Judge bans nuclear shipment protest Nuclear shipment protest banned

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The Independent Online
THE UK nuclear fuel reprocessing industry won a legal battle yesterday to prevent environmental campaigners disrupting the delivery of mixed uranium and plutonium fuel to Japan on ships fitted with cannons.

British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) successfully sought an injunction from a judge in chambers at the High Court, preventing Greenpeace from blocking the mixed oxide fuel (Mox) shipments. The legal action follows an exchange of letters between BNFL and Greenpeace in which the company sought assurances that environmentalists would not attempt to block the shipments. No assurance was given.

The dispute has been sparked by a Greenpeace demonstration in Cherbourg, northern France, where protesters occupied cranes that would be used to transfer Mox fuel to ships.

Pete Roche, a Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner, said that, in the wrong hands, the plutonium and uranium in the fuel could be separated easily and used to make nuclear bombs.

"They were granted the injunction because we refused to give them an undertaking that we would not interfere with the shipments," he said.

"We are not surprised by this ruling. It is about the tenth injunction that has been made against us."

Mr Roche accused BNFL of trying to keep the shipments secret. "If the shipments are successful and Mox fabrication expands, then the international community faces 80 more such shipments over the next 10 years, the spread of nuclear weapons material more widely than ever before, and raised tensions in one of the most politically volatile regions of the world - Asia."

Earlier, an injunction was granted against Greenpeace France, preventing activists from going within 100 metres of the nuclear convoy.

Currently two armed and guarded ships are preparing to leave the UK with the Mox fuel shipments. Greenpeace says the ships are waiting in Barrow- in-Furness, Cumbria, and will sail within the next few weeks, but BNFL has not released any details about the shipments.

A BNFL spokesman said it was pleased with yesterday's decision, which meant that the ships could continue their journey unimpeded.

Alastair Thomas, the head of transport at BNFL, said: "As a company, BNFL has no problem with a peaceful and lawful protest. However, we would not want to see the safety of the ships' crew, the escort team or the public at large put in danger by some irresponsible media stunt by Greenpeace."

The cargo of fuel will be shipped to Japan without a Navy escort.

The British vessels have been fitted with three cannon and will be expected to protect each other from potential attacks.

BNFL has stressed that the fuel would be transported in specially designed casks that satisfy the rigorous international safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Security measures also exceed all international recommendations, said the company.