Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

War of Words as Green Protest Flotilla Tracks N-Ship into Port

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

War of Words as Green Protest Flotilla Tracks N-Ship into Port

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH MUIR

A SHIP loaded with enough plutonium to make 50 nuclear bombs finally docked in Cumbria today with armed guards on deck and police helicopters overhead.

It sailed into port at Barrow, Cumbria, after a controversial 18,000-mile voyage from Japan.

The ship was tracked by environmental protesters who have dogged its passage over the past two months.

Four boats belonging to Greenpeace and emblazoned with banners which read: "No to Plutonium Transport," sailed within 20 yards of the British Nuclear Fuels shipment but protesters were prevented from getting any closer by 12 police vessels.

As the ship sailed into view, armed marksmen could be clearly seen on the decks.

The blue-and-white 105-metre freighter Pacific Pintail also carried three 30 millimetre cannon to keep potential saboteurs at bay. It and a sister ship, the Pacific Teal, which acted as an escort on the voyage but carried no plutonium, were also accompanied by two police helicopters.

After entering closed waters at about 10am, the Pacific Pintail was pulled by two tugs to a berth alongside a giant crane.

Over the next two hours, the plutonium - contained in a 100-tonne flask - was slowly lifted onto a waiting train to begin its 44-mile trip to Sellafield.

An extensive operation involving Cumbria Police, British Transport Police and officers from the UK Atomic Energy Constabulary secured the route, paying particular attention to vulnerable points such as bridges.

Although the mission to transport the material ended safely, the war of words between BNFL and Greenpeace continued. Paul Vallence of BNFL said: "We are very happy.

Despite all that was said we were always confident that our arrangements were suitable."

But Blake Lee Harwood of Greenpeace said: "This whole exercise has been a massive humiliation for BNFL. They have paid a high price in terms of the cost they have had to pay and their commercial credibility. We believe this will be the last shipment of its kind."

He denied BNFL claims that protesters could have put the shipment at risk.

"At no point did we endanger the voyage," he said. …

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