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'Concern' over nuke shipments not enough - Greens

18 January 2000

Government's 'concern' over nuke shipments not enough

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the Government must back up its concern over shipments of nuclear fuel and waste with action and take all steps possible to keep shipments out of New Zealand waters.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Phil Goff today called on the British and French Governments undertaking the latest shipment of mixed plutonium and uranium oxide fuel from France to Japan to adhere to the highest safety standards. Mr Goff said it was "unlikely" this shipment would travel through New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"Currently there are three shipments of highly dangerous nuclear materials on the world's oceans and there are at least 20 more scheduled over the next 10 years," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Mr Goff's request for the countries involved to behave as safely as possible and his statement that the latest shipment is 'unlikely' to enter New Zealand's waters are woefully inadequate given the record of these companies.

"No environmental impact assesment has been published; the containers are tested to withstand only a modest ship fire and by no means the worst fire that could occur on board, and British Nuclear Fuels Ltd has been found in the past to have falsified safety data."

Ms Fitzsimons currently has a members bill before select committee which would extend New Zealand's nuclear free zone to the 200 mile edge of New Zealand's EEZ and prohibit transit by these hazardous cargos.

"Mr Goff says it is of great concern that the nations undertaking these shipments will not accept full liability for an accident. But liability is small comfort if our country was seriously contaminated forever. We must take every possible step to protect our people, our country and our environment from the risk by ensuring these shipments do not enter our waters," she said.

"At the moment we cannot do this and I urge the Government to be brave and support my bill. It is a bill designed with these increasing shipments in mind. It is a bill that the people of New Zealand support and deserve to have passed into law."

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: 07 868 6641, 025 586 068 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 440 090

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