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Nation IN BRIEF : WASHINGTON, D.C.

Use of Plutonium in Spacecraft Assailed

September 09, 1997|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Launching a spacecraft powered by 72 pounds of plutonium could harm millions of people if there were an accident, opponents of the Cassini space mission said. NASA officials disagreed, saying independent experts have examined the craft and found it to be safe. Leaders of groups opposed to any nuclear-powered spacecraft said at a news conference that they are asking President Clinton to stop the Cassini launch next month to protect the Earth from the plutonium risk. Cassini is a $3.4-billion interplanetary robot craft that is to be launched by mid-October on a roundabout voyage to Saturn. The craft will gather the speed to reach Saturn with two gravity-assisted fly-bys of Venus, one of Earth and one of Jupiter.

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