FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sharon Tanzer, (202) 822-8444
Thursday, January 22, 1998
The Nuclear Control Institute today released the following statement in response to an announcement by COGEMA, the French government plutonium company, that a ship now on its way to Japan, laden with highly radioactive nuclear waste, will pass through the Panama Canal.
BRITAIN, FRANCE AND JAPAN KEEP NATIONS IN PATH
OF NUCLEAR WASTE SHIP IN THE DARK ABOUT ROUTE
"COGEMA disregards the vital interests and deepest concerns of governments in the path of the nuclear-waste ship by refusing to disclose the route the ship will use to enter and traverse the Caribbean Sea and to cross the Pacific Ocean. COGEMA's announcement is inadequate and incomplete and is intended to keep the affected populations in the dark.
"The three governments responsible for the ultrahazardous shipment---Britain, France and Japan---continue to thumb their noses at appeals by the international community for prior notice, full disclosure and for advance consultation on emergency planning and salvage and liability arrangements for transports of these deadly cargos.
"After avoiding the Panama Canal in making two previous shipments, choosing the Canal this time establishes a precedent for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of intensely radioactive waste shipments to follow on this cheapest and fastest of routes. That is bad news for the people of the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific who face radiological catastrophe if a nuclear waste ship gets into a severe accident, sinks in a storm, or is attacked by terrorists."
NCI, noting a recent report by Sandia National Laboratories that nuclear waste shipping casks could be breached by terrorists, also released a letter sent today to the Panama Canal Commission asking what special security measures would be taken to protect the waste cargo against attack. The U.S. government bars shipments of plutonium from the Panama Canal for security reasons but claims no authority over nuclear-waste shipments.
The present shipment aboard the British-flagged Pacific Swan, contains about 25 tons of waste derived from the "reprocessing" of spent fuel from Japanese reactors to produce plutonium fuel. Future shipments could contain over 100 tons of waste each. Plutonium is a non-essential fuel for producing electricity, an essential material for producing nuclear weapons, and necessitates international shipments of highly radioactive spent fuel and reprocessing waste. Dozens of nations have protested these nuclear waste shipments.
For further information and documents on the shipments:
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