Pacific Island States demand real protection from the threats of nuclear transports

Press release - 27 February, 2003

Pacific Island governments have rejected vague promises from the nuclear industry and instead are exploring firm legal and diplomatic measures to protect their countries against the threat of nuclear shipments. This occurred during an intergovernmental Pacific meeting on liability on the transport of radioactive materials held in Fiji (1).

A number of Pacific nations have decided to take legal, political and diplomatic measures to protect their coastlines, populations, environment and economies from the threats created by the many nuclear shipments of the United Kingdom, France and Japan which travel through their region.

"The governments of the UK, France and Japan yesterday felt the strength of anger and outrage of Pacific Governments against the shipments of nuclear materials. They are determined to take effective action to protect their coastlines and waters from these lethal nuclear shipments," said Ang Heffernan, Greenpeace Pacific Nuclear Campaigner.

The Pacific Governments of Fiji and Vanuatu in particular have announced their intentions to explore international and domestic legal measures to protect their coastlines from the nuclear shipments. The Government of Vanuatu stated that the recent plutonium shipment from Japan to the United Kingdom in July 2002 was unacceptable and that the shipping nations had an arrogant neo-colonial attitude towards the Pacific's concern.

In addition, the Australian Government's plans to make its own highly dangerous nuclear shipment were highlighted during the meeting. This shipment is expected to take place in the next few months. The ship will leave from Sydney, travel through the Pacific Ocean to La Hague (France) via Cape Horn. The Australian nuclear authority ANSTO has been allocated 14 million Australian dollars from the Australian Government for this nuclear shipment.

This would not be the first time that a major shipment of Australian spent nuclear fuel has sailed through the Pacific. In January 2001, a vessel carrying spent nuclear fuel left Sydney, crossed the Pacific and, via Cape Horn, arrived in France for reprocessing. The number of Australian nuclear shipments is expected to dramatically increase as a result of Australian Prime Minister John Howard's nuclear expansion plans.

"For too long the shipping states have viewed the Pacific as a nuclear highway, but now they are about to find major legal roadblocks put in place by Pacific governments," Heffernan concluded.

Notes: (1) Pacific Island Forum - Fourth Meeting on Liability for Compensation for the Transport of Radioactive Materials, Nadi, Fiji, 25-26th February 2003.