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Plutonium Ships Depart For Pacific

Auckland 27 April 2002: A shipload of plutonium fuel, rejected by Japan because British Nuclear Fuels falsified critical safety data, could be transported via the Tasman Sea back to England.

Two armed British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) freighters, Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal, left England this morning bound for Japan to return the plutonium, sufficient to build 50 nuclear bombs, back to Sellafield, England.

“This shipment is totally unnecessary, extremely dangerous and a huge security risk for the Pacific,” says Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner, Bunny McDiarmid.

“The UK and Japan have started the countdown to the most controversial nuclear shipment in history, on the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. They could not have chosen a more fitting date to remind the international community of the arrogance of the nuclear industry.”

Plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) shipped through the Tasman Sea last year met stiff opposition from a flotilla of small yachts from Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand Government supported the flotilla protest.

“The industry is creating a floating terrorist target and a dangerous hazard simply to get new contracts. This would result in more shipments of plutonium, perhaps as many as 80 over the next decade with the Tasman Sea a viable route,” says Bunny McDiarmid.

Many en-route governments have protested these shipments. 14 Caribbean countries have already this year reminded Japan of their “implacable opposition” to nuclear shipments through their region.

“The government that voices the loudest opposition may determine which route the ships take, says McDiarmid.

Greenpeace is calling on the New Zealand Government to voice its opposition to any nuclear shipments taking place to the Japanese Prime Minister when he visits next week and to the UK.

The ships plan to pick up the MOX material at Takahama in Japan in June, and return it to the UK in early August.

The nuclear industry is keeping secret the route of the proposed June shipment, but if it is goes ahead it will take one of three possible routes from Japan to the UK: via the Pacific, Tasman Sea, Cape of Good Hope, Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea; via the Pacific, Cape Horn, Atlantic Ocen and Irish Sea. Or via the Pacific, Panama Canal, Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea.

Ends

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