Watched by Japanese police ,the Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise' and inflatables protest in Uchiura bay, beside the Takahama nuclear plant.
After a long day of protests by Greenpeace and Japanese
citizen's groups, the Nuclear freighter, Pacific Pintail, loaded up
with two casks carrying enough plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs.
The Pacific Pintail departed Takahama at 15:35 Tokyo time with her
sister ship, Pacific Teal, in escort along with 38 Japanese coast
British Nuclear Fuels has embarked on the most controversial
nuclear transport in its long and troubled history. It will be
opposed along its entire route by governments and ordinary citizens
terrified at the prospect of accident or deliberate attack. The
route through the South Pacific, despite objections by the small
island states that it will pass, exposes the contempt the British
and Japanese government have for the environment, public health and
real security. The most direct route to the Pacific ocean is via
the Korea Straits, however the South Korean government and
environmental groups are opposed to the shipment using this route.
The incident off the Korean coast last weekend involving North
Korea have also raised additional fears for the safety of the
This shipment and Japan's plutonium program poses several
environmental, safety and security concerns. The risk of
catastrophic accident such as fire or collision involving the
Pacific Pintail and release of its cargo of plutonium into the
environment is all the greater given the failure of Britain or
Japan to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment as
required by international law.
In recent days it has been revealed that the Pacific Pintail and
Teal are suffering from corrosion that threatens their structural
safety. British Nuclear Fuels have refused to release details. The
Japanese government only learnt about this latest problem after
Tom Clements, Greenpeace Nuclear campaigner on board the MV
Arctic Sunrise says this shipment has ignited opposition from East
Asia to the South Pacific. "It will only intensify as the two
nuclear ships move through the vulnerable environment of the
Pacific. If the South Pacific route is chosen, the Pintail and Teal
should at the very minimum avoid violating the 200 mile Exclusive
Economic Zones (EEZ) of all of the South Pacific nations as called
for by so many of the nations," said Clements.
British Nuclear Fuels believes that with the return of this
rejected dangerous plutonium MOX fuel that it will be given the
green light to massive business contracts with Japan. Far from it -
the plutonium program in Japan is in disarray, with not one gram of
plutonium used in a reactor despite four plutonium shipments in the
last ten years.
Opposition is growing stronger to Japan's plans to use thousands
of kilograms of plutonium as nuclear reactor fuel. "The arrival
today of the Pacific Pintail has only helped to mobilize further
that opposition," said Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace in Japan.
Security concerns are a major issue to countries along the tens
of thousands of kilometers between Japan and the UK. The ships are
slow, lightly armed and vulnerable to armed attack. In June,
prompted by fears over this shipment, the 34 governments in the
Organization of American States led by nations in the Caribbean
called for a security review of the dangers posed by nuclear sea
Beyond the specific shipment, Japan's plans to burn plutonium
MOX in its commercial reactors is an added danger. Loading
plutonium MOX into reactors that were not designed to use plutonium
increases the risk of accident and that when the accident occurs it
will be more deadly.
Japan has already acquired more weapons-usable plutonium than
any 'non-nuclear country' in the world. Its stockpile of plutonium
is set to soar to over 145,000 kilograms by 2020. As little as five
kilograms is sufficient for one advanced nuclear weapon. Recent
statements from senior Japanese government officials and
politicians have raised genuine fears that Japan could become a
nuclear weapon state.
After the original mistake was made of shipping the MOX fuel to
Japan in 1999, it should have been treated as nuclear waste,
immobilized and stored in Japan. Instead, British Nuclear Fuels,
Japanese utility Kansai Electric and the Japanese and British
governments are prepared to risk the many milllions of people who
live along the shipment route, and the environment, for the sake of
trying to balance the books of a dangerous, unecessary and