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Plutonium shipment approaches South Africa

Deadly plutonium shipment approaches the South African Coastline

Deadly plutonium shipment approaches the South African Coastline

Greenpeace Press Release

Cape Town, 2 February, 2001 - A deadly cargo of plutonium/MOX fuel bound for Japan from Europe will be off the South African coastline within days, threatening the environment, lives and livelihoods of millions of people the international environmental group Greenpeace warned today.

The latest shipment of weapons-usable plutonium fuel left the French port of Cherbourg on January 19th 2001 bound for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture, western Japan. The so-called
plutonium fuel is onboard the British flagged freighter the Pacific Pintail which is being escorted on its 30,000 km journey by its sister ship the Pacific Teal. Operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL) both ships are armed with three 30mm naval cannon and carry a contingent of armed civilian police from the UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary.

A number of countries, such as Argentina and New Zealand, are now investigating ways in which they can legally ban nuclear shipments from entering their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Greenpeace is calling on the South African government to follow suit. “Only through collective and vigorous opposition to these potentially devastating transports can the threatened enroute nations hope to prevent their coastlines from becoming major nuclear transport routes,” said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International.

"Without concerted opposition from the South African Government the nuclear industry plans to make up to 80 nuclear shipments from Europe to Japan over the coming decade, turning the Cape of Good Hope into a nuclear highway," said Townsley.

This is the second such plutonium fuel transport to threaten the South African coast. The previous shipment sailed into a storm of controversy in 1999 when it was revealed that the state owned plutonium company British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) had faked vital safety documents for the fuel it was supplying to Japan. Having initially denied that the safety documents were false, BNFL has now agreed to take back the plutonium/MOX, but no timetable or route have yet been decided.

“If BNFL is prepared to lie to its own customers and the public about its fuel safety data then it casts huge doubts over their bland assurances about the safety of its nuclear fuel shipments. Frankly you wouldn't even buy a second hand car from these people," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International.

BNFL is the major stakeholder in PNTL and is responsible for the current shipment past South Africa. Along with its state- owned French counter part, Cogema, and the French, Japanese and British Governments, BNFL has steadfastly refused to conduct and international Environmental Impact Assessment of its nuclear shipments. Enroute states are being denied any right of prior consultation, while requests that the ships stay out of 200 mile national Economic Exclusion Zones are met with diplomatic sophistry.

For further information contact: Mike Townsley in Cape Town ++ 31 621 296 918 Jon Walter Greenpeace Press Desk ++31-653504731 For archive photo please contacts Greenpeace International Photo Desk +310653819255

A special briefing on why South Africa must take a stronger stance against nuclear transports is available from the Greenpeace Press desk or on the web: { HYPERLINK }

Notes for editors: The Belgian nuclear company, Belgonucleaire, manufactured the MOX fuel for the Tokyo Electric Power Company. In total there is approximately 230kg of plutonium held within the 28 MOX fuel assemblies, combined with uranium oxide. The plutonium was produced from the reprocessing of Japanese spent reactor spent fuel at the Cogema UP3 plant on the la Hague peninsula.

A group of seven yachts sailed by individuals from Australia and New Zealand will be protesting the passage of the nuclear shipment by the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal when they sail through a narrow stretch of international water only 80 miles wide, between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands off the eastern coast of Australia.

Their website is { HYPERLINK } end

For information on Greenpeace please visit:

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For more information on this press release please contact: Greenpeace International Press Office T: ++ 31 20 5249515 F: ++ 31 20 5236212

© Scoop Media

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