Greenpeace demands halt to U.S. nuclear shipment plans after plutonium contamination accident in France
Washington/Paris, 10 September 2004 - In response to yesterday's revelation of an accident at the French Cadarache nuclear plant (1), which has contaminated two workers, Greenpeace has called for the immediate cancellation of next week's plans to send US weapons grade plutonium to the facility.
According to a statement by the French nuclear regulator, CEA, two workers were contaminated on Monday when radioactive plutonium and uranium leaked from a container. The workers are now undergoing urgent health checks. The CEA said the accident was due to a 'violation of procedures'.
"In addition to exposing the workers to danger, this accident exposes risks of producing plutonium MOX fuel. It is one more reason why the United States should not send its plutonium to Cadarache next week," said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International.
The French nuclear facility, which is operated by nuclear state company AREVA/Cogema, has a long history of leaks and accidents.
"There is no justification for this transport as the whole policy of using weapons plutonium in reactors is dangerously misguided. After September 11th terrorist attack, any risk to international security by shipping plutonium across the ocean should be automatically avoided." said Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France.
Two armed British ships are expected to arrive at the South Carolina port of Charleston on September 15 to pick up a cargo of weapons grade plutonium.
Notes to Editor:
(1) The accident occurred at the 'ATPu' plutonium fuel (MOX) manufacturing plant at the Cadarache nuclear complex. The AtPu will be used for three months to manufacture MOX fuel before shipping it back to the United States. A detailed report on ATPu can be found at: http://www.stop-plutonium.org in a report for Greenpeace International in July 2003 "LTA Briefing" commissioned by GPI from independent consultancy WISE-Paris.
Photos and background information on nuclear transport ships and plutonium in France available at http://www.stop-plutonium.org