Nuclear transports recklessly endanger Pacific States

Feature story - 17 July, 2002
Currently a highly dangerous nuclear cargo is being transported across the Pacific en route from Japan to the UK. The two armed ships carrying enough plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs have completely disregarded several requests from Pacific Governments to remain outside their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

The BNFL Pacific Pintail breaching the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Federated States of Micronesia.

An accident or attack on a nuclear transport at sea could have catastrophic consequences for coastal states, and yet the British and Japanese governments have refused to consult with countries along the route, not even concerning plans for emergencies or liability agreements in the case of radioactive contamination.

This blatant disregard of the wishes of Pacific states and international law of the sea demonstrates the absurd and dangerous lengths to which the Japanese and British governments are willing to go to prop up this dangerous, polluting industry. The irony is that cleaner renewable energy could put an end to the need for nuclear power but these governments in particular have yet to see the light.

The ships are close to Rennel Island within the Solomon's EEZ and Torres Island and Espiritu Santo within the Vanuatu EEZ. This puts the ships on a course to transit through the EEZ of the Pacific Island of New Caledonia.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) has ludicrously called us irresponsible for publicising the location of this dangerous shipment. It is they who are avoiding their responsibility says Angenette Heffernan, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner.

"Under international law, BNFL is required to inform nations that they are in their waters, and it was their irresponsibility in falsifying crucial safety data which is bringing this shipment through the region twice unnecessarily," said Angenette.

The Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Serge Vohor has accused Japan and Britain of disrespecting his country's sovereignty.

Each nation has the right to protect the marine environment within its EEZ from hazardous nuclear shipments under the Law of the Sea Convention. The shipping states have not fulfilled their obligations under the international Law of the Sea, which includes consulting with en route states. Therefore the BNFL ships, the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal have jeopardised their right to "freedom of navigation" within EEZs.

Protesters are setting sail from around the Pacific to form a Nuclear Free Pacific Flotilla in the Tasman Sea. These protesters share a common concern about the dangers posed by British Nuclear Fuel's shipment of weapons-usable plutonium past their countries, and they are determined to ensure it never happens again.

You can take action today to oppose the nuclear transport. Join the virtual flotilla.

Find out more about the flotilla participants at the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla website.

Visit Greenpeace's Stop Plutonium Terror website to learn more about the plutonium shipment.