Nuclear Control Institute
1000 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Greenpeace International
1436 U Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

Tuesday, June 24, 1997

CONTACT: Sharon Tanzer 202-822-8444
Damon Moglen 202-319-2513


WASHINGTON---In advance of next week's Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of state meeting in Jamaica, Greenpeace International and Nuclear Control Institute have written member states urging them to include in their final resolution a strong statement reaffirming their opposition to dangerous transports of plutonium and radioactive waste.

"Future shipments may affect the Caribbean region more directly than in the past," warned NCI and Greenpeace in their joint letter, if the U.S. government approves a Japanese proposal to transport plutonium-based fuels through the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is the most direct route to Japan from Europe, where the fuel is manufactured.

The next shipment of highly radioactive waste may take place as soon as late 1997. It will be followed by twice-a-year shipments of between 100 to 300 glass logs of highly radioactive waste. Shipments of plutonium-uranium, mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) require a military escort because the weapons-usable plutonium can be easily extracted from hijacked MOX fuel.

"Plutonium programs in Japan, France and the United Kingdom have all suffered major setbacks recently. Even so, Japan is committed to pursuing its dangerous plutonium program by continuing to take back plutonium and radioactive waste from France. Therefore, these shipments will likely continue in spite of growing international and domestic concerns," the letter warned.

Under international law, coastal nations have the right to prior notification of the shipping route, advance consultations on emergency plans and a formal liability regime, the letter concludes. A technical study by NCI has found that in the event of a shipboard fire, or a collision and sinking at sea, the highly radioactive cargo could be rapidly dispersed because of the use of faulty stainless-steel canisters and rubber-like seals to package and contain the waste.

"We appreciate the determination shown by the CARICOM nations to bar ultrahazardous nuclear shipments from the region. We urge continued resolve in this important effort," the organizations wrote.

The text of the letter is available from NCI, or can be downloaded from the Web (

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