Flotilla Launched to Protest Plutonium Shipment
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security issued warnings that the United States is at increased risk for terrorist attack through the late summer. Despite this new awareness being focused on our vulnerability, particularly in our ports, the Department of Energy has been granted a licence to ship 330 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium through Charleston Harbor to Cherbourg, France later this summer. This quantity of plutonium, if it were attacked by terrorists, would have a destructive power equivalent to fifty dirty bombs. Today, we hold press conferences in Charleston and in Cherbourg, France to highlight the danger of these shipments.
The transport is part of a plan to put MOX (mixed oxide) fuel into commercial use, which is an expensive, ineffective and dangerous way to 'recycle' nuclear waste by separating out weapons-grade plutonium and converting it into MOX fuel to be used again in a nuclear reactor.
Plutonium is one of the most dangerous substances known, with a half-life of 24,000 years, and no plutonium transport can be made absolutely safe. Whenever the deadly substance is moved, there will be a risk of accidents, leaks, theft or terrorist attack. This means plutonium could be dispersed into the ocean and coast of the Southeastern United States or Europe, poisoning people and the environment for thousands of years to come.
In response, citizens here in Charleston, and citizens of Cherbourg, France are mobilizing a Nuclear Free Atlantic Flotilla to foster public awareness about the hazardous shipment, which is expected to happen in September. We are issuing this statement jointly with our French counterparts as we prepare to join the history of seafarers taking their boats out to protect their environment from plutonium. In 2001, a flotilla of small sailing vessels set out from Australia and New Zealand into the Tasman Sea to peacefully protest the transport of MOX. This protest helped strengthen the resolve of people in Japan, who managed to block the loading of MOX. To date not a single light bulb is lit up in Japan by MOX.
A Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla, formed by people concerned about nuclear transports, protested a shipment of MOX. These protests were very successful in getting the message across to the various governments and the nuclear industry. No MOX plutonium fuel has been transported along this route since then.
Now, it is time for Charleston to continue this tradition. By peacefully and lawfully going to sea with our boats and making the shipment visible to the world by our presence there, we will highlight the dangers of these shipments. So far, the S.C. Nuclear-Free Atlantic Flotilla Members include William Hallman and the Solitude, Blake Hallman and his Sailfish, John McCarter and the Lady Emily, Bob Guild and his Coastal Cruiser, and Katrina Clayton and the Carolina Belle, along with several shrimping boats.
The flotilla aims to stop the shipments of plutonium through public awareness. By legally and peacefully protesting these shipments, we hope to induce the Department of Energy to abandon its plan for shipping this nuclear material. In the coming weeks and months, we wish to foster and encourage legitimate, peaceful protest activities to bear witness to and publicize any form of nuclear proliferation likely to pollute or damage the health of humans or the environment.
Our protest sends a message to the American and French governments and the nuclear industries that many citizens oppose these shipments. Plutonium shipments are not welcome in Charleston, or anywhere!