Plutonium ships run from protest as flotilla delivers message
Tasman Sea, July 22 2002. The Nuclear Free Flotilla successfully delivered its message of protest to the two armed UK nuclear freighters this morning, despite the freighters best efforts to sneak through the flotilla's line in the dead of night.
Two activists from the flotilla were dropped into the water at dawn, after catching up with the two plutonium ships in an inflatable boat. The two swimmers, Ian Cohen, the upper house member of the New South Wales Parliament and Stuart Lennox of Tasmania, held up a banner, which read "Nuclear Free Pacific" as the two ships passed.
"As an elected member of the New South Wales Parliament, representing many Australians who have expressed strong anti-nuclear sentiment, I wanted to make sure that there was no doubt in these shippers minds that they are not welcome in this region," said Ian Cohen.
The flotilla boats also radioed their message of protest to the ships after they picked them up on the radar around midnight and moved to intercept them.
"We may be ten boats but our strength is that we carry the wishes and demands of many thousands of people. It is pretty clear from the plutonium shippers avoidance tactics overnight that they are scared to face public opinion," said New Zealand resident, Henk Haazen from the Nuclear Free Flotilla. "However they will not be able to avoid the growing public and government pressure building against them from Japan all the way to the Irish Sea, to stop this insane business."
A similar protest was carried out last year when a shipment of plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) went through the Tasman en route from France to Japan. The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla movement has grown to include a flotilla in the Cape Horn region and one in Ireland that is preparing to protest the arrival of the ships in the Irish Sea.
The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal are carrying a cargo of faulty MOX, including 255 kgs of weapons-usable plutonium, that left Japan for the UK on Thursday, July 4th. The shipment of faulty MOX is being returned to the UK because its producers, the technically bankrupt government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), falsified critical safety data on the fuel and the Japanese refused to use it. As a result of the scandal and due to a loss of confidence by the Japanese communities in the MOX industry, none of the MOX that has been shipped to Japan in the last four years has been used.
"The proliferation and environmental risks that this industry takes in producing plutonium are enormous. To then ship it increases the risks many times, and passes these risks to every coastal nation en route," said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner. "It is clear from the strength of government and public opposition to this current shipment that it is no longer a question of 'if' these shipments are stopped but when."
Tasman Sea, July 22, 2002. As predicted by Greenpeace and the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla the two-armed UK nuclear freighters are sneaking through the flotilla protest line between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. When darkness fell the nuclear freighters sped up to push through at midnight local time under the cover of night.
The flotilla was positioned in international waters when the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal were picked up on radar sneaking through the protest line between the SV Tiama and Fio- oko.
The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla has launched an inflatable and is shadowing the ship to deliver its message of protest. On board is Ian Cohen, upper house member of the New South Wales Parliament.
"The fact that these freighters are pushing through us in the dead of the night shows that they are humiliated by our presence. We may only be 10 boats but we carry the wishes and demands of millions of people, who want an end to the monstrous nuclear industry worldwide. We?re now going to make sure that they get our message loud and clear," said New Zealand resident Henk Haazen of the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla.
Tasman Sea, 21 July 2002 - Two-armed nuclear freighters have halted their passage through the Tasman Sea. They are expected to continue under the cover of darkness to avoid facing the strength of public opinion against plutonium shipments.
Information gathered by Greenpeace has verified that the ships have drastically reduced their speed for the first time since leaving Japan. The eleven yachts of the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla are in position between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands in the Tasman Sea. Their presence across the tiny strip of international waters has caused a stand-off between public opinion and the arrogance of the nuclear industry.
"BNFL are on the run, they ran away from Takahama Bay three hours before a court hearing in London which could have stopped this shipment from taking place; they are now running away from our eleven small yachts. They know about the huge opposition they have created in the Pacific and this protest is humiliating for them," said Richard Allen of the Nuclear Free Flotilla.
The ships were identified by Greenpeace this morning at 27 degrees 34 minutes South and 164 degrees 26 minutes East. Given the position the ships were found yesterday afternoon suggests they are waiting to travel through the flotilla during the middle of the night. The PNTL ships are aware of the exact position of the flotilla through their radar systems on board and suspected submarine activity under the flotilla.
The flotilla boats arrived at their meeting point two days ago and have been preparing to meet up with the ships in order to deliver their protest message. The flotilla boats have more than 50 people from 10 different countries on board. The crews range in age from three to sixty years.
"As an elected member of the New South Wales Parliament, representing many Australians who have expressed strong anti-nuclear sentiment it is an honour to join the 50 people from other nations who are participating in the Nuclear Free Flotilla at their own expense and considerable risk to help create a safe nuclear free future," said Ian Cohen, the upper house member of the New South Wales Parliament with the flotilla.
The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla protested last year when a shipment of plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) went through the Tasman Sea en route from France to Japan. This year the flotilla has almost doubled in number and the movement has spread to include a flotilla in the Cape Horn region and one in Ireland that will protest the arrival of the ships in the Irish Sea.
The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, carrying a cargo of faulty MOX, which includes 255 kgs of weapons-usable plutonium, left Japan for the UK on Thursday, July 4th. The shipment of faulty MOX is being returned to the UK because its producers, the government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), falsified critical safety data on the fuel and the Japanese refused to use it. As a result of the scandal and due to a loss of confidence by the Japanese communities in the MOX industry, none of the MOX that has been shipped to Japan in the last four years has been used.
"The UK, Japan and France?s attempts to keep the plutonium MOX industry alive are completely irresponsible and show a dangerous disregard for the real proliferation risks," said Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner. "This shipment alone carries enough weapons-usable plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs. Since 1984 Japan has received over 2500 kgs of plutonium, justified as necessary for its energy needs, yet not one gram of that plutonium has been used to generate electricity."
The two nuclear ships, together with the Governments of Japan and the UK have been met with outrage and opposition from Pacific countries since they first breached the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Federated States of Micronesia on July 13th. The ships passed within 30 nautical miles of the capital Pohnpei despite a request from the Government that they stay outside the 200 mile zone. The Prime Minister of Fiji called on the 600 delegates to the Africa Caribbean and Pacific Summit in Fiji this week to support the Pacific in opposing these shipments.
"The Pacific Nations have called for an immediate stop to the transport of nuclear shipments through their waters. The UK and Japan can no longer ignore their demands. The fact that the ships have stopped where they are shows that they will avoid breaching the Exclusive Economic Zones New Zealand and Australia at all costs, yet they blatantly stormed through the EEZ?s of at least six Pacific Nations. This shows their arrogant double standards to the region,"said McDiarmid.
Auckland 20 July, 2002 - The Nuclear Free Pacific Flotilla have announced that they are in position off Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea and are ready for two plutonium ships expected through the area early tomorrow morning.
"Our very presence here sends an extremely strong message to those shipping dangerous material, that we want our seas to be nuclear free and make no mistake we will win this, people power will prevail," said Richard Allen from onboard the yacht Ranui.
"We are eleven boats here today but we carry the determination of thousands of people in the region that do not want to see our Pacific and Tasman turned into a nuclear highway," said Allen.
There are 51 people onboard the yachts and nationalities represented onboard the flotilla include New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon, France, USA, UK, Germany, Holland and Poland.
The yachts which departed from New Zealand, Australia and Vanuatu, have battled big seas and unpredictable weather, met between Norfolk and Lord Howe Island and are preparing to bear witness to the transport of plutonium MOX waste due through there in early Sunday morning.
The Flotilla is protesting the transport of a radioactive cargo of plutonium MOX waste from Japan through the region on its way back to the UK which is onboard the UK freighters Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal.