Nuclear Waste Shipment in the Tasman: Greenpeace warns
Auckland -- Friday 1 April 2005 -- A ship carrying high level radioactive waste is expected to be going through the Tasman as early as this weekend, Greenpeace warned today.
The Pacific Sandpiper's lethal cargo consists of five casks holding 124 canisters of deadly classified nuclear waste. It departed from Cherbourg, France, on February 17, and is expected to travel through the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand as early as this weekend.
"This waste is the most radioactive material ever produced and, if released into the environment, would be around for thousands of years. The release of even a small fraction of this cargo from either an accident or a deliberate attack could lead to an environmental and public health catastrophe," said Cindy Baxter, Greenpeace Campaign Manager.
The waste is a by-product from plutonium reprocessing at La Hague, France, using Japanese irradiated nuclear fuel. It is being transported through the Tasman by British Nuclear Fuels.
The nuclear industry is touting nuclear power as the answer to climate change, but the reality is that the safety, security, and proliferation costs of high level waste are enormous compared with clean, renewable energy such as wind.
"Nuclear power is no solution to climate change. It swaps one environmental nightmare for another. Nuclear power produces spent fuel, which contains nuclear weapons usable plutonium and high level radioactive waste such as this. Not only is it a huge risk to the environment but it's also a security risk through such shipments and from the plutonium it produces."
Moreover, while financial costs for nuclear power continue to increase, costs for renewable energy are falling rapidly. In the last ten years, the cost per kilowatt hour of wind energy fell by 50% and solar from photovoltaics by 30%.
Greenpeace has alerted the New Zealand Government and Pacific Island countries to this shipment. Pacific Island countries have repeatedly called for a stop to such shipments, yet no country along the route has been told about the Pacific Sandpiper.
(1) Japan currently has a plutonium stockpile of more than 38,000kg of plutonium – enough for 7,600 nuclear weapons. As little as 5kg of this would be sufficient for one nuclear weapon. Both Areva of France and British Nuclear Fuels are trying to secure new plutonium fuel (MOX) contracts with Japanese clients which would lead to many tens of plutonium transports over the next 20 years, most likely to transit the Tasman Sea and South Pacific. Greenpeace is campaigning for comprehensive fissile material treaty that would prohibit all production of weapons usable material – plutonium and highly enriched uranium.