Nuclear Free Seas Floatilla

Nuclear Free Seas

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Atlantic flotilla to protest at plutonium shipments

Andrew Spurrier in Paris

GREENPEACE and other environmental organisations have started to muster a flotilla of small boats to try to stop the shipment this summer of 150 kg of weapons-grade plutonium from Charleston in the US to Cherbourg in France. The creation of the so-called Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla was launched simultaneously in Charleston and Cherbourg on Monday. The seafarer-activists behind the initiative indicate that their objective is not to block the route of the shipment but to prevent it taking place by drawing public attention to it by "peaceful and lawful waterborne protest". In Charleston, the flotilla is being backed by Citizens Against Plutonium, while in France, a local skipper, Philippe Marechal, has been given the tasking of mustering support for the venture with Greenpeace backing. He is due to begin visiting ports along the west coast of France and in the Channel Islands to publicise the venture among owners of pleasure boats and other small craft. Greenpeace France said that those taking part would have to sign a good conduct charter by which they would pledge, among other things, to be non-violent.

No date is expected to be fixed for the plutonium shipment but Greenpeace said yesterday that it was likely to take place in August. Two armed British vessels, the Pacific Teal and the Pacific Pintail,are to transport the plutonium from Charleston Naval Weapons Station to Cherbourg, from where it will be taken to Cadarache in southern France for conversion into nuclear fuel. The nuclear fuel will then be taken back to the US to be tested in the Catwaba reactor in southern Carolina. The plutonium to be shipped comes from nuclear warheads which are being scrapped in accordance with international disarmament treaties. Greenpeace says it wants the plutonium stored in safety rather than transported. The Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla is the latest in a series created in recent years to draw attention to French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific and nuclear fuels shipments in the Pacific and the Tasman and Irish seas.