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Greenpeace Locates Deadly Plutonium Ships

Greenpeace Locates Deadly Plutonium Ships

8 February 2001


Cape Town - Greenpeace today located a cargo of deadly plutonium/Mox fuel, on board the Pacific Pintail, 315 nautical miles off the coast of South Africa. Containing some 230kg of plutonium and four tonnes of uranium, an accident off the African coastline could result in thousands of cancer deaths and decimate the country's fishing and tourism industries, Greenpeace warned. This latest shipment of weapons-usable plutonium fuel left the French port of Cherbourg on 19 January and is bound for Niigata in Western Japan. The British-flagged freighter the Pacific Pintail is being escorted on its 30,000-km journey by its sister ship the Pacific Teal. Operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd, which is 60% owned by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), both ships are armed with three 30mm naval cannons and carry a contingent of armed civilian police from the UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary. The ships where located some 315 nautical miles west of Cape Town (Pintail: 34 degrees 54 minutes South 12 degrees 10 minutes East - the Teal: 34 degrees 58 minutes South 12 degrees 7 minutes East). While on this occasion the ships honored a request from the South African government to stay outside the countries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the operators argued that they are not bound by such requests and that the route is a matter for the ship's Captain and not the South African Government. On two previous occasions they have violated South Africa's EEZ, despite giving assurances that they would stay outside the zone. This shipment is the first plutonium MOX fuel transported to Japan since the major nuclear scandal in 1999, when vital quality control data for Japanese plutonium fuel produced by the UK government-owned BNFL was deliberately falsified. The 1999 transport also passed the Cape of Good Hope. It has since been agreed that the BNFL MOX will be returned to the UK, quite probably via the Cape of Good Hope. A further 80 shipments of weapons-usable plutonium/MOX fuel could be made from Europe to Japan over the coming decade. "Despite massive international opposition to these deadly transports, the nuclear industry and the Governments of France, the UK and Japan continue to put the environment, health and livelihoods of millions of en route peoples in danger. They continue to refuse en route Governments' even basic rights of consultation and reject calls for an international environmental impact assessment," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International. "If it is so safe, why is it so secret?"


- Mike Townsley +31 6 21 29 69 18 (in Cape Town)
- Jon Walter - Greenpeace Press Desk + 31 6 53 50 47 31
- Luisa Colasimone, Greenpeace Press Desk, +31 6 21 29 69 20

For archive photos please contact Greenpeace International Photo Desk +31 653819255



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