Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 16:09:01 CST
From: Mark Graffis <>
Article: 29600
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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Japanese governor halts entry of British nuclear ship

Reuters, The Nando Times 9 March 1998 11:30 p.m. EST

MUTSU-OGAWARA, Japan—A Japanese regional governor on Tuesday barred a British freighter carrying nuclear waste from France from entering a port in his prefecture.

The Pacific Swan, carrying 24 tons of nuclear waste, was standing about one mile off the northern Japanese port of Mutsu-Ogawara waiting for a row over its entry to be settled between Governor Morio Kimura of Aomori Prefecture and the Tokyo central government.

The freighter is carrying nuclear waste recycled by France's state-run nuclear firm Cogema. It left the French port of Cherbourg in late January and was scheduled to unload its cargo on Tuesday morning.

We agreed that we are not in a situation to allow the entry (of the ship), Kimura told reporters.

The governor barred the 50,000-ton Pacific Swan's entry after Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto refused to grant him a meeting that Kimura wanted to get a personal assurance that Japan's nuclear industry is safe.

It would be the third similar shipment of nuclear waste to the port, 360 miles northeast of Tokyo, since 1995.

Japan, lacking sufficient facilities to reprocess most of its spent nuclear fuel, relies on Britain and France to reprocess the hazardous material.

The by-products plutonium and radioactive waste, which the Pacific Swan is carrying, are then returned to Japan.

Tokyo plans eventually to ship 7,100 tons of spent fuel to France and Britain for reprocessing into 30 tonnes of fuel-grade plutonium, yielding 3,000 tons of waste.

Safety concerns about Japan's nuclear programme were raised last March after a radiation leak at the Tokaimura nuclear processing plant 100 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Subsequent investigations revealed other problems at nuclear facilities and systematic cover-ups of accidents by nuclear authorities.

Police reinforcements were at the port but there were fewer than 20 nuclear protesters at the site.

In 1995, Kimura barred another British nuclear ship that had sailed from France, the Pacific Pintail, from entering the port, demanding assurances from the central government that Aomori would not be the final disposal ground of nuclear waste.

Kimura lifted the ban the following day after receiving a written assurance promising not to bury the waste in his prefecture permanently.

A similar 1997 shipment went ahead without problems.

Kimura said he had repeatedly asked to meet with Hashimoto but the prime minister's office had informed him it could not find time for a meeting.

Japan's 52 commercial nuclear reactors currently provide about one-third of the country's electric power.