American plutonium arrives in France

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The Independent Online

Trucks carrying enough weapons-grade plutonium for more than 60 bombs reached southern France late last week, amid claims of security lapses during its 600-mile journey through the country.

Trucks carrying enough weapons-grade plutonium for more than 60 bombs reached southern France late last week, amid claims of security lapses during its 600-mile journey through the country.

Greenpeace activists say they got within yards of the world's biggest ever shipment of the plutonium when it stopped for petrol outside Toulouse. The plutonium - from the US nuclear weapons establishment at Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb - was transported to Cadarache in Provence to be made into nuclear fuel, as part of an agreement with Russia to reduce weapons stockpiles.

Although a one-off shipment, it is - as reported in last week's Independent on Sunday - the precursor of 68 tons of the material, enough for 15,000 bombs, to be transported at a time when terrorists are actively trying to get hold of it. Security experts fear some of it will inevitably be hijacked.

The shipment was carried aboard two British ships each armed only with a 30mm machine-gun and guarded by 13 policemen. The largest shareholder of the owners of the Pacific Teal and the Pacific Pintail is the nationalised British Nuclear Fuels. It was heavily guarded for its journey through France, which avoided Paris to make a detour via Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nîmes.

Tom Clements, Greenpeace International's nuclear campaigner, said: "We were in total shock at the lack of security in such a public place. If I had been a terrorist I could easily have blown it up."

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