Contested US nuclear cargo arrives in France

6th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

CHERBOURG, France, Oct 6 (AFP) - Police threw a heavy escort around a shipment of plutonium from US weapons arsenals as it was offloaded from a ship and taken by military convoy to a nuclear recycling plant in western France on Wednesday despite protests from environmental activists.

CHERBOURG, France, Oct 6 (AFP) - Police threw a heavy escort around a shipment of plutonium from US weapons arsenals as it was offloaded from a ship and taken by military convoy to a nuclear recycling plant in western France on Wednesday despite protests from environmental activists.  

The procession of trucks, accompanied by police vans and motorbike outriders, took the 140 kilograms (300 pounds) of radioactive material to the plant in La Hague run by the French state company Areva.  

The plutonium was taken off a British vessel docked in the nearby port of Cherbourg earlier in the day without incident, Areva said.  

Police said activists from the anti-nuclear group Greenpeace, who have been protesting the operation for days, did not make any effort to stop the offloading, which was carried out while military helicopters flew overhead.  

A French court on Tuesday issued an injunction banning the activists from approaching to within less than 100 metres (yards) from the cargo on land, and 300 metres at sea.  

The transport vessel left North Carolina, on the eastern seaboard of the United States, on September 20, with another British vessel as escort.  

After initial treatment at the plant in La Hague, the plutonium is to be taken by road 1,200 kilometres (720 miles) across France to a reprocessing factory in the southeastern town of Cadarache.  

There, it will be transformed into two tonnes of fuel used in civilian power plants known as mixed oxide, or Mox, and returned to the United States.  

Authorities had kept the docking date and hour a strict secret, citing security reasons, and forcing protesters to hold all-night vigils at the port.  

Greenpeace activists, who have denounced the long transport route as particularly dangerous for such a deadly cargo, on Tuesday blocked for several hours a road along which the nuclear cargo was due to be taken to La Hague.  

The two European companies involved in the operation, France's Areva and British Nuclear Fuel Limited, on Tuesday successfully applied to a Cherbourg court for an order preventing Greenpeace activists from approaching the cargo.  

The court fined Greenpeace EUR 75,000 for blocking the road.  

One Greenpeace militant at Tuesday's protest, a German named Thomas Breuer, said the organisation wanted "to focus attention on this very dangerous and completely unnecessary transport."  

Greenpeace has said the long distances of road transport involved constituted "considerable" risk, not least because the cargo's containers could easily be cracked open by terrorists using shoulder-launched rockets.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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