US Administration ready to ship weapons plutonium to France

Press release - 21 June, 2004
Despite warnings by US Department of Homeland Security that the US is at increased risk of terrorist attack through the late summer, the US Government plans to ship150 kilograms of bomb-grade plutonium via the U.S. port of Charleston, South Carolina, to Cherbourg, France (1). In addition to on-going opposition by Greenpeace, local groups in the U.S. and France today announced their disagreement with the planned shipment.

"As this shipment contains enough purified plutonium for fifty or more weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it presents an attractive target on sea and land. The shipment reveals a troubling double-standard - that the U.S. does not want to apply uniform global policies to halt all commerce in weapons materials. This decision must be challenged by the international community," said Tom Clements of Greenpeace International.

Plutonium is one of the most dangerous substances known, with a half-life of 24,000 years, and no plutonium transport can be made absolutely safe. Whenever the deadly substance is moved, there will be a risk of accidents, leaks, theft or terrorist attacks. This means plutonium could be dispersed into the ocean and coast of the Southeastern United States or Europe, poisoning people and the marine environment for thousands of years to come.

In response to plans for the shipment it was announced today that a flotilla movement opposed to the shipment of plutonium had been formed in France and the United States. The Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla movement launched itself with press conferences by Citizens Against Plutonium (CAP) in Charleston, South Carolina, and Cherbourg in Normandy. Greenpeace has cooperated before with the global Nuclear Free Flotilla movement that operates already in the South Pacific, Cape Horn/South America, and the Irish Sea.

"We fully support the efforts of the Atlantic Nuclear Free Flotilla. Cooperative citizen opposition from France and the U.S. against their two governments' plutonium policy is vital if we are to reduce the proliferation and environmental threat posed by these materials," said Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France. "While the U.S. proclaims its obsession with stopping proliferation and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, it gets the green light for exporting its own WMD plutonium to France," said Rousselet.

The transport is part of a plan to put plutonium fuel into commercial use, which is an expensive, ineffective and dangerous way to 'recycle' nuclear waste by separating out weapons-grade plutonium and converting it into MOX fuel (2) to be used again in a nuclear reactor.

Notes: (1). The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted to approve the DOE request for an export license on June 15, which Greenpeace and Charleston Peace, a local group in Charleston, had formally opposed. The NRC acknowledged that a "remote potential" was present for terrorist attack on the shipment but said that its granting of the license was not connected to the risk it presented. It stated that, They further stated that the "NRC's principal concern once fissile materials have left the United states is the possibility of theft," yet have gone ahead and issued the license which will place the material at risk at sea and on lightly-guarded trucks in France. The NRC's order approving the plutonium shipment can be found on the NRC's ADAMS document system at: - search for document number: ML041670657. (2) Plutonium fuel is called mixed uranium-plutonium oxide, or MOX.For background information see:;; Citizens Against Plutonium (CAP) in South Carolina,