Monday, 9 March 2009 4:20 AM

Deadly Plutonium Shipment Headed for Pacific

March 07, 2009 - Sydney/Suva - Last night's announcement by French nuclear company Areva that the largest ever plutonium (MOX ) shipment is enroute from France to Japan through the Pacific requires strong opposition from Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith.

About 1.8 tonnes of plutonium in MOX fuel, enough to make 225 nuclear weapons, will travel to Japan via the Cape of Good Hope, the Southern Ocean, the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand and the south-west Pacific Ocean, to arrive in Japanese waters by late-May.

Greenpeace protested against the departure of the shipment from Cherbourg this week.

"MOX shipments are unsafe, insecure and unnecessary, and the nuclear industry knows it, that's why there is so much security accompanying the shipment. You would never need such security levels when shipping solar panels or windmills," said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigns director Stephen Campbell.

"An accident involving the ship while it is off Australia's coast could have a catastrophic impact on the environment, and seriously affect our tourism and fisheries industries." he said.

"Of great concern is the fact that Australia has no emergency response plan in the event of an accident, fire or terrorist attack onboard a nuclear shipment," said Mr Campbell.

Australia should join with Pacific governments, who have publicly called for an end to such dangerous and unnecessary shipments.

In 2005 (1) and 2002 (2) Pacific nations made strong public declarations of opposition to plutonium and nuclear waste shipments through their waters and called for, "the immediate cessation of such practice, in order to prevent any occurrence of accidents that could seriously threaten their sustainable development and the health of their peoples.

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By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province