where 8 million people get their drinking water from) will be affected.

Green Action, based in Kyoto, is assisting the people of Japan in lobbying the government to close down the reactor permanently.
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