Greenpeace and NCI Condemn Secret Nuclear Waste Transport

Washington, DC, 28 November 1996 -- Greenpeace and Nuclear Control Insitute (NCI) revealed today that final secret preparations are being made to send a cargo of 40 glass blocks of highly radioactive nuclear waste from France to Japan. The organizations warned that safety and security problems could turn the clandestine sea shipment into an "environmental catastrophe."

"It is unacceptable that Japanese, French, and British authorities have chosen to meet widespread public concern and political opposition with silence and secrecy," said Damon Moglen of Greenpeace.

The imminent nuclear waste shipment is being prepared at the La Hague plutonium "reprocessing" factory near Cherbourg (France). The transport will involve two casks holding 40 glass blocks of extremely radioactive nuclear waste containing some 20,500,000 curies of radioactivity (this is some 6,000 times more radioactivity than was contained in the Russian plutonium powered satellite which recently crashed off the Chilean coast). This glassified nuclear waste is so deadly that a person within one meter of a single unshielded glass block would receive a fatal dose of radiation in less than one minute.

Only one transport of this dangerous material has taken place before. In 1995, amidst great controversy, 28 glass blocks were transported from France to Japan on the British-flagged ship "Pacific Pintail." That shipment was turned away by protest in the Carribean and Central America and, in a desperate effort to evade international attention, the Pintail was routed along the South American coast and around Cape Horn. During its dangerous voyage the transport was condemned by the CARICOM and tens of nations around the world and numerous countries put military aircraft in the sky and naval vessels at sea in response to the threat posed by the ship's passage.

As was the case in 1995, the British, French, and Japanese have chosen not to disclose basic details about the imminent transport--the route, name of the ship, nature of emergency plans and liability coverage all remain secret. Greenpeace has written to the countries along the possible transport routes providing them with information and warning them about the glaring shortcomings in the safety and security arrangements of the shipment, including inadequate design, testing and construction of the transport containers, insufficient emergency and salvage planning.

"Governments must now take decisive action if they are to stop this transport," said Paul Leventhal of NCI. "This shipment will certainly be sent along the route of least resistance, so countries must make declarations of opposition and work through regional and international fora to prohibit such deadly shipments."

It is expected that countries will take advantage of a meeting next week at the United Nation's International Maritime Organization in London, to raise concerns and objections to the Franco/Japanese shipment.


Damon Moglen, Greenpeace, 1-202-319-2513
Paul Leventhal, Nuclear Control Institute, 1-202-822-8444

Return to What's New NCI Home Page