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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK


Nuclear ship finally leaves port

Seven protesters were arrested in the demonstration

A ship taking nuclear fuel to Japan has left port, after being delayed for several hours by environmental protesters towing a giant white elephant.

Seven Greenpeace protesters - five men and two women - were arrested following the overnight demonstration at the harbour in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, but were later released without charge.

Chief Inspector Brian Horne explains why his men arrested the demonstrators
A morning departure for the Pacific Teal was aborted amid fears the protesters would endanger members of the crew or the public.

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) said the ship had left Barrow at about 1500BST on Monday. A second vessel, the Pacific Pintail, also left.

[ image: The MV Greenpeace shadows the nuclear convoy in the Irish Sea]
The MV Greenpeace shadows the nuclear convoy in the Irish Sea
The Pacific Teal is due to collect plutonium fuel from Cherbourg, France, for shipment to Japan, while the Pacific Pintail is carrying mixed plutonium and uranium fuel from the Sellafield plant in Cumbria.

A Greenpeace spokesman said its own vessel, MV Greenpeace, would follow the two ships on their journey.

"Our plans are not to impede the safe navigation of these vessels. Our plan is to document this obscene transport," a crew member said.

Hijacking fears

Peter Roche of Greenpeace: "We did not impede the ships"
At the demonstration, protesters towed a mock elephant excreting "bombs" in front of the lock gates at the mouth of the port, as 12 other campaigners joined the protest in two inflatable boats.

They were joined by South Korean environmentalists, who fear the ships will pass through the Straits of Korea en route to Japan.

The protesters fear the shipments could cause environmental contamination and nuclear proliferation.

Greenpeace says the first shipments could lead to 80 further shipments to Japan over the next decade. It argues that the fuel will be loaded into reactors not designed for that type of fuel.

It also says the plutonium could be converted to make up to 60 nuclear bombs, and has warned of disaster if the two ships sank or were hijacked.

Injunction obtained

But BNFL said the shipments met all international agreements for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The two ships are expected to travel together, and are protected by armed officers from the UK Atomic Energy Authority and naval guns.

BNFL obtained a fresh High Court injunction on Monday night, which "effectively barred" Greenpeace activists from Barrow port.

A similar order was granted by a French judge concerning Cherbourg.

A joint statement by BNFL and nuclear authorities in France and Japan said the two ships would leave Cherbourg on Wednesday carrying 40 fuel assemblies between them.

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