Shameful shipment must be the last

Feature story - 17 September, 2002
As the two British nuclear freighters, carrying their deadly cargo of plutonium entered the port of Barrow this morning, they were again met with peaceful protests from the Nuclear Free Irish Sea Flotilla. How can those responsible for this dangerous and unnecessary shipment ignore the global protest ignited by the one just ended and sanction more?

BNFL ship Pacific Pintail arrived this morning to port with its cargo of rejected plutonium fuel at the end of its voyage from Takahama, Japan.

For the second time in as many days, yachts from the Nuclear Free Irish Sea Flotilla have protested the transport of nuclear materials through the Irish Sea.

This plutonium transport has earned the reputation as the world's most controversial nuclear shipment. Over 80 governments have condemned it, citing environmental, security and safety concerns.

En route countries called for the transport not to enter their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a call which fell on deaf ears. Even on the final leg of its journey, the BNFL transport was less than 30 miles from the Irish coast when it encountered the Irish Sea Flotilla yesterday afternoon.

As the Pacific Pintail, carrying its cargo of rejected plutonium mixed oxide (MOX), approached Barrow through the Walney Channel it encountered a peaceful protest with a simple message - "Stop Nuclear Transports". The boats involved in today's protest were from the Republic of Ireland, Britain and the Isle of Man and were there to represent the views of millions of people living along the Irish Sea coastline.

The ships were escorted through the Walney Channel by a large police launch, seven police inflatables and at least one security helicopter. The yachts from the Nuclear Free Irish Sea Flotilla fell into formation behind the Pacific Pintail once the nuclear freighter carrying the cask of rejected plutonium MOX had passed them between Peel Island and Roa Island at the entrance to the Channel. The yachts got within 200 metres of the first set of lock gates.

"The Flotilla is a partnership of individual seafarers who use the Irish Sea," said Dr Warren Scott skipper of the yacht Swn y Mor from Glasson Dock. "We wish to let BNFL and the UK and Japanese Governments know that we are no longer willing to sit back and allow the Irish Sea, or any sea, to be used as a nuclear highway."

The Government of Ireland which normally has good relations with the UK, has begun a legal challenge against the reprocessing operations at Sellafield through the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and has also instigated arbitration through the Oslo Paris Convention (OSPAR), a treaty dealing with the prevention of pollution in the north east Atlantic.

"This plutonium shipment has reached pariah status. BNFL and the UK Government have once again put at risk the environment and security of millions of people around the planet for what? A bankrupt business that will drain billions from the UK taxpayer over the coming decades while continuing to increase its mountain of stocks of weapons-usable plutonium. This was a wholly unjustified and shameful transport and it must be the last," said John Bowler of Greenpeace, in Barrow.

The casks of faulty plutonium will complete their journey to Sellafield by rail, where they should stay.

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