Flotilla stops nuclear shipment in its tracks
Tasman Sea, 21 July 2002 - Two-armed nuclear freighters have halted their passage through the Tasman Sea. They are expected to continue under the cover of darkness to avoid facing the strength of public opinion against plutonium shipments
Information gathered by Greenpeace has verified that the ships have drastically reduced their speed for the first time since leaving Japan. The eleven yachts of the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla are in position between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands in the Tasman Sea. Their presence across the tiny strip of international waters has caused a stand-off between public opinion and the arrogance of the nuclear industry.
“BNFL are on the run, they ran away from Takahama Bay three hours before a court hearing in London which could have stopped this shipment from taking place; they are now running away from our eleven small yachts. They know about the huge opposition they have created in the Pacific and this protest is humiliating for them,” said Richard Allen of the Nuclear Free Flotilla.
The ships were identified by Greenpeace this morning at 27 degrees 34 minutes South and 164 degrees 26 minutes East. Given the position the ships were found yesterday afternoon suggests they are waiting to travel through the flotilla during the middle of the night. The PNTL ships are aware of the exact position of the flotilla through their radar systems on board and suspected submarine activity under the flotilla.
The flotilla boats arrived at their meeting point two days ago and have been preparing to meet up with the ships in order to deliver their protest message. The flotilla boats have more than 50 people from 10 different countries on board. The crews range in age from three to sixty years.
“As an elected member of the New South Wales Parliament, representing many Australians who have expressed strong anti-nuclear sentiment it is an honour to join the 50 people from other nations who are participating in the Nuclear Free Flotilla at their own expense and considerable risk to help create a safe nuclear free future,” said Ian Cohen, the upper house member of the New South Wales Parliament with the flotilla.
The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla protested last year when a shipment of plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) went through the Tasman Sea en route from France to Japan. This year the flotilla has almost doubled in number and the movement has spread to include a flotilla in the Cape Horn region and one in Ireland that will protest the arrival of the ships in the Irish Sea.
The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, carrying a cargo of faulty MOX, which includes 255 kgs of weapons-usable plutonium, left Japan for the UK on Thursday, July 4th. The shipment of faulty MOX is being returned to the UK because its producers, the government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), falsified critical safety data on the fuel and the Japanese refused to use it. As a result of the scandal and due to a loss of confidence by the Japanese communities in the MOX industry, none of the MOX that has been shipped to Japan in the last four years has been used.
“The UK, Japan and France’s attempts to keep the plutonium MOX industry alive are completely irresponsible and show a dangerous disregard for the real proliferation risks,” said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner. “This shipment alone carries enough weapons-usable plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs. Since 1984 Japan has received over 2500 kgs of plutonium, justified as necessary for its energy needs, yet not one gram of that plutonium has been used to generate electricity.”
The two nuclear ships, together with the Governments of Japan and the UK have been met with outrage and opposition from Pacific countries since they first breached the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Federated States of Micronesia on July 13th. The ships passed within 30 nautical miles of the capital Pohnpei despite a request from the Government that they stay outside the 200 mile zone. The Prime Minister of Fiji called on the 600 delegates to the Africa Caribbean and Pacific Summit in Fiji this week to support the Pacific in opposing these shipments.
“The Pacific Nations have called for an immediate stop to the transport of nuclear shipments through their waters. The UK and Japan can no longer ignore their demands. The fact that the ships have stopped where they are shows that they will avoid breaching the Exclusive Economic Zones New Zealand and Australia at all costs, yet they blatantly stormed through the EEZ’s of at least six Pacific Nations. This shows their arrogant double standards to the region,”said McDiarmid..
Crew are available for interviews on the following vessels:
Richard Allen on board SV Ranui – Iridium phone #: 008816 314 29569 Ian Cohen on board SV Tiama – Inmarsat phone #: 00872 762639082
For other details contact:
Pia Mancia, Nuclear Free Pacific Flotilla Coordinator, in Auckland 021 799 661 Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner, 021 838 183 Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Nuclear Press Officer, in Sydney +31 65 350 4731
Photographs available from Olivia Bradley, Greenpeace AV Co-ordinator in Sydney +61 438 422 572 / +61 2 9263 0350 or John Novis, Greenpeace Photo Desk, in Amsterdam +31 65 381 9121
The flotilla website http://www.nuclearfreeflotilla.org is being updated regularly
For more on the Stop Plutonium Campaign and join the virtual flotilla see http://www.greenpeace.org/~nuclear/bnfl
The full speech from Fiji Prime Minister http://www.acp.fiji.gov.fj/speeches/laisenia_qarase.html