Japanese security for nuclear transports fatally inconsistent during World Cup

Press release - 7 June, 2002

Tokyo - Kansai Electric Power Company has announced that an imminent shipment of unsafe plutonium will not receive any additional security measures despite warnings that the shipment poses a major terrorist risk. Moreover, the Japanese utility is considering loading the plutonium onto the ships only sixty miles from the nearest soccer venue during the latter stages of the 2002 FIFA World Cup (1).

In contrast to this approach of Kansai Electric, Japan Nuclear Fuels Limited (JNFL) recently announced that due to the additional security demands of the World Cup, they have suspended all nuclear waste transports to the Rokkasho-mura complex in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan until after the World Cup final on June 30th. JNFL made the decision after discovering that police from Aomori would be relocated to provide support to soccer matches (2).

In April 2002 Greenpeace warned the Japan World Cup Organizing Committee in Tokyo and FIFA officials in Zurich that the plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) shipment posed a major security risk (3). The two armed British-flagged vessels, the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, are expected to arrive in Japan within the next week, and could depart as early as one week before the World Cup final on June 30th.

"If domestic nuclear waste shipments have been suspended because of World Cup security demands on local police, it is incredible that the British and Japanese nuclear industries are still planning to make a shipment of dangerous plutonium during the competition. They are showing absolute disregard for the security and safety of people in Japan and Korea, including hundreds of thousands of World Cup soccer fans," said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International.

In recent weeks there have been demands by U.S. politicians to suspend plutonium transports inside the U.S. due to warnings from the Bush Administration that renewed attacks by Al Queda were possible (4).

"The schedule for this shipment is being determined by the commercial considerations of British Nuclear Fuels and the Japanese nuclear industry not security or safety criteria. They want it out of Japan as soon as possible so they can resume plans for their defunct program - in the process they are prepared to ignore real security issues with potentially horrific consequences," Burnie added.

Notes: (1) Kansai stated that no further security measures would be applied to the shipment at a meeting between Kansai Electric Energy Public Relations and NGOs Green Action and Mihama-no Kai held on June 4th, at Kansai Electric headquarters, Osaka. At a prior meeting on April 11th Kansai refused to rule out departure of the shipment during World Cup. (2) Daily Tohoku May 31st 2002 (3) Greenpeace sent letters to Mr. Yasuhiko Endoh, General Secretary of JAWOC, (Japan Organizing Committee for the FIFA World Cup), Joseph S. Blatter President of FIFA and Lennart Johansson as chairman of the World Cup Organising Committee, as well as Akira Odajima, Public Relations Director FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan Organizing Committee. Fifa replied to Greenpeace on April 22nd stating that the MOX transport issue was being considered by the Director for Stadiums and Security, Walter Gregg. (4) See Greenville News, May 20, 2002 "Hodges, citing terror warning, urges delay on bomb material shipments", James T. Hammond. Governor Jim Hodges of South Carolina warned the U.S. Government that the latest terrorist warnings by Vice President Dick Cheney and FBI Director Robert Mueller are reason enough to delay shipping weapons-grade plutonium to South Carolina from Colorado.