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Plutonium Ships Arrive In Japan: En-Route Nations Cite Security Fears
17 June 2002
June 14 Fukui, Japan/Auckland NZ - An armed British nuclear transport ship, the Pacific Pintail, was met by protests from Greenpeace and Japanese anti-nuclear activists as it arrived today at the nuclear reactor port of Takahama, Japan.
The ship, under guard from Japanese coastguard vessels and helicopters entered the port area at 9.00am local time. The vessel is delivering an empty transport container to the reactor site, where it is due to be loaded with rejected plutonium MOX shipped originally in 1999. After being loaded into the container or cask it is planned to ship it back to the UK along one of three secret routes .
The Pacific Pintail left the UK on April 26, together with another armed nuclear freighter, the Pacific Teal. Both vessels passed through the Caribbean Sea, Panama Canal and across the Pacific on their voyage to Japan. Caribbean governments condemned the shipment because of the lack of any notification by the shipping states, Japan and Britain, as well as the threat of terrorist attack and accident. In the last week former security experts, including a former senior UK Government Minister from the Ministry of Defence, have labeled the shipment as vulnerable to armed attack.
Dr Ahmed Ali, Vice President of the Fiji Senate, said today: "The Fiji Government is firmly opposed to all shipments of MOX fuel through its Economic Exclusion Zone and has always made this clear to the shipping states."
Last week the 34 Governments of the Organisation of American States supported and adopted a resolution that called for an assessment of the security threats posed by nuclear transports through the Caribbean Sea. Chile called in the British and Japanese ambassadors on Thursday 6 June to convey its concerns about the shipment.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda made an impassioned plea in reference to the planned plutonium MOX shipment from Japan to the UK and called for an end to nuclear shipments, "Our small states are fearful that a deliberate act of terror aimed at those ships may bring an end to our very existence. This is not fanciful or farfetched fiction."
The route the shipment will take to return to the UK is still being kept secret. However Pacific, Cape Horn and Irish Nuclear Free Seas flotillas have formed to protest the shipments transit through their regions. There are now 8 boats from New Zealand, Australia and Vanuatu committed to the Pacific flotilla. Greenpeace has one boat in the Pacific flotilla.
"I feel very strongly about the danger that these ships pose to our oceans, our lives and our futures. That is why I will be out there in my boat, with my family when they come through," said Bernard Kuczera, one of the skippers in the Nuclear Free Pacific Flotilla.
While the Pintail arrived in Takahama, the Teal is expected to head straight for a Japanese commercial port, probably Kobe. The Pintail is expected to join it there, where during the next few days or weeks the ships will take on provisions, as well as anti-terrorist police from the UK. They are expected to arrive from the UK just prior to the ships' departure from Japan.
"This plutonium MOX should never have been shipped to Japan in the first place. Since BNFL lied to their Japanese customers over the quality of this MOX, countries should be under no illusion now that the bland assurances from BNFL and the British and Japanese Governments that this shipment poses no risk are complacent and irresponsible," said Bunny McDiarmid, Nuclear Campaigner at Greenpeace New Zealand.
"In fact, these shipments present a global threat to the environment through risk of accident or deliberate attack. The fact that BNFL and the Japanese are
trying to make this transport under the cover of the soccer World Cup only exposes further their contempt for public safety. This shipment must be abandoned."
In an attempt to stop the plutonium shipment, Greenpeace is preparing a legal challenge in the UK. Greenpeace yesterday announced at a press conference in Takahama that the Arctic Sunrise, one of the Greenpeace ships, would shortly arrive in Japan to join those opposed to the MOX shipment.
For further information contact Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace NZ Nuclear Campaigner 09 372 3105 or mobile 021 838183shipment. For further information check out http://www.Greenpeace.org/nuclear
The eight MOX assemblies containing 255 kilograms of weapons usable plutonium, as well as uranium, was rejected by Japan after it was admitted by BNFL that they had deliberately falsified vital quality control data for the fuel. The resultant scandal in Japan led to the suspension of plans to load commercial MOX for the first time in Japanese reactors. In 2001, encouraged by the BNFL scandal citizens in the village of Kashiwazaki-kariwa voted to block loading of a batch of French/Belgian MOX fuel delivered also in 1999. In total Japan has shipped over 2,300 kilograms of direct use weapons plutonium from Europe in the last 17 years. Not one gram has been loaded into a nuclear reactor and remains stockpiled at nuclear facilities throughout Japan.