A year on from the September 11th attacks and it seems some governments have learnt nothing about true global security. Two ships carrying weapons-useable plutonium are nearing the end of a journey half way around the world, through waters of discontent and past small ships bearing witness. As the ships near home they will face their strongest opposition and be welcomed back by a nuclear industry that is showing cracks from coverups, bankruptcies and insolvencies, safety lapses and failures in plant security.
The two ships chartered by BNFL, the Pintail and the Teal depart Barrow, UK for Japan.
The Pacific Pintail, carrying the cask of rejected plutonium
mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, and her lightly armed escort, the Pacific
Teal are now global outcasts, having been condemned by 80
governments along its route from Japan since they left in July. The
ships are currently being escorted by a Portuguese naval vessel to
ensure they stay outside the Portuguese Exclusive Economic
The two nuclear freighters were spotted west of the Portuguese
island of Madeira earlier today. Soon they will face a barrage of
protest from the Nuclear Free Irish Sea Flotilla as they near their
homeport of Barrow-in-Furness. Up to 18 yachts will sail out into
the Irish sea to peacefully protest against the freighters.
Paul Barrett is skipper of the yacht Tuscair and a participant
of the flotilla. Paul says he is determined to peacefully protest
BNFL and the UK and Japanese governments for continually supporting
this morally and financially bankrupt industry. "This has given
myself and other members of the sailing community an opportunity
not only to express our own concerns, but also of those who live by
and near the Irish Sea," said Paul.
British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), owners of the two nuclear ships,
is also facing tough times on land, their business in Japan is in
jeopardy - Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) has suspended its plutonium
MOX programme indefinitely. This shipment was justified by BNFL
solely on the basis of regaining business with Japan.
There are more troubles at home. BNFL's single largest
reprocessing client, British Energy, is facing bankruptcy after
losses of £500 million last year. Ironically the UK government
split this supposedly 'profitable' part of the nuclear industry
during privatisation from the less economic sector of the industry.
British Energy's huge debts pale when compared to the £2 billion in
losses last year of government owned BNFL.
While the bottom drops out of the UK nuclear industry, the BNFL
ships with their deadly cargo pressed forward against the wishes of
governments and citizens. The ships were not welcome in any sea on
their disgraced journey back from Japan, and they are certainly not
welcome in the Irish sea.
Eighty governments including Ireland have publicly decried this
shipment as lunacy. The UK and Japanese nuclear industries have
been exposed as dishonest, unsafe and uneconomic. Rather than
increasing the trade in bomb material with all the risks that
entails, they need to concentrate on waste clean-up and investments
in clean energy.
You can show your opposition to the nuclear
shipments by joining the virtual flotilla.