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Round the world winner arrested in Cherbourg

Round the world winner arrested in Cherbourg military dock during US nuclear shipment protest

Cherbourg, France, 3 October 2004 - Eugene Riguidel, one of France's most famous sailors and a member of the Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla, has been arrested for sailing his boat into the military zone of Cherbourg harbour today. Riguidel was detained while he was peacefully protesting the imminent arrival of 140 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium to France.

In addition, John Castle of Guernsey, a long time activist and Greenpeace mariner, and Pernilla Svenberg from Greenpeace International were also arrested as they were on board of Riguidel's boat.

The protest was peaceful and non-violent but commandos in fast inflatable boats converged upon the small craft, cut its sails down, commandeered the vessel and towed it into the military base. Members of the Flotilla and Greenpeace activists have since gone to the military base to call for the release of the three captives. Riguidel won the Whitbread Round the yachting world race in 1980.

"The Atlantic Flotilla opposes the commercial trafficking of nuclear material around the world to suit the purposes and profits of a few nations like the4US or France that profess anti-proliferation policies but do not follow them. This plutonium should never have left the U.S. but instead been treated as nuclear waste", said Philippe Marechal from the Atlantic Flotilla.
During last week's debate, both President Bush and presidential candidate John Kerry agreed that nuclear proliferation is the top threat to U.S. security and that stopping terrorists from obtaining nuclear material is one of the centrepieces of a strategy to make the country safer. This shipment, travelling more than 6,000km across the Atlantic, comes in stark contrast to Bush's boast that the Proliferation Security Initiative, involving 60 countries, is disrupting the shipments of materials for weapons of mass destruction.

In contrast to recent statements made by the U.S. Government and British Nuclear Fuels Company (BNFL), which operates the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, this is not a one-off shipment of plutonium. BNFL currently has over 100 tons of plutonium at its Sellafield nuclear complex in the UK. It plans to ship 50 tons to Europe and Japan over the next 10-20 years. Areva, the French state nuclear company that will manufacture the US plutonium into experimental nuclear fuel, has between 70-80 tons of plutonium sitting at la Hague in Normandy. All of which it plans to transport to clients in Europe and Japan within 10-15 years.

"Greenpeace wants and immediate end to plutonium production and separation and believes current stocks both civil and military should be treated as nuclear waste not shipped around the world as reactor fuel. Plutonium should be mixed with radioactive waste, solidified or vitrified, and stored. This approach would be cheaper, faster, safer, and more secure, " said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International in Cherbourg.

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