International Nuclear Free Flotilla awaits imminent arrival of Plutonium Ships in Cherbourg, France
Russell, NZ 2 October 2004 Nuclear weapons grade plutonium crossed the Atlantic escorted by an American nuclear submarine this week. The plutonium carrying ships, the Pacific Teal and Pacific Pintail are now approaching the French port of Cherbourg where an international flotilla of French, English and Irish protest vessels are waiting.
Today the Flotilla 'flew the flag" with a sail-by in Cherbourg Harbour. The flag of the Flotilla was first used by New Zealand seafarers during the 1995 Moruroa protests. Security forces continually shepherded the Flotilla away from the restricted zone that has been declared in Cherbourg for the arrival of the plutonium ships.
This shipment is nearly a ton of reprocessed military plutonium . In powder form it is the nuclear industry's best effort for continuing to make experimental MOX (plutonium/uranium) fuel for nuclear reactors. The French company Areva/Cogema (who entered a yacht in the America's Cup contest in Auckland last year),is to make this shipped powder into pellets and fabricate these into the fuel rods used in reactors and then Areva will ship these rods ,on the same ships, back to the US for use in Duke Energies Catawba reactor for testing.
''It's still just experimental to use mixed oxide like this in commercial nuclear reactors designed for the more predictable pure Uranium. There are many known dangers and even more unknowns. The transport, and terrorism, being only part of the risk to life and limb'' said Dr Tony Atkinson of the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla Trust. ''These reactors have all been designed to use the more easily controlled pure Uranium. The Japanese have strongly resisted introducing any of the shipments of MOX that it received from British Nuclear Fuels through the Tasman Sea, in 2001 and 2002. So now, turned down by the Japanese, the industry in the USA has realised it has to conduct the experiment on itself''.
Anna Horne, a trustee for The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla Trust, based in New Zealand, which maintains a website for seafarers worldwide wanting to protest against the practices of the nuclear industry, today said "We witnessed the grounding and near sinking of the modern frigate HMS Nottingham in the Tasman sea during the passage of these very same nuclear cargo ships in 2002" which reminds us that we cannot minimise the danger posed by this continuing international trade in nuclear bomb material .
People are very distracted currently by the more visible treats to world peace, so I'm enormously relieved to know that the seafarers in Europe are not.''
Photo of flag available on request.
Daily update, and facts on Plutonium see www.nuclearfreeflotilla.org
Contacts NZ: Tony Atkinson 09 403 7233 / 021 368 210
Anna Horne 07 866 4637