PROTESTERS SHAME JAPAN AND UK OVER PLUTONIUM SHIPMENT: DEMAND

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GREENPEACE AUSTRALIA PACIFIC Sydney, Australia Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE July 5, 2002 Suva, Fiji Islands

FIJI GOVERNMENT TAKE ACTION

The UK government today confirmed its shameful arrogance in imposing dangerous nuclear shipments on the Pacific by refusing to meet with a delegation of Fijian community groups.

More than 20 people from the NGO Coalition on Human Rights, representing 13 community groups, held a peaceful vigil outside the Japanese Embassy at 9:30 am, and formed a "procession of shame" to the British High Commission.

The protesters held up a banner with the Japanese, UK and Australian flags proclaiming "Plutonium ships through the Pacific – shame, shame, shame."

A letter was handed to a Japanese Embassy official expressing anger that there had been no response to previous requests to cancel the shipment. But at the British High Commission the delegation was met with verbal abuse from British Embassy staff, and the High Commissioner refused to accept the letter.

"The refusal of the British High Commissioner to meet with us, or accept a letter of concern from the people of Fiji over this lethal plutonium shipment, shows their shameful arrogance and lack of regard for the people of the Pacific.

"The Fiji Government, through the Senate, announced that it is opposed to these shipments. It is time now for the Fiji government to show regional leadership by publicly stating their opposition of these shipments directly to the shipping nations. The Caribbean nations opposition stopped the ships going through their region and the Pacific region needs to do the same.

"The Australian Government is also a willing accomplice in this lethal business. It can prevent the shipping nations from using the Pacific as a shipping route, but will not do so because of its nuclear ambitions. The Australian Government needs to be exposed for its double standards"

The risk of catastrophic accident such as fire or collision involving the Pacific Pintail and release of its cargo of plutonium into the environment is all the greater given the failure of Britain or Japan to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment as required by international law. In recent days it has been revealed that the Pacific Pintail and Teal may be suffering from corrosion that threatens their structural safety. BNFL has refused to release details. The Japanese Government only learned about this latest problem after news reports.

Security is also a major concern as the ships are slow, lightly armed and vulnerable to armed attack. The plutonium contained in this one cargo is sufficient for 50 nuclear weapons if stolen, and could be turned into a giant radiological weapon or "dirty-bomb."

 

GREENPEACE PLUTONIUM SHIPMENT UPDATE

***The FSM Government has issued a statement opposing the passage of the plutonium MOX shipment through their EEZ, stating:

The Government of FSM wishes to reiterate its continued strong opposition to the shipment of MOX fuel through the region, especially through its Exclusive Economic Zone and calls on the nations involved in the plutonium shipping operation to heed the concerns of the Forum Leaders expressed in the 1999 Forum Communiqué….

It is apparent that the shipping nations continue to show disregard for these concerns and ignore their responsibility under international maritime law.

In that respect, the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia urges the shipping nations involved to immediately reconsider their plan to transit through the region with the shipment of MOX fuel.

***Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase today expressed concern over the possibility of accidents involving the shipment:

"After all these things are made by men and it is always that possibility…We are going to the Pacific Island Forum next month here in Fiji, and I’m sure we’re going to voice our concerns once more."

***Foreign Minister Phil Goff says New Zealand has strongly reiterated to the nuclear shipping states its opposition to the shipment through the Pacific of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel from Japan to Britain.

***In Suva, Fiji today, more than 20 protesters from the NGO coalition on Human Rights held a peaceful vigil outside the Japanese Embassy and formed a "procession of shame" to the British High Commission. A later delegation to the Australian High Commission was turned away by security guards.

***In Canberra, Australia, Greenpeace activists climbed onto the roof of the Japanese Embassy unfurling a banner, which read "Japan, UK, Australia – Fuelling Plutonium Terror." Two activists were arrested. A procession of vehicles drove under police escort to the British High Commission delivering the same message.

***The shipment is due to approach the EEZ of FSM from July 10.

***There is a high likelihood the plutonium shipment will pass through Fiji or Vanuatu’s EEZ around July 17, during the ACP meeting.

***This is the first plutonium shipment since September 11, raising concerns that it could be a terrorist target.

For further information:

Angie Heffernan, Greenpeace Pacific Nuclear Campaigner, ph: 3312 861 or mo: 9922 044 Carolin Wenzel, Greenpeace Media Officer, ph: 3312 861 or mo: 9922 078 Simon Boxer, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner, ph: 3312 861 or mo: 00 31 629 001 132

Internet http://www.Greenpeace.org 

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