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Nuclear Shipment Not Welcome In The Pacific

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

21 January 2001


Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has deplored the news that two British ships carrying mixed oxide (MOX) fuel from France to Japan would take the Cape of Good Hope/South-West Pacific route, which normally requires passage through the Tasman Sea.

Mr Goff said there should be no need for the shipments as Japan which utilises nuclear fuel should reprocess the material on its own shores.

He said while the companies involved in the shipments put safeguards in place, risks remain. The chance of an accident at sea, while small, cannot be discounted. There is also a security risk in the sense that it is technically possible, although very difficult, to use MOX in the construction of nuclear weapons.

"While the shipments continue, New Zealand's emphatic position is to keep these cargoes away from our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," said Mr Goff. He welcomed assurances that the shipments would not enter these areas. But he said New Zealand will still lodge formal protests about the shipment with the governments of Japan, France and the United Kingdom.

The Minister said it is recognised that international law gives these shipments navigational rights to enter EEZs. However New Zealand's stance at each point , bilaterally, with the Pacific Islands Forum, and multilaterally with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to demand the highest safety standards and for the countries involved in the shipments to accept full liability in the event of any accident.

Mr Goff said if cabinet is advised by an inter-departmental watch-group that the route the ships takes comes close to our EEZ, then consideration will be given to airforce surveillance.

New Zealand continues to head a group of countries working to clarify and strengthen the protection international law and regulations offers to coastal states, and especially those in the South Pacific. "These laws of the sea allow countries the freedom to carry these cargoes through international waters and EEZs and New Zealand could not therefore outlaw the ships passing through these areas."

"Instead New Zealand must continue to push for stronger safeguards and use persuasion to prevent entry of these cargoes into our EEZ," said Mr Goff.


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