FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2001        tel. 1-202-822-8444,





Washington, D.C.---Argentina and Chile are within their rights under international law to block passage through their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of ships carrying ultrahazardous cargoes such as nuclear waste, according to an international maritime law expert. Argentina and Chile, driven by a legitimate threat to the marine environment and public health, can thus take action to prevent the passage through their EEZs of the nuclear waste vessel Pacific Swan, a British-flagged vessel now carrying 192 half-ton logs of glassified nuclear waste in 8 large shipping casks near their coasts.


In the absence of advance consultation and consent, Argentina and Chile are within their rights under international law to take unilateral action to protect the environment and human health and thus may require this nuclear waste ship to transit beyond the 200-mile economic zone, said Professor Jon van Dyke, a maritime law expert at the University of Hawaiis William S. Richardson School of Law. Professor van Dyke reiterated that, Advance consultation must include preparation by the shippers of an environmental assessment, development of a contingency plan in the event of emergency and the establishment of a liability regime in the event of accident in transit.


In a 1996 report prepared for the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI), a Washington-based nonproliferation advocacy center, and entitled The Legitimacy of Unilateral Actions to Protest the Ocean Shipment of Ultrahazardous Radioactive Materials, Professor van Dyke maintained that Coastal nations will have proper grounds to use force to prevent these ships from passing through their maritime zones if the shipping countries, in this case Britain, France and Japan, refuse to comply with the requests of en-route states for prior notification and consultation. The Southern Cone group of nations has long demanded that these conditions of advance consultation and consent be met, most recently in a statement of December 21, 2000.


Professor van Dykes paper can be downloaded from the NCI web site at:


We support Argentina and Chile in their efforts to halt the transit of these dangerous nuclear waste shipments through their coastal waters, said Paul Leventhal, President of the Nuclear Control Institute. Panama evidently has succeeded in persuading the shippers to avoid passage through the Panama Canal. Given that the nuclear ships present both an environmental risk and a target for radiological sabotage, Argentina and Chile should now join with their neighbor to the north to halt passage through their EEZs.


If Argentina and Chile require the passage of the Pacific Swan outside the EEZ, the ship would have to transit far to the south of Cape Horn and thus avoid the Straits of Magellan, a waterway controlled by Chile. While we have grave concern about the passage through the treacherous waters of Cape Horn, these dangerous nuclear cargoes present a particular risk by passing close to land, said Paul Leventhal. Given that these vessels present a risk no matter where they transit, the solution to eliminating the risk is a complete halt to such shipments. These dangerous waste shipments and associated shipments of plutonium are not needed for Japans nuclear power program and are being maintained simply to support the failed development of weapons-usable plutonium as a source of fuel for nuclear reactors.


The Pacific Swan, originally expected to transit the Panama Canal, is the largest-ever shipment of nuclear waste and is the sixth such shipment to take place. The first shipment of this high-level waste took place in 1995, at which time Chile, acting within rights under international law,dispatched a gun boat to force the vessel out of its EEZ.





For more information on sea transport of radioactive materials, go to the NCI web site at: ( For contact information for Professor van Dyke,call NCI at above number.


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