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New Polar Route Plans For Japan Nuclear Shipments


Moscow, January 22nd , 2001, A press report has revealed that the Japanese nuclear industry and Russian government are negotiating an agreement to ship highly radioactive nuclear waste from Europe to Japan via the Arctic. Greenpeace warned such a plan by a criminally dangerous and unnecessary industry is "desperate madness" and could cause a catastrophic accident.

The news of the Russo/Japanese negotiations was revealed today by the Japanese Kyodo news service. According to their report, the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO), the Japanese electrical utilities, is proposing to make a test shipment as early as this year. The first full nuclear transport would then take place in 2002.

The plans are under consideration because of growing public and political opposition to established routes between Europe and Japan. One nuclear industry official admitted the degree to which the shipments have been condemned by en- route countries was much high higher than expected and that “this has become a situation that cannot be ignored diplomatically”. The report claims the industry believes the alternative Northern route would generate less criticism from fewer countries.

"The nuclear industry is being forced to consider extreme, and frankly desperately dangerous measures to avoid the widespread international opposition to their deadly trade. But taking the notorious Northern Arctic route is no solution. It will still put many countries at an unacceptable risk of environmental contamination. Instead of these reckless plans they should halt their nuclear transports and stop reprocessing in Europe," said Shaun Burnie, of Greenpeace International.

The nuclear High Level Waste (HLW) to be transported is a by-product of plutonium separation from Japanese irradiated nuclear fuel at the French state- controlled COGEMA La Hague reprocessing plant and the British state- controlled British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) Sellafield reprocessing plant. The glassified HLW is one of the most radioactive materials ever produced. A person standing within one meter of an unshielded block would receive a lethal dose of radiation in less than one minute.

The new transport routes would probably be through the English Channel and the North Sea, along the Norwegian Coast to Russia putting en-route countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, the USA (Alaska) and most of all, Russia, in serious danger of a nuclear catastrophe. Alternatively, material could also be shipped via the Irish Sea between Ireland and Scotland or west of Ireland into the Atlantic.

The Northern Arctic route would require the use of vessels from Russia’s nuclear powered ice breaking fleet. The three most powerful of the fleet are the: “Rossiya”, “Sovetskiy Soyuz” and “Jamal”--all based near Murmansk.

“The world would be facing an unbelievably dangerous and bizarre convoy. An old Soviet designed nuclear ice-breaker smashing through Polar ice ahead of another ship carrying a deadly cargo of Japanese nuclear waste coming from UK or France. It is difficult to say who is crazier: those who propose such a scheme or those who would agree to it-- both must be mad. The last thing the fragile Arctic needs is more nuclear contamination, " said Tobias Muenchmeyer, Russian nuclear expert of Greenpeace International.

Six HLW transports have been made between France and Japan since 1995--the most recent has just passed around South America/Cape Horn having left France in December 2000 and is expected to arrive in Japan in February 2001. Other routes have been the Caribbean Sea / Panama Canal and South Africa / Cape of Good Hope/ Indian Ocean/ Tasman Sea and South Pacific. These transports have generated a massive opposition with dozens of en route nations condemning them, and in numerous cases attempting to close their waters to them.

“Taking to the ice will not chill the protests," said Muenchmeyer. "We believe that this shamelessly irresponsible scheme will melt away as soon as the spotlight of public opinion and political pressure is brought to bear."

On Friday, January 19th, the armed British freighter the Pacific Pintail left the French port of Cherbourg, laden with its deadly cargo of plutonium/MOX fuel bound for Japan.

For more information: Tobias Muenchmeyer +49 30 440 58 960, Greenpeace International in Germany Ivan Blokov +7 095 257 41 22, Greenpeace Russia in Moscow Damon Moglen, +1 202 319 24 09 Greenpeace International in Washington, DC Shaun Burnie, +31 6 29 00 11 33 Greenpeace International in Amsterdam

Briefing paper and map of potential routes available at:


For information on Greenpeace please visit:

High-bandwidth users can view current and archive streaming Greenpeace videos at:

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