Energy crisis: Can plutonium be cute? Pluto with 2 Fugu (pufferfish), a delicacy in Japan.Plutonium is one of the most toxic substances the world has ever known. Could it ever be “cute and cuddly”? The Japanese nuclear industry has employed a number of friendly characters to help the industry gain more public acceptance. One of them is Pluto-kun—Little Mr. Pluto.

As Chester Dawson describes in the JapanRealTimes, “the apple-cheeked animated Little Mr. Pluto debuted in the mid-1990s wearing a green helmet with a pair of antennae and the chemical symbol for plutonium, PU. Promising to ‘never be scary or dangerous,’ Little Mr. Pluto extolled the benefits of plutonium.”

Little Mr. Pluto never made the big time, says Dawson, but you can still find the fellow and his friends Little Miss Sodium and Uranium Boy at Atom World, an interactive museum sponsored by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.  I did some searching on the web and learned that Pluto-kun has attained a second life there as well.

I want to be clear: I am not implying that the use of cute characters like Little Mr. Pluto is related to the tragedy unfolding now in Japan. What I am saying is that our attitudes about nuclear energy are shaped by many forces and we have to recognize them to make the right decisions.

What do you make of efforts like Mr. Pluto?

Do they help or hinder public acceptance of nuclear energy?

Has the Japan disaster changed your mind about nuclear energy?

Please, comment below.

(Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)

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