Nuclear Fuel Ship Protests

An armed vessel with a load of recycled nuclear fuel from France arrived amid heavy security Monday at a Japanese port where it was greeted by dozens of protesters. The [I]Pacific Heron[/I] – carrying a British police team to head off possible hijackers on its secretive two-month voyage – delivered a load of mixed-oxide or MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium.

Several dozen anti-nuclear activists and residents rallied at a pier of the Omaezaki fishing port as the ship docked under heavy police guard and cranes unloaded metal containers of the nuclear fuel.

Environmental group Greenpeace has called the cargo, which left France in March via a secret route, “the largest shipment of plutonium in history”, saying the 1.8 tonnes would be enough to make 225 nuclear weapons.

Dozens of Coast Guard ships patrolled nearby as the ship unloaded the MOX, which was set to be transported by land to the nearby Hamaoka nuclear plant, located on the tip of the Omaezaki cape facing the Pacific Ocean.

Japan has few energy resources of its own and relies on nuclear power for nearly one-third of its domestic electricity needs.

The country also experiences some 20 per cent of the world’s most powerful quakes, and anti-nuclear activists say relying on atomic power in a tectonically unstable country is a catastrophic accident waiting to happen.

“Using the MOX fuel at the nuclear plant here is suicidal,” said Yoshika Shiratori, 76, one of the leaders of a local activist group.

“Once a big earthquake hits and a deadly tsunami gulps up the nuclear plant, there is no doubt this entire bay, the Pacific Ocean and all the seas around Japan would become contaminated.”

The ship will continue its journey from the port in central Shizuoka prefecture to two other harbours near nuclear plants in southwestern Japan. Read More…