Activists onboard the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza wait off the coast of France for the imminent arrival of the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal.
Under the cover of darkness, the Pintail -- one of two vessels
carrying a plutonium shipment from Charleston, South Carolina --
was escorted by sister vessel the Pacific Teal, all the while being
tracked by the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza. It arrived at the dock
at 5:45 AM, to be met by six yachts from the Atlantic Nuclear Free
Flotilla flying "Stop Plutonium" banners.
An escort of six security inflatables with marine commandos,
four military boats and two helicopters was also waiting and
guarded the vessel as it entered the French port. The French
Gendarmerie also established a closed security zone in the harbour
in an attempt to stop any protest.
"This shipment of weapons plutonium is a wake-up call to the
world - rather than ship this dangerous material worldwide, now is
the time for aggressive steps to halt proliferation of all nuclear
weapons materials," said Tom Clements of Greenpeace
"The military nature of the arrival in France clearly
demonstrates that nuclear weapons materials are a threat to global
security and have no place in commerce."
After being unloaded in La Hague, the cargo of 140 kg of
plutonium oxide will be transported in the coming 24 hours more
than 1,000 kilometres to a plutonium fuel fabrication facility in
Caradache, Provence, in the South of France.
The route has not been announced for the land transport which is
perhaps the most vulnerable stage in terms of accident or terrorist
attack. Areva plans to convert the plutonium into an experimental
fuel known as 'MOX' (mixed plutonium uranium oxide fuel), after
which it transported back to the US early in 2005, to then be
tested in US reactor over three years.
"Transportation of plutonium is highly vulnerable to accidents
or deliberate attack and must be stopped. After the Atlantic
crossing this transport is about to wind its way through France
threatening everything in its path. It will be too late if there is
a disaster to inform the people of France - that is what Greenpeace
is determined to do over these coming days," said Shaun Burnie of
Greenpeace is opposed to the transport, as it is part of a
global programme led by France's state-owned nuclear company Areva,
and the governments of the US and Russia, to commercialise the
large-scale use of weapons-grade plutonium as fuel in nuclear
reactors. Such a program not only increases the vulnerability of
plutonium but also sends the wrong nuclear proliferation signal
Despite the claimed secrecy of the transport routes, Greenpeace
routinely tracked and photographed nuclear shipments in
If this weapons-grade plutonium fuel experiment succeeds, a
total of 68 tons of weapons-grade plutonium from US and Russian
weapons stockpiles - enough to make more than 15,000 nuclear bombs
- will be exposed to theft, diversion and accidents.
Find out more
Read the Letter to Rep. Markey (pdf)
Visit the Stop
about the Nuclear-Free Flotilla
Visit the Citizens Against
Plutonium (CAP) in South Carolina