Dept of Defence to monitor plutonium ship

Tuesday 03 September 2002 20.35

The Department of Defence has confirmed that it will be "monitoring" the progress of a shipment of plutonium through the Irish Sea towards Sellafield, which is expected to arrive within the next two weeks.

A spokesman refused to comment on the details of the operation, but confirmed that resources such as ships and aircraft would be used.The issue was raised at a meeting of the Task Force on Emergency Planning today, which was chaired by Defence Minister Michael Smith.There had been contact last week between the Departments of Marine and Defence at official level on this matter. The Department of Defence said that it will be deploying resources as appropriate to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

Earlier, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on the Government to declare immediate and unconditional "war" on the British nuclear industry.

Speaking on the Greenpeace ship, which is docked in Dublin, Mr Kenny claimed that British Nuclear Fuels could not be trusted, and said the terrorist threat against Sellafield had increased exponentially since 11 September.

The Fine Gael leader attacked the Government for failing to reduce the nuclear threat on Ireland's doorstep.

Mr Kenny called on the Taoiseach to use his relationship with Tony Blair to find out whether BNFL had increased security at the plant in response to the increased danger of terrorist attack.

Mr Kenny claimed that Sellafield is vulnerable to attack by road, sea, air, rail and by pedestrian access, and that given BNFL's track record, paranoia is the only adequate response to the magnitude of the threat.

He said he was not happy to put the lives of any Irish children, including his own, in the hands of BNFL.

British Embassy "disappointed"A British Embassy spokesman expressed disappointment with the language used by Mr Kenny, in particular the call for an unconditional "war" on the British Nuclear Industry.

The Rainbow Warrior is in Dublin to highlight the arrival of the plutonium shipment from Japan to Sellafield.

The Greenpeace boat, accompanied by a number of Irish ships, will shadow the shipment to ensure it does not enter Irish waters. It will not interfere with its progress. Mr Kenny said the shipment highlighted the dangers to Ireland posed by Sellafield.

Meanwhile, the Green MEP, Nuala Ahern, has claimed that the movement of nuclear fuel from Japan to Sellafied by sea "is spitting in the face of the victims of 11 September".

Ms Ahern claimed the two ships taking the cargo of MOX back from Japan are not capable of withstanding either a terrorist attack or fire and so "they are an invitation to terrorists to hijack material for the making of a nuclear bomb".

She has urged the Irish government to take action to stop these shipments.

British Nuclear Fuels has said that the container carrying the MOX has undergone extensive tests which prove that it is able to resist fire and say the shipments are armed to ensure that it cannot be taken over.