Atom ship protest

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A freighter carrying some 30 tonnes of reprocessed nuclear waste back to Japan will leave the French port of Cherbourg today, the French nuclear firm Cogema said.

Environmental groups say the waste shipment will for the first time pass through the Panama Canal, posing a threat to those living nearby, but officials of state-owned Cogema refused to confirm or deny the route to be followed by the British-flagged freighter, the Pacific Swan. Cogema will disclose the route tomorrow after the boat has left France, the officials said.

On board the vessel when it leaves Cherbourg will be roughly 60 half- tonne logs of reconditioned nuclear waste sealed in stainless steel canisters. Japan, which lacks the facilities for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, relies on Britain and France to reprocess the hazardous material.

- Reuters, Paris