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February 28, 2001



Dear Editor,

The misconceptions and misrepresentations that appear in the article "Tito calls on Pacific to revise nuclear stand" that appeared in Monday’s paper, cannot go unanswered.

To replace fossil fuel use with nuclear power- as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, President Teburoro Tito suggests- is to simply replace one dangerous and dirty polluting industry with another. While nuclear energy does not contribute to global warming, it causes a whole raft of equally dangerous problems.

Nuclear energy has an appalling safety record and has a huge radioactive waste disposal problem. Because of one accident at Chernobyl, 3.5 million people living on Ukranian territory are still contaminated by radiation. Between 1986 and 2000, 1,400 young people who were children at the time of the accident had their thyroid glands removed because of cancer. Over 2.5 million hectares of rich agricultural land have been withdrawn from cultivation.

By attempting to portray itself as a clean carbon free technology, the nuclear industry, is exploiting the concerns of countries like Kiribati- which are directly threatened by the sea level rise that attends global warming. But the only way to combat global warming is to move towards renewable energy technologies. Many Pacific Island nations including Nauru, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands, have made this clear in the international climate negotiations since 1997 in rejecting the use of nuclear energy as a solution to global warming.

President Tito says the Japanese government seeks special understanding of the Pacific over the issue of nuclear power, because "nuclear energy is matter of survival for them." Yet requests from the Pacific Islands Forum for special understanding of the impact these shipments could have on their very livelihoods have gone unheeded.

Pacific Island countries have been asking for nuclear liability and compensation regimes, proper notification of when a ship is passing through our waters and a comprehensive safety plan in case of an accident for some years. The response from the shipping nations of Japan, France and Britain has been lukewarm to say the least. It is time for the Pacific Islands Forum to take the offensive- not for it and its Chair to back down.

Japanese media have already reported that the shipping company is considering using an Arctic route because of en-route pressure. The Argentinean Court of Appeal has ruled that the use of its sea-lanes for the shipment of high level nuclear waste is against that country’s constitution.

On the same day President Tito made his comments the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat issued a statement again expressing its disappointment in the transhipment of nuclear materials through our region. This is the right message, and one we must keep delivering to Japan, Britain and France.

Angenette Heffernan Greenpeace Pacific

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