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2002 | 2002 News Archive | Press Statements | Growing Opposition | Government Statements

Minister Ahern Slams Creation of Nuclear Waste Highway in Irish Sea

Message from the Prime Minister of NZ

Government of the Republic of Vanuatu

Fiji Government Statement to Fiji Senate.

Congressman Underwood concerned over nuclear fuel shipment through the Pacific

Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase opening address to 600 delegates at the African-Caribbean-Pacific Summit, Nadi, Fiji Thursday July 18, 11:10am

Minister Ahern Slams Creation of Nuclear Waste Highway in Irish Sea

Dublin, Wednesday, 28 August 2002

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern T.D., today reiterated the Irish Government?s concerns about the shipment of nuclear waste to the British nuclear plant at Sellafield.

Speaking on board the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior, Minister Ahern said "I am vehemently opposed to the very existence of the Sellafield Nuclear complex which is turning the Irish Sea into a nuclear fuel highway ? the final destination for other nations nuclear waste. The Irish Government and the Irish people share this view."

Minister Ahern added "We are currently taking action against this type of shipment on a number of fronts and will continue to pursue the issue through the IMO and any other relevant international fora. It is important that action is taken through the proper channels and in accordance with international law. In this context we will use all political, legal and diplomatic channels to achieve our ultimate goal which is the closure of Sellafield."

The Minister pointed out that Ireland played a key role at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which agreed the Irradiated Nuclear Fuels (INF) Code which governs the transport of Irradiated Nuclear Fuels by sea, which has been made mandatory.

Minister Ahern said that his Department would be carefully monitoring the shipment in the coming weeks to ensure its compliance with agreed procedures.

The Minister concluded "Officials from my Department will meet with Greenpeace personnel tomorrow to share information on the issues concerned."

Message from the Prime Minister

20 July 2002

Best wishes to all those with the Greenpeace flotilla protesting against the transport of nuclear material through the Tasman Sea.

Your commitment in sailing in heavy seas for the cause of a nuclear free New Zealand is commended throughout the country.

I wish you a successful mission and a safe return home.

Helen Clark
Prime Minister
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Government of the Republic of Vanuatu

17 July 2002

The Government of Vanuatu wishes to strongly express its concern over information it has received regarding the shipment of rejected Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) from Japan back to the United Kingdom. While the exact routing cannot be determined, the Government of Vanuatu is again reiterating its strong opposition over the shipment and is strongly urging both Britain and Japan to ensure the shipment does not enter the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Vanuatu.

While the Government of Vanuatu may have been advised on the shipment, the immediate and real issue of concern is the potential dangers posed by the shipment regardless of the assurances it has received on the safety standards that have been applied. As coastal states, it is apparent that the concerns of Vanuatu and other Pacific island nations are being ignored by the large shipping nations, therefore creating distrust.

The continuing shipment of nuclear waste through the Pacific is again a clear demonstration of contempt for the Pacific region?s efforts in ensuring this vast ocean remains free from any form of nuclear activities, as enshrined in the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. The Government of Vanuatu is urging those responsible not to compromise regional concerns, reflected in recent Forum Communiques, over these shipments. The Government of Vanuatu therefore wishes to condemn future plans to use the Pacific Ocean as a highway for nuclear waste shipments and will be calling on the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in Fiji next month to adopt a stronger position on this critical matter.

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Fiji Government Statement to Fiji Senate.

Dr Ahmed Ali, Vice President of the Fiji Senate, Friday 14th June 2002. Senate Answers to Labour questions, Senate, Suva, Fiji.


The Fiji Government has not been advised by the shipping states about the shipment but Greenpeace is claiming that there is an imminent shipment of the return of the MOX fuel from Japan to UK which was subject of the falsification of data by the UK reprocessing plant.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade has arranged a meeting with Greenpeace and will take note of the information so provided.

Question 1
If the shipments come through the Pacific on their way to Japan, the usually pass between New Zealand and Australia, past Solomon Islands and Nauru and then move north, so it is unlikely that they will enter the EZZ of Fiji. Assurances have been given by the shippers that the shipments meet international regulations.
Question 2
The Fiji Government has not been notified of any MOX shipment by shipping states. However for information, shipping states would usually advise the coastal states before the ship sets sail. Information is given in confidence.
Question 3
We have consulted all representatives of shipping states in Fiji but there is no information available as they themselves have not been advised of such by their capitals.
Question 4
(a) Fiji trough the Pacific Island Forum has been advised that there have been environmental impact assessments conducted. In meetings with shipping states, we have requested all information relevant to the route through our region. We are aware of the need for greater vigilance post 11 September and the Government will take all the steps necessary to ensure the protection of our people, our environment and our region. Where information suggests risks the Fiji Government will contact the shipping states beforehand to ensure our security and safeguards for our country.
(b) Yes there have been accidents associated with the nuclear industry, but none that we are aware of during transhipment, that were nuclear related incidents. There was an incident where a crew member had to be air lifted because he had had an accident on board - we are aware of that occurrence.
Question 5
Under current international law (UNCLOS) coastal states cannot prohibit the passage of shipments through their EEZ. There is a provision under UNCLOS that provides that such shipments are presumed to be innocent. Greenpeace relies on other provisions under UNCLOS on the obligation of parties to protect the environment to claim that such shipments are not innocent passage. There is nothing of course to prevent the Government of Fiji from asking the shipping states to not pass through its waters - where that it is deemed necessary Government will act accordingly, where its information or assessment so advises, Government will so act.
Question 6
The Fiji Government is firmly opposed to all shipments of MOX fuel through its EEZ and has always made this clear to shipping states. As a member of the Pacific Island Forum we have been party to all regional initiatives and collaboration in the dialogue with shipping states directly and through resolutions both on the bilateral and multilateral basis. For example the current initiative on a compensation regime, in which Fiji has been actively involved.
Question 7
Fiji and Pacific Island Forum member states have a common position as per the Forum Communiqu?s of September 1997 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands and October 1999, Koror, Republic of Palau. Fiji can of course take a stronger position i.e. ask for the shipments not to pass through its waters but under international law. It is doubtful whether Fiji can prohibit the shipments passing through its waters. Such a request by Fiji would of course be a useful political gesture to indicate to the shipping states its level of concern with the shipments particularly at this crucial stage in the discussions between the Forum and the shipping states on the issues of liability and compensation that Fiji does and will continue to do.
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Congressman Underwood concerned over nuclear fuel shipment through the Pacific

June 17, 2002 -- Congressman Robert A. Underwood today again expressed his reservations over a shipment of mixed uranium- plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel that may travel near Guam and the Mariana Islands on its journey from Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. in Japan to British Nuclear Fuels PLC in the United Kingdom.

In a June 11 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Underwood called for assurances from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States that every precaution possible be taken, so the health and welfare of Pacific Islanders will not be jeopardized by a possible terrorist act or mishap at sea.

"Recognizing that this MOX can be diverted for nuclear weapons use, I remain especially concerned with the physical and security protection measures for this planned shipment and its traversing near Guam and through the Pacific in a post-September 11th environment," the Congressman wrote. "Such a shipment, without adequate and heightened security protections, threatens to compromise the environmental safety of the Pacific and may be harmful to U.S. national security interests."

While the exact route of the MOX has remained a tightly kept secret, Underwood stressed the need for the U.S. government and the island nations to be ready to respond in the likelihood that an accident at sea or terrorist act occur.

"Towards this end I hope that the Department of State has informed all relevant federal officials of this planned shipment and the security arrangements as well as notified all Members of Congress whose districts and states may be affected," the Congressman said.

Underwood has raised his concern over this issue in recent years, as such shipments through the Pacific have occurred in the past.

"We made the same protests in 1999 when we learned of anticipated MOX shipments," the Congressman said. "And because we are in the area, we want to make sure the U.S. protects our interests, and protects our safety."

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Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase opening address to 600 delegates at the African-Caribbean-Pacific Summit, Nadi, Fiji Thursday July 18, 11:10am

As I speak a ship carrying plutonium is heading for our waters, having traversed other parts of the region. We will be asking you to join with us in expressing our outrage and opposition to those who are willing to put the Pacific and our people at risk. (extended clapping)

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