Greenpeace and the Shut Sellafield campaign urge the Irish government to step up its opposition to the Sellafield plutonium facility

Press release - 10 May, 2002

Greenpeace and the Shut Sellafield campaign today made a joint call to the Irish Government to step up its opposition to Britain's Sellafield plutonium facility, and to pressure the UK and Japanese Governments to cancel an imminent plutonium shipment from Japan, which will sail through the Irish Sea to Sellafield.

The two organisations plan to link with anti-nuclear activists globally to oppose the shipment. Mr Henk Haazen, a leader of a flotilla of small yachts from Australia and New Zealand, which last year challenged a shipment of plutonium fuel through the Tasman Sea, will meet with Irish sailors this weekend to encourage them to oppose the shipment when it sails through the Irish Sea.(1)

Last month, two armed British freighters left the UK bound for Japan to pick up a cargo of rejected plutonium MOX assemblies and to return them to the UK.The shipment is being made after it was discovered that British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) had deliberately falsified quality control data during the assemblies' manufacture. Japan demanded the return of the material as a pre-condition for new plutonium MOX contracts. BNFL and the UK Government hope that the return shipment from Japan in June, which includes 255 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 50 nuclear bombs, will result in contracts to ship more than 25,000 kilograms of plutonium to Japan over the next decade. As little as five kilograms of this plutonium could build one advanced nuclear weapon.

"Sellafield's future pivots to a large extent on this proposed shipment of rejected material back to the UK," Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner Simon Boxer said. "Without new Japanese contracts, the new Sellafield MOX plant is dead in the water. This shipment poses severe risks as it sails around the world and through the Irish Sea; the implications of new contracts with Japan would see perhaps 80 more shipments from Sellafield to Japan over the next decade and the continued expansion of operations at Sellafield".

Greenpeace has announced it is considering legal action to stop the return shipment because it would breach UK and international law. The return shipment would also violate an undertaking given by the UK Government to the International Law of the Sea Tribunal in November 2001. Following a challenge by the Irish Government to the Tribunal against the newly approved Sellafield MOX Plant, the UK told the Tribunal that no imports of plutonium MOX associated with the operations of the Sellafield MOX Plant would go ahead before October 2002.

"If this shipment proceeds, the UK and Japan will be creating a floating terrorist target and a huge danger to the health and security of millions of people globally," Mr.Boxer said. "This shipment must be cancelled."

The exact timing and route of the June shipment from Japan to the UK remains secret but it is likely to sail through the Irish Sea in August.

"The UK and Japan arrogantly refuse to warn countries en route in advance, or to consult them on the environmental and security risks. We believe millions of people around the world have a right to know of the dangers they are being exposed to because of the arrogance and incompetence of the nuclear industry," Mr.Boxer said.

Notes: (1) Sat May 11th at 2.00pm in the Unicorn Bar (behind the Unicorn Restaurant) Merrion Row, Dublin 2 and Sunday May 12th at in the Carlingford Marina, Carlingford, Co Louth