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Search Party For “Secret” Nuclear Shipment

Greenpeace To Send Search Party For “Secret” Nuclear Shipment

9th January 2001: Buenos Aires, Argentina - Greenpeace will send a search party into one of the most inhospitable oceans in the world to track down the largest high level nuclear waste shipment to have ever sailed. The location of the British-flagged freighter Pacific Swan is being kept secret, despite the fact that it is likely to sail through Argentina and Chile's 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), risking the environment and health of millions of people.

Greenpeace has a ship that is ready to sail from the port of Ushuaia, Argentina, with crew members from Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The international environmental group will try to expose the “secret”passage of the Pacific Swan along the Cape Horn route.

“This nuclear shipment is a floating Chernobyl - a cargo of nuclear waste containing an estimated 96,000,000 curies of radioactivity on board. It is a dangerous and totally unnecessary shipment. We do not want it in our waters, and British Nuclear Fuels11 The Pacific Swan is owned by Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited (PNTL) British Nuclear Fuels Ltd is a shareholder in PNTL can not claim to be making innocent passage with such a lethal cargo, “said Martin Prieto, of Greenpeace Argentina.

The shipment, which left France bound for Japan in December, was condemned in a joint statement by all four of the coastal Latin American countries along the route – Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. The Foreign Minister of Chile went further in stating that the ship should not enter Chile's 200 mile EEZ 22 On December 21, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay issued a joint declaration of concern regarding the nuclear waste shipment. In addition, on December 29, the Foreign Minister of Chile stated on national television that the ship should not enter Chile's 200 EEZ. “Japan, France and the UK are ignoring the will of Latin American states that clearly expressed their opposition to the shipment”, Prieto said. "If the governments of Argentina and Chile don't send a clear message of opposition to the use of the Cape Horn route and take strong measures to avoid the use of their EEZs, they will be opening up a nuclear highway for this and future shipments ".

Bill Anderton, spokesperson for the shipping company PNTL, stated only last week that there are plans for 20 more shipments over the next ten years.

Public and political opposition to nuclear transports in Panama and the Caribbean appears to have made the normal route through the Panama Canal impossible this time. In 1995 -the only other time the Cape Horn, South American route was used for the first transport of high level nuclear waste from France to Japan- there was strong opposition throughout Latin America, including the deployment of an armed Chilean warship which ordered the ship out of Chilean waters. “We urge the Chilean government to maintain the brave position they had in 1995 and ban this transport from our EEZ”, said Rosa Moreno of Greenpeace Chile.

The Pacific Swan is carrying 192 blocks of high level waste, a by- product of plutonium separation from Japanese irradiated nuclear fuel at the French state-controlled COGEMA La Hague reprocessing plant. This waste is among the most radioactive material ever produced - a person standing within one metre of an unshielded block would receive a lethal dose of radiation in less than one minute. If released into the environment, it would be a deadly environmental pollutant for hundreds of thousands of years.

"The release of even a small fraction of this cargo could lead to an environmental and public health catastrophe. To send such a dangerous cargo along the South American coast and through such notorious waters as those that surround Cape Horn, where many ships have foundered, shows a total disregard for global safety, in a shameless pursuit of profit,” added Martin Prieto. Greenpeace has repeatedly called on the Japanese government to stop its controversial program to procure a massive stockpile of weapons- usable plutonium. The program, which is the cause of these shipments of waste currently generates no electricity, and can not be justified on economic, energy-production, safety, security or nuclear non- proliferation bases.

PLEASE CONTACT: MartinPrieto – Greenpeace Argentina, mobile +54 11 44 280 597 RosaMoreno – Greenpeace Chile - + 56 9 8259581 LuisaColasimone - Greenpeace Media officer, mobile +54 11 41 444 835 Interviews available in Spanish, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German. Video footage of the Pacific Swan being loaded in France and sea conditions around Cape Horn is available on request.


For information on Greenpeace please visit:

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