PUERTO RICANS PROTEST NUCLEAR WASTE SHIPMENT
(Puerto Rico. March 3 1999) Puerto Rican activists are joining
international campaign against the maritime transport of nuclear
through the Caribbean sea and the Panama Canal.
The focus of
campaign is the voyage of the Pacific Swan, a
British-flagged ship that left
France on February 25 and is headed to
Japan with a cargo of 1067 tons of
reprocessed nuclear waste. Although
its route is being kept secret, it is
expected to travel through the
Caribbean and cross the Panama
In order to enter the Caribbean sea, the ship will have to go
the Mona canal, which is between the Dominican Republic and Puerto
Last year, the Pacific Swan sailed across the Caribbean with a
cargo, in spite of heated protests from environmentalists
governments in the area.
The ship contains forty cylinders of
vitrified nuclear waste. "(These)
glass blocks are in fact so
radioactive that a person standing within
one metre of an unshielded block
could receive a lethal dose of
radiation in less than one minute", said
a Greenpeace press release.
"This shipment constitutes an
enormous danger for
ecosystems and populations all over the Caribbean",
Fernández, environmental adviser to the Puerto Rico
(Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño/ PIP).
"The fact that the
ship's route and schedule are a secret, like thieves
in the night,
aggravates the potential danger of these
"We add our voices to the global call against the
transport of radioactive materials because of the danger
represents to public health and the marine environment in case of
accident", declared Wanda Colón, coordinator of the San
Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace. "We must phase out
power and give a real chance to sustainable alternatives, like
wind and geothermal energy".
The opponents of these
shipments faced a major setback when in late
February, United States federal
judge Salvador Casellas dismissed a
lawsuit by a coalition of local groups.
The plaintiffs, which included
Puerto Rican environmental groups and
fishermen's associations, sought
to ban the passage of ships carrying
radioactive materials through the
In his 20-page opinion,
Judge Casellas, ruled that the US government
has no right to interfere with
the shipments, except in case of an
accident on board.
erred in his decision by not considering the dangerous
nature of the
and the level of risk involved in transporting
it through the Mona canal,
known for its rough currents", said Luis
Silva, spokesman for the
plaintiffs, to the local press.
The plaintiffs are appealing judge
Casellas's decision in the US Court
of Appeals in Boston.
26, PIP senator Rubén Berríos presented a resolution
expresses, in the name of the people of Puerto Rico,
against the nuclear waste shipment.
The brief document,
which describes the Pacific Swan as "a floating
that the technology for transporting these nuclear
wastes is unsafe. It also
refers to a Princeton University study that
concludes that there are no
adequate methods for insuring that the
ship's containers will be airtight
under normal travel conditions.
The resolution also mentions that the
Pacific Swan had a fire on board
in 1990 during a trip through the Atlantic
Ocean. "An accident of that
nature but of greater proportions could
cause a repetition of the
Chernobyl inferno, this time all over the
According to Greenpeace and press reports, CARICOM
leaders will put
the nuclear transport issue in the agenda of their summit
scheduled for March 4-5 in Suriname.
One of the local groups
active in this protest campaign is the
Committee Against Experiments on the
Environment, which last year led
the opposition to a series of NASA
experiments in Puerto Rico.
The Committee is tying its campaign against
the Pacific Swan's passage
with its campaign against NASA's unmanned Cassini
Cassini, headed to Saturn, was launched in 1997 with 72.3
highly radioactive plutonium on board.
In August 1999, the
spacecraft will approach Earth for a fly-by
manoeuvre to help it gain speed.
Environmentalists and scientists all
over the world have deemed this
manoeuvre to be too risky, and are
calling on NASA to reroute the
"We insist that the threat of a global disaster caused
by plutonium is
real", said the Committee in a recent press statement.
"It's up to all
of us to put a stop to these demented nuclear
The Committee is planning major protest actions against
Pacific Swan's passage and the Cassini Earth
Posted 3/6/99 11:25:18 AM