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Greenpeace Ship in France Ahead of U.S. Plutonium

Greenpeace ship arrives in France ahead of U.S. weapons plutonium transport

Cherbourg, Normandy, France, 27 September 2004 - The Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza has arrived at the French port of Cherbourg, where it will await the arrival of a weapons-grade plutonium shipment from the United States (1). The Esperanza will support the Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla yachts, which are planning to demonstrate against the deadly nuclear shipment.

Expected to soon arrive in Cherbourg, the cargo of 140kg of plutonium oxide will then travel 1000km overland to the Cadarache nuclear complex, near Aix en Provence. At Cadarache, it will be fabricated into experimental plutonium nuclear reactor fuel (2) before being shipped back to the U.S. next year.

"The US and France are unnecessarily threatening international security and the environment. There is no conceivable justification for this transport". said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International in Cherbourg.

Every year in France, more than 10,000 kilograms of plutonium are transported from the La Hague reprocessing plant in Normandy to nuclear fuel fabrication plants elsewhere in France. In stark contrast to stringent security surrounding U.S, plutonium transports, the weekly French transports of weapons-usable plutonium are carried out in non-armoured vehicles under low-level police protection (3).

"The French government now has a real dilemma: if this shipment is conducted with US style military security then how will state nuclear industry Areva be able to continue justifying the paltry protection for the thousands of kilos of plutonium transported around the country each year?" said Burnie.

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Last week, the international environmental organization Greenpeace submitted technical studies to the French and U.S. Administration, members of Congress and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, citing violations in security and safety regulations by the French authorities carrying out the transport (4).

Rather than shipping plutonium around the world, presenting a target for terrorists and placing people and the environment en-route at an unacceptable risk, Greenpeace believes it should be mixed with highly radioactive waste, solidified or vitrified, and
stored. This technically feasible option, opposed by the plutonium industry, would be quicker, minimize transports, cost less and be far more secure.

A briefing to media on this deadly cargo and the French plutonium industry will be held in Paris on Tuesday 28 September (5).

Notes to Editor:

(1). The UK flagged nuclear transport ships the Pacific Teal and Pacific Pintail left the U.S. port of Charleston on September 20th.. See for documents, briefings, photos and video clips in French and English.

(2) Plutonium fuel is called mixed uranium-plutonium oxide, or MOX.

(3). Greenpeace has tracked and documented plutonium transports in France over the past two years, including a protest that stopped a cargo of 150kg in the town of Chalon, south of Paris in 2003. In response, a secrecy decree was issued on 9 August by the senior defense official at the Ministry of Industry, D. Lallemand who reports directly to Prime Minister Raffarin. The decree seeks to prevent the public disclosure of sensitive information on plutonium transports. Last week Areva warned that the secrecy decree would apply to the U.S. transport.

(4). English doc on page:

Plutonium Transports in France - Safety and Security Concerns over the FS47 Transportation Cask - Y. Marignac, X. Coeytaux, J. H. Large - 21 September 2004 S47.pdf

IAEA Requirements on Design Basis Threat Assessment - Non Compliance of
Eurofab Shipment from US to France on UK Vessel: Security and Physical
Protection Issues J. H. Large, Y. Marignac - 20 September 2004

(5). Media briefing at: Hotel des Etats-Unis, 16 rue d'Antin, Paris. Time: 03.00 p.m.

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