PLUTONIUM SHIPS STRANDED OFF JAPANESE COAST IN BAD WEATHER,

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE September 22, 1999

GREENPEACE URGE LAST CHANCE REJECTION OF PLUTONIUM FUEL USE IN JAPAN

TOKYO, Japan (September 22, 1999)---The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, carrying nearly 500 kg of weapons-usable plutonium are stranded off the coast of Japan today, said Greenpeace Japan, as the planned unloading at the Fukushima nuclear plant (on the country's north eastern coast) had to be postponed because of severe sea conditions (1). Greenpeace Japan urged the Japanese Government and nuclear utilities to abandon their plutonium program and concentrate instead on establishing an energy system based upon energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, which pose no threat to the global environment or international security.

Early this morning, the Greenpeace Japan ship, the MV Arctic Sunrise, took up position three miles east of Fukushima to bear witness to the delivery of the MOX fuel, containing enough weapons-usable plutonium for 60 nuclear bombs. The Pacific Teal, accompanied by five Maritime Safety Agency (MSA) ships, came within two nautical miles of Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima station (TEPCO) before turning around at 5:45 a.m. and heading back towards international waters. In the meanwhile, the Pacific Pintail, due to deliver its cargo of plutonium fuel to Kansai Electric's Takahama plant (KEPCO) on September 27, had stayed 12 miles east of the station with its single MSA escort. The ships are now expected to wait just inside Japanese territorial waters for a break in the weather.

"This shipment marks the dawning of a deadly new era in Japan's nuclear program, in which vast stocks of weapons-usable plutonium fuel could be brought to Japan. This weapons-usable material pose not only a risk of an environmental disaster in Japan and along the entire 20,000 mile route from Europe, but it also threatens to spark a major proliferation crisis in the Asia Pacific region", said Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.

"These ships with their deadly cargo of plutonium now present a clear danger to the environment and people along Japan's eastern seacoast. We must wake up to this threat and join with the peoples in the endangered en route nations demanding an end to the Japanese Government and nuclear industry's plutonium program," said Suzuki.

Almost immediately after entering Japanese territorial waters at around 2:00 a.m., the MSA vessel which has been accompanying the Arctic Sunrise over the past few days (ZAO) made radio contact with the Greenpeace ship, ordering it out of Japanese territorial waters. The ZAO was claiming that the Arctic Sunrise was no longer entitled "to innocent right of passage". However, no attempt was made to intercept the course of the Greenpeace vessel. "It is absurd that two military-armed ships carrying nearly half a ton of deadly weapons-usable plutonium can claim innocent right of passage to justify transgression of territorial waters of several en route nations, while the same access is denied to a peaceful Greenpeace protest ship", said Sanae Shida, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. 

Last week, confidence in European plutonium-MOX production was further undermined following the revelation that vital quality checks on MOX produced for Takahama by British Nuclear Fuels Limited had been bypassed and data sheets falsified. "There can be no confidence that this has been the only corner cut in plutonium-MOX production. Nor can assurances based upon a review of existing paper work conducted by two companies with a vested interests in claiming the fuel is safe [BNFL and Kansai Electric] be taken seriously", denounced Sanae Shida, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.

While the BNFL data falsification scandal has placed a question mark over the MOX fuel arriving in Japan today, it also underlines that plutonium-MOX fuel is inherently dangerous. Such are the risks linked to this material that even a small error in production could lead to a major accident when it is loaded into a reactor. "Such risks are not worth taking and no MOX fuel should be loaded into Japanese reactors. This last chance warning should not be ignored. It is not too late for Japan to reject the plutonium economy and its inherent environmental and security threats", said Shida.

The current shipment has lead to a massive outcry of opposition from en route States. In keeping with the nuclear industry's tradition of shrouding its dangerous activities in secrecy, there has been no prior consultation or international environmental assessment into the risks of transporting plutonium fuel across the planet, threatening the environment and the health of millions of people. Plutonium is in fact one of the most deadly existing substances, known to cause cancer. Among those who have lodged strenuous objections with the Japanese, French and British Governments are: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Korea and the Association of Caribbean States.

NOTES:

(1) The Pacific Teal has a cargo of 221kg plutonium, contained in 32 MOX (mixed plutonium/uranium-oxide) fuel elements, intended for the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. The plutonium fuel was reprocessed at the controversial La Hague nuclear complex in northern France, operated by the state-controlled company Cogema. It was then assembled into MOX elements by the Belgian company Belgonucleaire. The Pacific Pintail has a cargo of 225 kg of plutonium contained in 8 MOX fuel elements for use in the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan east coast. The plutonium for Kansai, the operator of the Takahama plant, was reprocessed and assembled into MOX fuel at the infamous Sellafield site in northern England, operated by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL). The two ships left Europe on July 21.

For information:

Kazue Suzuki, Greenpeace Japan, mobile +81 90 2249 1502 (on board the Arctic Sunrise) or + 872 130 25 77; Sanae Shida, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, mobile +81 90 2252 9528; Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace International, mobile +81 90 2253 7306; Greenpeace Communication, mobile+81 90 1054 5443; Samantha Magick, Greenpeace Pacific, +679 312861. For further documentation check Greenpeace website at www.Greenpeace.org.

From: Samantha Magick, Greenpeace Pacific

Updates on: 1. Japanese tracking of Greenpeace activities at the site of the MOX loading; 2. Details of a protest against the shipments in Japan over the weekend; 3. An update on the data falsification issue and statement by Japanese NGOs

1. JAPANESE ARMED SHIPS DEPLOYED AGAINST GREENPEACE: GREATER SECURITY THAN FOR WEAPONS-USABLE PLUTONIUM SHIPS

Tokyo, September 18, 1999 --- Since it left the port of Tsuruga on Monday, September 13th, armed Maritime Safety Agency vessels (MSA) have been tracking the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise in the Sea of Japan, Tsugaru Strait and the Pacific Coast.

On September 13th, the "Genkai", equipped with one 40 mm cannon, tracked the Sunrise north along the Sea of Japan coast. On September 17th, in addition to being monitored by an aircraft, a Kunashiri class vessel, the "Miyake," tracked the Arctic Sunrise south along the Japanese coast past Fukushima prefecture. Last night, following the departure of the Miyake, an unidentified vessel took up the surveillance for a few hours and was then replaced at 03h30 hrs (local time) by the "Zao." The Zao has three cannons aboard.

Earlier this year, both the independent think-thank Oxford Research Group and Janes Foreign Report concluded that the "security provided by the lightly-armed Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, which are expected to escort each other, is totally inadequate for transporting about half a ton of plutonium half way around the world." (1)

"Over the past week, the Japanese government has deployed considerably more firepower against Greenpeace than that used to guard the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal, with their cargo of almost half a ton of nuclear-weapons usable plutonium," said Sanae Shida of Greenpeace Japan. "Instead of using their military muscle to intimidate a peaceful Greenpeace ship, the government and nuclear utilities should be concentrating their efforts on how to get out of their dangerous plutonium trade."

The two plutonium ships are due to arrive off the coast of Fukushima power plant during the night of the 21st, early hours of Wednesday September 22nd.

NOTE:

(1) Oxford Research Group, June 1999; Janes Foreign Report, May 13th.

2. JAPANESE PROTEST

September 19th, 1999---Demonstrators marched in Fukushima in the northeast of Japan, protesting against the upcoming arrival of two cargo ships carrying mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel. The two ships will make the first of two stops in Japan on Wednesday at the pier of the Number 1 Fukashima nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company.

3. Data falsification

MTI, the government body responsible for science and environment in Japan has ordered that the MOX fuel expected to arrive in Japan this week will have to be checked before any loading can take place. While Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO), which has contracts with British Nuclear Fuels Limited claims the en route MOX fuel for Takahama is not affected, it still has to be checked.

Both NNFL and COGEMA (the French company responsible for reprocessing) have sent people to their MOX producers to review quality assurance systems. A statement from Japan's Anti-plutonium Coalition (Greenpeace, CNIC and Green Action) has been issued:

"Coalition Response To KEPCO/BNFL Data Falsification Scandal"

The revelation that British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) falsified safety critical data over the quality of MOX fuel produced for the Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear plant should be taken as a final warning over the dangers of Japan's proposed plutonium fuel use program, the nuclear industry simply cannot be trusted, who knows what other corners have been cut or data faked.

Kansai Electric Power Co and Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Government have placed enormous pressure on Prefectural Nuclear Safety Officials to convince them to allow MOX fuel loading. This data falsification scandal will rekindle the safety concerns of the Prefectural regulators over the safety of MOX and stir up a regulatory hornet's nest around Fukishima and Takahama.

Plutonium-MOX fuel is inherently dangerous, it use, manufacture and transport threaten environmental devastation and nuclear proliferation at every turn. Added to the nuclear industry cavalier disregard for safety it is a recipe for disaster, Japan must immediately cancel its so called 'plu-thermal' or plutonium-MOX fuel use program and instead concentrate on genuine solutions to meeting its future energy needs without compromising the heath and well being of current and future generations.

Two British flagged nuclear transport ships are due to arrive in Japan next week loaded with the first ever shipment of plutonium-MOX fuel from Europe to Japan. There has been no public consultation on the safety of these shipments, instead the millions of people in en route nations are being asked to trust the nuclear industry, clearly it is not worthy of such trust.

Given that KEPCO representatives were already at the Sellafield site during the MOX fuel manufacturing process and where supposed to oversee the quality control process the company cannot simply wash its hands of this scandal. The coalition is writing to KEPCO seeking clarification of its role in this scandal and seeking full public disclosure from all involved and the release of all communiqués between BNFL, MITI, TEPCO, KEPCO, etc.

The Coalition is calling on the Government to appoint an independent investigation team to review this scandal. It is simply not good enough to let the nuclear industry regulate itself.

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