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