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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           CONTACT: 1-202-822-8444

Thursday, October 14, 1999                                             





            Washington---The Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based research center seeking a halt in trade in nuclear-weapon materials, will participate in a regional conference on Japan’s ultra-hazardous transports of plutonium and radioactive waste on the high seas, to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 18 and 19.


            The conference, organized by the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA), will explore safety and security risks associated with nuclear transports, as well as Japan’s failure to meet international law and treaty obligations to consult with en-route states on routing, emergency response, indemnification for damages, and salvage of nuclear cargoes lost at sea.


            “The recent accident at Tokai-mura, involving fuel being prepared for the Japanese plutonium breeder program, illustrates serious safety lapses that are now being transferred to the high seas,” said NCI President Paul Leventhal, who will present a paper at the conference.  “Beyond these environmental and health risks, Japan is acquiring a large stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium that threatens to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.”


            The first commercial shipment of plutonium---in the form of plutonium-uranium, mixed-oxide (“MOX”) fuel for Japan’s nuclear power reactors---recently arrived in Japan from Britain and France aboard two lightly-armed freighters, despite protests of countries along the route through the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


            “This conference will help alert Malaysia and other nations in the region to the extreme dangers associated with these shipments and with the Japanese plutonium program that is driving these shipments,” said Leventhal.  “It is not well understood that, due to a world glut in non-weapons-usable uranium fuel, plutonium is not needed as a fuel in Japan.”


            Also presenting a technical paper at the conference is NCI’s Scientific Director, Dr. Edwin Lyman.  Papers will also be presented by Professor Jon Van Dyke, an international maritime law expert at the University of Hawaii Law School, and Shaun Birnie, research director of Greenpeace International’s nuclear campaign.  Government officials and maritime experts from Malaysia and other countries and officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency and International Maritime Organization are expected to participate in the two-day meeting.


            The conference, “Carriage of Ultrahazardous Radioactive Cargo by Sea: Implications and Responses,” will take place at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, 12 Megan Phileo Avenue, Jalan Yap Kwan Sang, 504050 Kuala Lumpur (phone: 60-3-261-2960, fax 60-3-261-4035, -261-4045).  Coordinator of the conference is Captain Noor Apandi Osnin (e-mail:  Additional documents on marine transports can be found at



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