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Protesters shame Japan and UK over plutonium shipment
5 July 2002
Suva - The UK government today confirmed its shameful arrogance in imposing dangerous nuclear shipments on the Pacific by refusing to meet with a delegation of Fijian community groups.
More than 20 people from the NGO Coalition on Human Rights, representing 13 community groups, held a peaceful vigil outside the Japanese Embassy at 9.30am, and formed a procession of shame to the British High Commission.
The protesters held up a banner with the Japanese, UK and Australian flags proclaiming Plutonium ships through the Pacific shame, shame, shame . A letter was handed to a Japanese Embassy official expressing anger that there had been no response to previous requests to cancel the shipment. But at the British High Commission the delegation was met with verbal abuse from British Embassy staff, and the High Commissioner refused to accept the letter.
The refusal of the British High Commissioner to meet with us, or accept a letter of concern from the people of Fiji over this lethal plutonium shipment, shows their shameful arrogance and lack of regard for the people of the Pacific.
The Fiji Government, through the Senate, announced that it is opposed to these shipments. It is time now for the Fiji government to show regional leadership by publicly stating their opposition of these shipments directly to the shipping nations. The Caribbean nations opposition stopped the ships going through their region and the Pacific region needs to do the same
The Australian Government is also a willing accomplice in this lethal business. It can prevent the shipping nations from using the Pacific as a shipping route, but will not do so because of its nuclear ambitions. The Australian Government needs to be exposed for its double standards
The risk of catastrophic accident such as fire or collision involving the Pacific Pintail and release of its cargo of plutonium into the environment is all the greater given the failure of Britain or Japan to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment as required by international law. In recent days it has been revealed that the Pacific Pintail and Teal may be suffering from corrosion that threatens their structural safety. BNFL have refused to release details. The Japanese Government only learnt about this latest problem after news reports.
Security is also a major concern as the ships are slow, lightly armed and vulnerable to armed attack. The plutonium contained in this one cargo is sufficient for 50 nuclear weapons if stolen, and could be turned into a giant radiological weapon or 'dirty-bomb'.
For further information: Angie Heffernan Greenpeace Pacific Nuclear Campaigner tel (Suva) 3312 861