September 2002

Navy and airforce to monitor radioactive fuel, September 4, 2002

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[Posted 06/09/2002]

The navy and air force will be deployed to monitor a shipment of radioactive fuel as it makes its way through the Irish Sea to Sellafield later this month, it emerged today.

Patrol ships and reconnaissance aircraft will watch over the five tonne cargo of plutonium and uranium mixed oxide (MOX) which is being shipped to the Cumbrian installation from Takahama in Japan.

"The Department of Defence will be deploying resources as appropriate on an ongoing basis as regards the MOX shipment," a department spokesman said.

"It would obviously involve the use of Naval Service ships and Air Corps reconnaissance aircraft."

The decision, following a meeting of the Government's Emergency Task Force yesterday, comes amid public outcry about the shipment.

It also marks a U-turn in Dublin as last week Marine Minister Dermot Ahern rejected calls by the environment group Greenpeace for the defence forces to be deployed.

But the defence spokesman said today that the decision to deploy had been made following fresh consultation between Defence Minister Michael Smith and Mr Ahern.

The spokesman was unable to confirm how many vessels or aircraft would be used, saying it was an "operational matter". But he said: "There will be some deployment."

The cargo ships, the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal, are to arrive in the Irish Sea within the next two weeks but are highly unlikely to enter territorial waters, which stretch 12 miles out to sea, as such a move would probably spark a diplomatic incident.

The material on board was rejected by the Japanese nuclear industry when it arrived in 1999 after it emerged that quality control data at Sellafield, operated by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), was incorrect.

Opposition groups in the Dáil have in recent days stepped up the pressure on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to demonstrate Ireland's anger at the shipment.

Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, called yesterday for "immediate unconditional war" on the British nuclear industry.

He said on board the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, which is docked in Dublin: "We've crept around BNFL for too long. It's a matter of fact - not opinion - that BNFL cannot be trusted."

He added: "I'm not happy to put the lives of any Irish child, including my own, in the hands of BNFL."

The Rainbow Warrior is to lead a flotilla of boats which will protest in the Irish Sea when the nuclear cargo arrives.

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