Statement by Deputy Minister PR Mokaba

Office of the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Friday, January 31, 1997

Pretoria--On the eve of the arrival in waters off the South African Coast by the Vitrified High Level Radioactive Waste (VHLW) on board the British Flagged, from France en-route to Japan, the government of the Republic of South Africa through my ministry wishes to reiterate its long established opposition to any and all transboundary movement of hazardous and toxic waste. In particular we wish to repeat our opposition to the Pacific Teal with its cargo of nuclear waste from entering our EEZ.

Notwithstanding assurances given regarding the safety measures taken and the commitment that Pacific Teal will indeed keep out of our water as she would sail at 300 nautical miles from our coast, it must be stated that transboundary movement of hazardous and toxic substances remains a dangerous enterprise that all civilised nations must seek to ban. Trade in such waste also remains immoral and always involves lack of sensitivity towards the peoples of the en-route nations which, in most cases, are developing and poor countries often without both the resources and capacities to deal with the severe health and other consequences that will inevitably result in case of accident.

The principle must be promoted and complied with that countries which produce nuclear, hazardous and/or toxic waste must themselves develop capacity to process such waste for re-use or safe disposal within their own borders. Secondly it must be upheld that countries which by any means receive products or substances whose final stages would generate toxic and/or hazardous waste should also develop capacity for safe disposal of such waste within the borders of their own country. No nation must enjoy the right to expose another to danger. Whether within or outside the specific EEZ any accident relating to nuclear or toxic substances will have a detrimental effect to the marine resources.

Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism


4 February 1997


The Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has now been fully briefed on the issue of the "Pacific Teal" and its passage through South Africa's E.E.Z.

On February 2, 1997, the "Pacific Teal" was observed 150 nautical miles off the South African coast. According toinformation we have at hand the closest position to the South African coastline was on that same day, 90 nautical miles. On Monday, February 3, the ship was 150 nautical miles from the South African coast, south of Mossel Bay and heading out of South Africa's E.E.Z.

In terms of international law, South Africa has no authority to exclude vessels from its E.E.Z. and South Africa made no attempt to drive this vessel beyond the 200 nautical mile limit. However, it is the considered judgement of this Ministry that undertakings given to us, by the operators of the "Pacific Teal," have been broken.

The hazards attaching to the movement of nuclear waste through the high seas cannot be over-emphasised. Despite the international conventions regarding the right of innocent passage through the E.E.Z. of South Africa, we would have expected the operators of the "Pacific Teal" to have exercised greater sensitivity in this matter, especially in light of the concerns South Africa had expressed in our earlier exchanges.

The experience of the "Pacific Teal's" voyage along our coast will inform South Africa's future response to the shipment of radio-active waste.


For more information please contact:

Cassandra Gabriel, Public Relations Officer
Cell - 082 573 4168, Office 021 457 240


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