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Bunny McDiarmid : "New Zealanders are happy to have a French entry into the America’s Cup but not at any price"

mercredi 13 mars 2002Christophe Guigueno

Bunny McDiarmid is a Nuclear Campaigner from Greenpeace NZ. She was one of the first to react to the announcement from the members of the french challenger for the 2003 America’s Cup America's Cup #AmericasCup to be sponsorship by the Areva Group, the french nuclear group.

SeaSailSurf.com has mailed her ’Three Questions Net To’ to know more about Greanpeace and New Zealand people reaction about this much debated sponsorship. A sponsorship which also surprises 50 % of SeaSailSurf.com visitors as we can see in the first results of the poll about Areva and Le Défi association.

Interview :

1° Which was your first reaction when you learnt than the french civil nuclear indrustry was sponsoring Sponsoring #Sponsoring a yacht racing in the bay of Auckland ?

- We were very surprised that they decided to do this and even more so that they thought that it would not be challenged by New Zealanders and by sailors worldwide. Many people outside NZ often know two things about NZ, that we are nuclear free and that we like to sail. So it seems very provocative for Areva to try to use this sailing event to push their industry’s business. Here in NZ it is prohibited for the tobacco industry to sponsor sporting events (ndr : as in France) so to many people it seems extraordinary that the nuclear industry should be able to.

We do not consider Areva to be strictly civil in its operations. Areva is responsible for radioactive pollution of the seas from its plutonium factory at La Hague and for the dangerous shipment of plutonium fuel and nuclear waste around the planet. The CEA is a majority owner of Areva and it is involved in the development of France’s nuclear weapons programme, a programme which formerly was responsible for nuclear testing at Moruroa in the South Pacific. Sponsorship by such a company is incompatible with the ethics and values of sailing

2° Can you explain us which is the general feeling in New Zealand about french nuclear image in both Greenpeace supporters and others camps ?

- This is a strongly anti nuclear country that is part of an anti nuclear region. There is possibly stronger feelings about the French nuclear programme here in NZ because of the nuclear testing that was conducted at Moruroa and Fangataufa until 1995 and whilst there was a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and also because of the French secret service terrorist act against the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. The French nuclear industry continues to have a bad name here because of their involvement today in shipping plutonium fuel and nuclear waste regularly between through the Pacific and Tasman despite opposition. Last year a flotilla of sailors from Australia and NZ sailed into the Tasman to protest against a shipment travelling from France to Japan.

3° What do you think will be the welcome of the french boat wearing Areva colors when arriving in New Zealand ?

- I think the majority of New Zealanders are happy to have a French entry into the America’s Cup America's Cup #AmericasCup but not at any price. I think they want a nuclear free America’s cup America's Cup #AmericasCup . Most New Zealanders will not like the idea of such a dirty company promoting itself by association with a sailing race. I think many people will get out there and make sure Areva knows that. I would think that by the end of the race many people know the true nature of Areva’s dangerous and polluting business.


This is an investigation from Greanpeace about what is realy Areva send by Bunny McDiarmid whith her answer :

Introduction

The French nuclear company Areva is sponsoring the French yacht Defi in the next America’s Cup to the tune of 15 million Euros. The French team will be known as Defi Areva.

The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which begins on October 1, will compete against Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup from February 2003. The French team is due to arrive in New Zealand in July.

The America’s Cup race in New Zealand bans tobacco sponsorship, due to New Zealand’s anti-smoking in sport laws. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, who is host for the 31st America’s Cup race and who helped establish the protocol for the race, appears to be unaware of the deadly nuclear trade behind Areva.

Areva’s press release claims that by supporting the French cup challenger, the company wants to "highlight its values" and "make its name more familiar to people around the world". It also denies any link between its activities and French nuclear testing and other military nuclear programmes.

This is false and misleading. Like the tobacco giants, Areva is clearly trying to "greenwash" its business by linking itself to the clean, green image of sailing. But Areva’s record speaks for itself : far from protecting the oceans, its subsidiary companies have polluted the seas around France and Moruroa and its activities continue to put the global environment and the health of hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Moreover, the activities and interests of Areva continue to be central to the French nuclear weapons programme.

Who and what is Areva ?

The company was formed in 2001 from a merger between the plutonium reprocessing company COGEMA, the nuclear reactor construction company Framatome, and FCI, a maker of electrical connectors. Areva is 78.96 owned by the Commissariat a L’Énergie Atomique (CEA – the French Atomic Energy Commission) and 5.19 percent owned by the French government. Areva boasts that it is the world leader in the nuclear fuel cycle from uranium mining and fuel elements to spent fuel reprocessing and recycling. It has a turnover of 10 billion Euros and employs around 50,000 people.

Who and what is the CEA ?

The CEA is responsible for the overall development of France’s nuclear Weapons and owns 89 percent of COGEMA’s operations. It oversaw the testing programme at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in the South Pacific. After nearly 200 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests between 1966- 1996, the atolls’ surface, lagoons, and volcanic structures have been contaminated with radioactivity. The independent French laboratory, CRII-RAD, has stated that Moruroa would require licensing as a radioactive dump site if it were sited in France, and that the leakage from the atoll into the surrounding oceans is greater than the discharges from operating nuclear reactors — which of course require monitoring and licensing. France, which closed the test site after the test series in 1995-6, has refused to take on long term monitoring of the atolls.

The testing programme led to at least one major landslide and subsequent tidal wave (July 1979), along with contamination of marine life from iodine and plutonium 239. The rate of leakage from the estimated 18,450 curies of plutonium, 400,000 curies of cesium 137 and 250,000 curies of strontium 90 released by the tests into the atoll structure is unknown and will depend on the rate of migration of radioactivity through pathways into the lagoon. However, the IAEA has found that there is half a tonne (500kg) of plutonium from the tests contained within the atolls, and that tritium is already leaking into the lagoon, indicating that such pathways exist. Several kilos of plutonium from weapons effect tests and poor waste management practices have been found in lagoon sediments and two test shafts have been used as plutonium waste dumps. Meanwhile, in January 2000, Admiral Jean Moulin., commander of French forces in Polynesia, said that several fractures in the coral reef at Moruroa had been detected and could result in the collapse of coral cliffs creating either a major tsunami or tidal wave.

The CEA is now responsible for using simulation testing on super-computers to develop new nuclear weapons for the French force de frappe. Tests conducted at Moruroa in 1995 are assumed to have been important to the development of the new TN75 nuclear missiles carried on board the new Triomphant-class submarines.

Who and what is COGEMA ?

COGEMA, a subsidiary of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), was set up in 1976, and inherited technologies and facilities developed for the French nuclear weapons program. COGEMA is the operator of the French reprocessing programme, with contracts from both the military and the French electric utility, Electricité de France (EDF). All military plutonium produced since 1976 in the reprocessing plant UP1 operated by COGEMA has contributed to the French nuclear weapons programme, including being used in bombs tested at Moruroa in the South Pacific.

COGEMA operates two large-scale reprocessing plants, UP2 and UP3, at La Hague in northern France.

- COGEMA and the oceans...

COGEMA has risked the health of the oceans by the dirty business of separating plutonium (plutonium reprocessing) from nuclear waste.

Plutonium reprocessing results in large quantities of radioactive waste — the equivalent of 50 barrels a day or an estimated 230 million litres a year — being discharged into the sea from COGEMA’s La Hague facilities near Cherbourg in northern France.

Greenpeace collected samples of radioactive contaminated sediment at the end of the COGEMA marine discharge pipe that showed levels of contamination higher than ground zero at the nuclear weapons test site at Chasma Bay in northern Russia. Marine life contained radioactive levels higher than the European Union safety intervention levels. (ACCRO, University of Bremen, September 1997).

Reprocessing at la Hague releases radioactive wastes into the atmosphere and marine environment on a daily basis. Due to the release of radioactive gases, levels of contamination from the radioactive gas Krypton-85 (KrR-85) around the la Hague site have been measured by Greenpeace at 90,000 Bq/m3, compared with the average global level of between 1-2 Bq/m3. Using a computer model developed by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Greenpeace has shown that COGEMA’s aerial discharges contaminate the air throughout all of Western Europe, and within two years move around the rest of the planet.

Reprocessing by COGEMA at la Hague creates large amounts of long-lived radioactive material. COGEMA and the British reprocessing facility at Sellafield in Cumbria are together responsible for 97 percent of the radioactive releases into the European environment.

- COGEMA and your health…

In 2001, a study by the French Government’s Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) confirmed an earlier finding of excess levels of leukemia around the COGEMA reprocessing facilities in La Hague, particularly among 5 to 9 year olds.

- COGEMA : the world’s largest producer of weapons-usable plutonium…

The La Hague facility produces roughly 80% of all ’commercial’ separated plutonium in the world in 1995, with each of the two reprocessing plants there producing around 8,000kg of weapons usable plutonium each year.

While France’s plutonium stockpile has increased significantly in the past decade, foreign-owned plutonium stocks at la Hague have skyrocketed. In the early 1990’s, la Hague’s plutonium stockpile has risen to tens of tons. By the end of 2000, COGEMA had amassed nearly 80,000kg of separated plutonium in France (not including that contained in MOX fuel). As little as 5kg of reactor grade plutonium which COGEMA has produced would be sufficient to produce a nuclear weapon. The current stockpile produced in France by COGEMA is larger than that contained in all of the nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal.

- COGEMA : shipping plutonium through the Tasman…

Plutonium is being made at COGEMA’s La Hague factory for Japanese companies that want to burn it as a fuel in nuclear reactors. This means shipping hundreds of tonnes of plutonium fuel, known as MOX, through the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean to Japan.

In 2001, Kiwi and Australian yachties took to the water in a "Nuclear Free Tasman Flotilla" to protest a shipment of plutonium fuel through the Tasman. This was the second shipment of plutonium fuel through the region. There have been two other shipments of nuclear waste through the Tasman Sea from Europe to Japan. All these shipments have been met with protests by Greenpeace, local groups in Japan, and dozens of coastal states around the world who oppose the shipment of such dangerous material through their waters. Since 1990, the South Pacific Forum countries, including New Zealand, have repeatedly expressed concern at the transport of plutonium fuel through the region. They fear the Tasman and Pacific could become the nuclear highway for what could be up to 80 shipments over the next 20 years. They have raised their concerns over issues such as who has liability in the case of accidents, the lack of environmental impact assessment or emergency planning, and the lack of necessity for the shipments and the risks of proliferation. Since September 11 there are now added concerns regarding possible terrorist attacks.

Because of controversy over the quality of the fuel, no MOX has yet been used in Japanese reactors and instead, a shipment of faulty MOX from the UK is due to be shipped back from Japan to Europe later this year at a cost of 200 million dollars US.

Who and what is Framatome ?

Framatome is 66 percent owned by Areva and 34 percent owned by the German nuclear company Siemens. It is the world’s largest nuclear reactor supplier, being responsible for 90 of the world’s reactors (about 30 percent of all those currently built). France has an unenviable record in terms of spreading nuclear technology to countries with a history of nuclear weapons proliferation. Framatome, together with COGEMA and other state-owned nuclear companies, have been vehicles for such transfers to South Africa, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, and China amongst others.

Conclusion

Given the level of opposition to the dirty and dangerous plutonium trade of COGEMA in New Zealand and the Pacific, it may not be a coincidence that Areva and COGEMA are seeking to improve their image by association with the America’s Cup at the very time that further shipments of plutonium fuel are planned for 2002-3.

Areva has claimed that it should not be accountable for the testing at Moruroa, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour and death of crew member Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira, because it was created only a year ago. However, Areva maintains clear and direct links to the French nuclear weapons programme through its majority owner, CEA, and its subsidiary COGEMA. Areva’s claims that there is a "huge difference between the activities of Areva and the nuclear tests at Moruroa" and that the company was now solely involved in civil nuclear programmes (Jacques-Emmanuel Saulneir, NZ Herald 14.1.02) are clearly disingenuous.

Mr Saulneir’s statement that New Zealanders know "the difference between civil and military capabilities…" and will understand Areva’s position "when we explain this to them" is patronising. Areva seems intent on misleading New Zealanders about the real nature of their core business. Greenpeace believes all New Zealanders, as well as the administrators and participants in the America’s Cup, have a right to know the truth about Areva in order to make an informed judgement about whether it is in the interests of sailing to have such companies involved in sponsorship of the America’s Cup.



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