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Accident shows uranium shipments must be banned

Nuclear accident shows uranium shipments must be banned

The nuclear accident in Japan today was at a plant likely to have produced the plutonium fuel shipped past New Zealand recently and shows why the shipments must be banned, the Green Party says.

Environmental levels of radiation were 15,000 times above the normal level 1.2 kilometres from the plant, and 55 people have received acute doses of radiation after a critical chain reaction occurred. The plant reprocesses spent reactor fuel from Europe and the United States and manufactures plutonimium and uranium oxide fuel for European power plants. Shipments between Europe and Japan sail through the Tasman Sea past New Zealand.

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said there would be serious health problems in the area for many years.

"The 55 people seriously ill, some of whom are likely to die eventually from radiation sickness, are just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds, and possibly thousands, more people are likely to die of cancers and birth malformations over the next 20 years - just as is expected to happen at Chernobyl," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"This is another reminder of how wise our anti-nuclear decision was in 1984."

A Green Party resolution condemning the shipments from Europe through the Tasman Sea was unanimously approved by Parliament last month.

New Zealand should now be taking an active approach to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide, said Ms Fitzsimons.

"We should start by exercising some leadership at the South Pacific Forum this month and try to get a unanimous position from the Forum that we oppose those shipments coming through the South Pacific.

"Parliament should also pass my Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill which has been in the ballot for nearly three years. It would ban such shipments from New Zealand's 200 mile economic zone to protect our fisheries and our environment."

The reprocessed fuel produced at this plant is weapons-usable so the technology carries the extra risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"This technology is not just a threat to Japan, which is carrying the can for treating other countries' wastes. It is a threat to the whole world, and to future generations for many centuries. It is not necessary and it should stop."

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