20 June 2002 Edition

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Ó Caoláin highlights deadly nuclear cargo

There is an urgent need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to protest to the British government and to strongly oppose the shipping by way of the Irish Sea of a cargo of highly dangerous reprocessed fuel in two ships from Japan in the coming months said Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who secured a special debate on the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Ó Caoláin told the Dáil that the cargo had been sent back from Japan because the British government lied about its safety record. It contains enough plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs. The Sinn Féin Dáil group leader said:

"The seeds of this debacle were sown three years ago. The highly dangerous and radioactive MOX fuel in question was transported from Sellafield to Japan in 1999. Upon its arrival in the Far East staff at BNFL admitted that they had faked the material's safety records. The Japanese Minister for Trade and Industry described the affair as "deplorable" and said "confidence in BNFL has been destroyed". The end result was that the Japanese authorities ordered the British authorities to take back the deadly cargo.

"Governments are protesting all along this cargo's likely route on the 18,000-mile journey from the port of Takahama to Barrow-in-Furness. The two vessels carrying the nuclear cargo - the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal - have been armed but will not have an armed escort. The danger of attack on them is obvious.

"The British government has argued, quite absurdly and outrageously, that this shipment has nothing to do with operations at the MOX plant at Sellafield. This latest lie is an attempt by the British government to slip out of its legal commitment under the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea made last November in Hamburg. However the return of the MOX fuel is one of five conditions set by the Japanese government and electrical utilities for new MOX contracts with Britain.

"This deadly transport is therefore vital for the future of British Nuclear Fuels and if it is successful it could lead to tens of thousands of kilos of plutonium being shipped out of Sellafield over the next 10 to 20 years. This shipment must be stopped, not only for its own sake, but in order to thwart the future of the MOX plant which the Irish government and the Irish people have rejected."

"This is an act of international piracy and sabotage by the British government and we must oppose it and oppose it vehemently. We must join with other governments around the world to stop what is a grave danger in itself and what will be but the herald of even graver dangers to come."

Also on Tuesday in the Dáil, Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe, on behalf of the Sinn Féin TDs, met with representatives of Greenpeace to discuss protest action against the cargo and the need to mobilise public opinion.

An Phoblacht
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