Controversial Nuclear Cargo Ship Docks In Japan

Friday, October 01, 1999
An armed British ship carrying recycled nuclear fuel docked on Japan's northeast coast early last week after a two-month voyage from Europe that sparked protests by environmentalists and raised security fears. Activists from environmental group Greenpeace, riding in inflatable boats, met the Pacific Teal as the cargo ship docked early Monday morning at Okuma, about 160 miles north of Tokyo. It had been delayed for five days by bad weather. The Pacific Pintail, a second armed British ship also carrying nuclear fuel, remained offshore to wait for the Pacific Teal to unload before they both headed north down the Sea of Japan to their destination at Fukui. Unloading of the Pacific Teal's cargo of MOX fuel - a mix of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel - was expected to start the morning of Sept. 27, said a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), one of two power companies sponsoring the shipment. Greenpeace had warned that the shipment could have been converted into 60 nuclear bombs if the two ships had been hijacked at sea. The Pacific Teal's arrival in Okuma was also met by protests by a citizens' group, but the docking proceeded without incident. The voyage marks the first transfer of so-called "direct use" nuclear material, considered easily convertible into weapons-grade material, since 1992.
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