FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Steve Johnson (202) 822-8444
Tom Clements (202) 319-2506
Tuesday, January 13, 1998
NUCLEAR CONTROL INSTITUTE AND GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL
WARN OF DANGERS OF FIRST NUCLEAR WASTE SHIPMENT
THROUGH THE CARIBBEAN AND PANAMA CANAL
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 13, 1998) -- The Nuclear Control Institute and Greenpeace International warned today that secret government plans to ship deadly nuclear waste -- for the first time -- through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal in ten days pose serious safety, security and environmental threats.
At a news conference, the two organizations called on the governments of France, Britain and Japan, the three countries involved, to halt the planned shipment until these threats are addressed. Further, they called on the U.S. Government to prohibit such shipments through the Panama Canal. Finally, they called on governments in the region to take action to prevent the precedent-setting shipment because dozens more could follow.
The large shipment, consisting of 60 containers of high-level nuclear waste, is scheduled to leave France for Japan January 23 on the "Pacific Swan," a British vessel. The deadly, 30-ton cargo is a by-product of the "reprocessing" of spent fuel from Japanese reactors to separate weapon-usable plutonium, which has no commercial value.
None of the governments involved in the shipment has revealed the route, but Greenpeace and NCI have learned from government sources that the shipment is scheduled to go through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. The three possible routes are: (1) the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; (2) the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba, and (3) the Anegada Passage through the Virgin Islands.
"An accident involving the shipment could devastate the region's travel and tourism, commercial fishing and shipping industries," warned Tom Clements of the Greenpeace International nuclear campaign in Washington. "The plutonium industry is risking the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Caribbean and is courting an environmental catastrophe. The shipment must be stopped and the industry closed down," Clements said.
Paul Leventhal, president of NCI, stressed the possibility of a terrorist attack on the vessel carrying the nuclear waste: "A U.S. Government study acknowledges that shipments of vitrified nuclear waste are vulnerable to terrorist attack. The U.S. does not allow the shipments of plutonium through the Panama Canal because of the terrorist threat. Why should it allow shipments of nuclear waste generated by plutonium production through the Canal?"
Dr. Edwin S. Lyman, scientific director for NCI, documented the consequences of an accident or terrorist incident that could result from damage to or sinking of a nuclear waste ship. Dr. Lyman warned that radiation leaks following a collision at sea or explosion on board such a vessel could pose severe risks to marine life and to human populations dependent on fishing for their livelihood and seafood for their diet.
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