"Malaysia bans ship carrying
nuclear waste to Japan"

Reuter News Service, January 15, 1997

RTw 1/15/97 6:44 AM
(Adds details of New Zealand Greenpeace protest)

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 (Reuter) - Malaysia on Wednesday banned a ship carrying recycled nuclear waste from France to Japan from its waters, the environment minister said.

The decision to bar the British ship Pacific Teal was made by the cabinet at its weekly meeting, the national news agency Bernama quoted Science, Technology and Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding as saying.

The Pacific Teal left the French port of Cherbourg on Monday and had charted a course around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, across the Indian Ocean and through the southwest Pacific, French reprocessing company COGEMA said on Tuesday.

It was expected to arrive at the Japanese port of Mutsu Ogawara in mid-March, the French state company said.

The waste orginated from Japan and was sent to France to be processed for re-use in Japan.

Malaysia is concerned that route could eventually take it through its waters, Environment Minister Law said.
Malaysia's Foreign Ministry would seek assurances from the Japanese government that the ship would not use waters under Malaysian control, he said.

Malaysia claims a 200-mile (320-km) economic zone around its coastline.

As a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and under its Atomic Energy Licensing Act, Malaysia had the legal right to control the movement of nuclear material within its national jurisdiction, Law said.

The government is concerned about a possible mishap involving the Pacific Teal in the Malacca Strait. The narrow waterway between Malaysia and Indonesia is a key shipping link between the west and Asia and is congested with about 150 ships a day.

Earlier on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists protested against the voyage outside of the Japanese consulate in Auckland.

The New Zealand government also expressed regret at news that the ship would pass through the southwest Pacific.

About 20 Greenpeace protesters demonstrated outside the consulate while others unfurled a banner reading "New Zealanders say no to plutonium" on the building.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon said he was extremely disappointed that the Pacific Teal would cross the South Pacific.

New Zealand, braving U.S. anger, passed legislation in the mid-1980s banning nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships from its waters. It forms part of a self-declared nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific.

Wellington says it cannot legally prevent the ship from sailing through the Tasman Sea, which separates New Zealand and Australia. But McKinnon again called for it to stay out of New Zealand's 200-mile (320-km) economic zone.

"We made it clear to Japan, and to the other countries involved in the shipment, that New Zealand did not want it to come anywhere near us. Despite our representations, and those of other South Pacific countries, the vessel will be passing through our region," McKinnon said.

"The Japanese government can be under no illusion that it will do so against the wishes of the people of the South Pacific," he said.



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