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G8 Leaders Urged To Stop Plutonium Production

G-8 Summit: critical test of global will to stop nuclear proliferation

Savannah, U.S., 8 June 2004 - On the opening day of the G-8 Summit, Greenpeace is urging leaders to support the global effort to stop production of all plutonium, the key radioactive ingredient to nuclear weapons, and to remove existenting nuclear material from any commercial programme, secure it and manage it as nuclear waste. The environmental organisation also calls on the world leaders not to fund the programme to build a plutonium fuel plant in Russia (1).

"The G-8 leaders can make historic decisions on our future by producing a roadmap that will lead to a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons materials," said Tom Clements of Greenpeace International.

During the Summit, proliferation issues will be discussed in the context of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), created last year to interdict ships suspected of carrying nuclear weapons materials, and the Global Partnership (2), launched at the 2002 summit. While the G-8 countries may announce an expanded role for these initiatives, support for creating a plutonium fuel infrastructure in Russia is in direct contradiction to the goals of halting the spread of weapons-usable materials and reducing the vulnerability of such materials to theft, diversion or reuse in nuclear weapons.

"The G-8 is fully aware that building a plutonium fuel plant in Russia will lead to more plutonium, which runs counter to global non-proliferation efforts. The summit partners must not allow Russia to trick the G-8 into paying for establishment of a dangerous plutonium processing infrastructure in Russia," said Vladimir Tchouprov of Greenpeace Russia.

The City of Savannah, where the summit is being held, is located downstream from the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS), where 40 metric tonnes of weapons plutonium was produced in military reactors. Radiation from the site can be detected in the river adjacent to the G-8 media centre. SRS is the site proposed for a U.S. MOX plant, though construction authorisation has not been obtained.

The G-8 leaders will address the fate of plutonium stored at Savannah River Site and in Russia as both plutonium "disposition" programs are to be carried out in parallel. Greenpeace has long-advocated dealing with this material as nuclear waste, along with plutonium in France, Great Britain, and Japan, as nuclear waste.

In parallel with the summit, Greenpeace is sponsoring a photo exhibit entitled Half Life: Living with the Effects of Nuclear Waste by photographer Robert Knoth. The exhibit underscores the social, health and environmental costs of weapons plutonium production in Russia.

Note to Editors: (1). Plutonium fuel is called mixed uranium-plutonium oxide, or MOX.

(2). Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction : a major focus on the 2002 Summit in Canada was the threat posed by the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction, and the risks of the nuclear, chemical and biological legacies of the Former Soviet Union. One of the headline announcements at the Summit was a commitment by G8 leaders to provide up to $20 billion over ten years from 2003 to support projects, initially in Russia, to address non-proliferation, disarmament, counter-terrorism and nuclear safety issues.

The Half-Life exhibit will run through June 15 at the Starland Center for Contemporary Art, 2428 Bull Street, Savannah, Georgia.

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