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Transport Of Plutonium Completely Irresponsible

Transport Of Plutonium Completely Irresponsible
Tasman Announced As Route

Auckland, New Zealand, 5 July 2002: Greenpeace said that the decision by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) and Kansai Electric to transport reject plutonium by sea back to England is incredibly irresponsible. The two armed UK freighters the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal departed Japan last night and are en-route to England via the Tasman Sea.

“To send highly radioactive materials on a six-week, 18,000 mile journey on the high seas was a stupid idea before 11 September. In today's context it can only be described as insane,” said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner.

The plutonium MOX was originally shipped to Japan in 1999 but the producers, government owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) were found to have falsified critical safety data and the Japanese refused to use it. The reject plutonium includes 255 kgs of weapons-usable plutonium.

BNFL has set aside NZ$ 412m to compensate Japan and to cover the costs of returning the faulty MOX in the hope that they will secure new contracts with the Japanese. If this happens we can expect up to 80 more shipments between Japan and Europe. However, the Japanese plutonium programme is in disarray with opposition in prefectures where MOX is planned to be used.

The risk of an accident at sea is always there, as seen with the grounding of an oil tanker off Fiji last week. “The stakes are raised when you send such a dangerous cargo through some of the roughest seas on board a vessel carrying 1,100 tonnes of fuel and live ammunition.”

In recent days it has been revealed that the Pacific Pintail and Teal also have a corrosion problem which BNFL have refused to release details about. The Japanese nuclear industry which are part owners of the vessels together with the UK and French Governments only learnt about this problem after news reports.

Greenpeace welcomes the New Zealand Government’s commitment to have Orion’s observing the movements of the boats so that they do not enter New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

A Pacific flotilla of 12 boats is setting out from NZ, Australia, and Vanuatu this weekend to protest the passage of the shipment. Seven boats, reminisce of the Moruroa flotilla, will depart the Viaduct Basin, Auckland on Sunday lunchtime (July 7) and will meet the five other boats in the middle of the Tasman Sea.

Contact: Bunny McDiarmid 021 838 183 or Brendan Lynch 021 790 817


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