South Pacific Forum
Press Statement 1499


The South Pacific Forum has again expressed its continuing concerns over the shipment of plutonium and radioactive waste through the South Pacific region.

In a recent joint statement, the companies involved in the High Level Waste shipments said the vessel "Pacific Swan" had left Cherbourg in France on 25 February and would travel via the Panama Canal to Japan, arriving in mid-April.

In response to this statement, the Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, Mr. Noel Levi, CBE said while the shipping states indicate the vessel's intended route will be through the Panama Canal, the ship may still pass through the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones of some Forum member countries if there was a necessity for whatever reason to change the route.

"Leaders of the 16-member Forum group believe shipments of plutonium and radioactive wastes through the region pose a continuing concern and have agreed to adopt a consistent position on the issue, taking into account the risks of an accident occurring and the consequences of such an accident," said Mr. Levi.

"The Forum expects such shipments to be carried out in a manner which addresses all possible contingencies and the concerns of relevant countries, including coastal states of the region.  Furthermore, the shipments should be made only if the cargo is of demonstrably minimal risk, ships are of the highest standard and shipping states agree to promote the safety of the material.

"The Forum also expects shipping states to provide compensation for any industries harmed as a result of changes in the market value of the region's fisheries and tourism products in the event of an accident.

"In the past, the states involved in such shipments, namely Japan, France and the United Kingdom, have informed Forum members about proposed shipments and we expect this will continue in a timely manner so that countries have an early opportunity to consider the situation and respond," Mr. Levi said.

At the 1998 Forum meeting, Leaders agreed to pursue discussions with France, Japan and the United Kingdom on the current liability regime for compensating the region for economic losses caused to tourism, fisheries and other affected industries as a result of an accident involving a shipment of radioactive materials, even if there is no actual environmental damage caused.

"Formal approaches have been made to these three countries and we hope that progress on this issue will be made soon," said Mr. Levi.

Forum Secretariat, Suva
2 March 1999