Terrorism Bill threatens to prevent people throughout the world from knowing about British nuclear shipments along their coasts
Greenpeace today published a nuclear ship spotter's guide on this website. The guide provides photos, specifications, call signs and the recent movements of British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL) seven ships. The six general cargo vessels and one roll on-roll off ferry transport nuclear waste fuel and other nuclear material around the globe. They have also carried deadly plutonium, the basic ingredient of nuclear weapons.
Under the Government's Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, the publication of information on these already secretive nuclear ship movements would be illegal and carry a prison sentence of up to seven years. This would deprive both people in the UK and overseas from their right to know about these ships, their routes and dangerous cargoes. Knowing about the ships' movements is also one of the few ways of monitoring how much highly radioactive nuclear waste is being imported into the UK by BNFL.
Greenpeace Nuclear Campaigner, Bridget Woodman said,
"BNFL's deadly flotilla endangers people and the environment throughout world. The ships' regular voyages could make them the target of terrorists and any radioactivity released into the sea would be devastating for coastal communities dependent on tourism and fishing. Dozens of countries have objected to these ships and their lethal cargoes passing through their waters."
"The Act will strip people in the UK and abroad of their fundamental right to know about dangerous nuclear material being shipped through their waters. Even if this Bill becomes law Greenpeace will do everything we can to make sure that people whether they live in Liverpool or Latin America know what a risk BNFL is forcing upon them."
The degree of security around these ships varies. For nuclear waste fuels transports, the ships sail unaccompanied. For plutonium and some high level waste, the ships have been escorted by armed vessels. Some ships are merely protected by armed police on board.
The seven ships carry nuclear waste from BNFL's overseas customers in Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Holland to its Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria. The same ships also carry nuclear waste fuel to the French version of Sellafield, La Hague. The routes taken by the ships carry them throughout the world before returning to the port of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. They make regular stops at the European ports of Flushing, Cherbourg, Dunkirk and Bremerhaven and several ports in Japan. Recently one ship, the MV Arneb delivered plutonium MOX fuel to Hull, from where it was transported to Sellafield. The ships also regularly sail through the Panama Canal.
Greenpeace has in the past tracked shipments of plutonium and high level nuclear waste from Sellafield and La Hague to Japan, and ensured that countries along the route were aware of the risks they are being forced to bear. More than 30 countries have so far objected to the ships sailing through their waters because of the possibility of an accident or attack on the shipments (1).
The Government's Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, which is expected to become law within the next few weeks, would prevent publication of information that might 'prejudice the security of any nuclear site or any nuclear material' and carries a sentence of up to seven years for offenders. Greenpeace is running a national campaign against the measures in the Bill and on Wednesday (21st) published aerial photographs to show the range of dangerous nuclear processes going on at Sellafield. On Tuesday (20th) it revealed the results and photographs of surveillance of a secret nuclear shipment at Scrabster in North Scotland and on Monday (19th), Greenpeace published a newspaper advert showing a map of nuclear waste train routes through central London, with internet links to the train timetables.
Greenpeace has promised to continue to provide information that is in the public interest on the dangers of the nuclear industry. Greenpeace in the past has revealed numerous safety scandals at nuclear power stations, landfill sites used as nuclear waste dumps and the routes of secret nuclear shipments from Sellafield to Japan. Greenpeace investigations have also revealed the routes of plutonium road convoys, spent nuclear fuel deliveries that have made regular stops for tea-breaks at motorway service stations and highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel being transported on a roll on-roll off ferry with ordinary freight trucks and their drivers on board.
Bridget Woodman added,
"If the Government believes these nuclear shipments are a security risk then it should stop these deadly imports by BNFL and not the democratic right of people both here and overseas to know about the horrendous risks these ships carry."
Notes for editors:
1. The governments and parliaments of many countries oppose plutonium and other nuclear shipments from Europe to Japan. Opposition has come from Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the 14 governments of Caribbean organisation CARICOM, South Africa, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Ireland, Malaysia, South Korea, Mauritius, and the nations of the South Pacific Forum. In December 2000, the New Zealand Foreign Minister has recently called for nuclear transport ships heading for Japan not to enter the country's 200-mile Economic Exclusion Zone.
The relevant part of the bill is:
Clause 79 Prohibition of disclosures in relation to nuclear security
79(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he discloses any information or thing the disclosure of which might prejudice the security of any nuclear site or any nuclear material-
(a) with the intention of prejudicing that security; or
(b) being reckless as to whether the disclosure might prejudice that security
"Nuclear material" means:
a) nuclear material held on a site or
b) nuclear material anywhere in the world which is being transported to or from a nuclear site or on Board a British ship
This offence is punishable with up to seven years imprisonment.
Clause 80 Prohibition of disclosures of uranium enrichment technology Applies to:
a) any information about the enrichment of uranium or
b) any information or thing which is, or is likely to be, used in connection with the enrichment of uranium
It provides that the Sec of State may through regulation prohibit the disclosure of information and this will be punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment.
BNFL and the nuclear wastes trade
[NB: the Spotter's Guide is no longer available.]
Greenpeace press office on 020 7865 8255