Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he strongly opposes the shipment of plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel in the South Pacific. In a statement he made on March 18, 2009 on the House Floor, Faleomavaega expressed his strong objection to the shipment of MOX nuclear fuel that left the port of Cherbourg France on March 6, 2009 bound for Japan. The shipment of 1.8 tonnes of MOX nuclear fuel, enough to produce 225 nuclear weapons, was scheduled to travel via the Cape of Good Hope, the Southern Ocean, the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand and the south-west Pacific Ocean.
The latest shipment is part of an ongoing process involving several major countries with nuclear programs that are committed to utilizing recycled nuclear fuel. Using a procedure known as "reprocessing," plutonium and uranium are chemically extracted from highly radioactive products contained in spent fuel from commercial reactors. Most of the extracted plutonium along with the nuclear waste will eventually be returned to the country that provided the spent fuel. Since 1999, several major countries in Europe have been transporting MOX energy fuel to complement shipments of spent fuel from commercial reactors in Japan.
“The unnecessary and unjustifiable transshipment of nuclear waste and nuclear materials demonstrate once again the imperialistic behavior of these major countries often at the expense of others. At this critical point in history when the global community is confronted with tough decisions concerning energy resources for future generations, it is important to remind ourselves of the lessons of the past,” said Faleomavaega.
“In 1995, I accompanied Mr. Oscar Temaru, the current President of French Polynesia, on the Green Peace Warrior which took us to Moruroa to protest French nuclear testing. At the time, while the world turned a blind eye, the newly elected President of France, Jacques Chirac and the French government broke the world moratorium on nuclear testing and exploded 8 more nuclear bombs at the Pacific atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa in Tahiti. Adding insult to injury, President Chirac stated that nuclear explosions would have no effect on the ecological environment.”
“History shows that for some 30 years, the French Government detonated approximately 218 nuclear devices at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in Tahiti. About 10,000 Tahitians are believed to have been severely exposed to nuclear radiation during French nuclear testing.”
“Our own U.S. government also contributed to this grim history of nuclear testing in the South Pacific. Indeed, one may argue that it was the U.S. nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands that set the precedent for France to follow suit and use the Pacific Islands as testing grounds for nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 66 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands including the first hydrogen bomb, or Bravo shot, which was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Acknowledged as the greatest nuclear explosion ever detonated by the U.S., the Bravo shot decimated 6 islands and produced a mushroom cloud 25 miles in diameter. It has been said that if one were to calculate the net yield of the tests conducted in the Marshall Islands, it would be equivalent to the detonation of 1.7 Hiroshima nuclear bombs every day for 12 years.”
“Such was the magnitude of the devastation that threatened the Marshall Islands. In addition to the annihilation of the surrounding environment and ecological system, the U.S. nuclear testing program exposed the people of the Marshall Islands to severe health issues and genetic irregularities for generations to come.”
“I am inspired by President Obama’s recent decision concerning the storage of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. As a U.S. Senator in 2007, Barack Obama wrote in the Las Vegas Review- Journal that ‘states should not be fairly burdened with waste from other states.’ Moreover, ‘every state should be afforded the opportunity to chart a course that addresses its own interim waste storage in a manner that makes sense to that state,’” Faleomavaega explained.
“The same principle should guide the international treatment of nuclear waste and nuclear materials. I support the idea of a moratorium on all international shipments of nuclear fuel and nuclear waste until the international community has in place an agreement to ensure the protection of our oceans and the environment, economy and population of coastal and small island states. Such an agreement must include mechanism for prior notification and consultation of en-route states before shipment of all hazardous and radioactive materials, environmental impact assessments, a satisfactory liability mechanism and protection from terrorism attacks.”
“Until such system is in place, Europe, Japan and all nuclear states, must keep their nuclear materials and nuclear waste in their own backyard, and not endanger the lives of others,” Faleomavaega concluded.