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Plutonium Shipments Nearing New Zealand

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today called on the Government to send an airforce Orion plane to check the position of two shipments of plutonium which are nearing New Zealand.

Two armed ships Pacific Teal and Pacific Pintail are bound for Japan from Europe and carry nuclear fuel containing a total of 446kgs of plutonium, which is to be delivered to a nuclear power plant in Japan. The ships are believed to be about to enter the Tasman Sea today or tomorrow.

"These shipments are much more dangerous than the Pacific Teal shipment of February 1997 which carried waste and not fuel, and which was not weapons-usable," Ms Fitzsimons said today. "The current shipments carry enough plutonium to make about 60 nuclear weapons."

Ms Fitzsimons is asking an oral question in Parliament about the shipments today. She is also hoping to get multi-party agreement in Parliament this week on a strongly-worded resolution opposing the shipments, similar to a resolution already passed by the Australian Senate.

In 1997 Ms Fitzsimons drafted legislation, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill, aimed largely at preventing nuclear fuel or waste from entering New Zealand waters. The bill is still in the ballot.

"While the chances of a disaster are small, the results of fire or collision would be so catastrophic that the country might never recover from it," Ms Fitzsimons said today.

"New Zealanders deserve to know how close the present shipments are. They are the first of many, and are seeking the route of least resistance around the world.

"Unless New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific back up words with actions, the Tasman Sea will become the preferred route for eight of these deadly shipments every year."


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