A ship carrying nuclear waste to Australia has left the French port of Cherbourg amidst protests from environmentalists that the ship is unfit to carry the hazardous cargo.
The 14-year-old ship BBC Shanghai, termed by opponents as Dustbin, is carrying 25t of reprocessed nuclear waste and is due to reach Australia by 27 November.
The nuclear waste is from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) which had been shipped in the 1990s and early 2000s to France for reprocessing.
The reprocessing involved the removal of uranium, plutonium and other materials at the Beaumont-Hague plant in France.
It is now being sent back to Australia’s Port Kembla to be stored at the Lucas Heights nuclear facility.
ANSTO said in a statement cited by the AFP: "The container will be placed on a nuclear-rated ship, brought to an Australian port, and trucked to Lucas Heights (nuclear facility) with an appropriate security operation.
"The ship was selected by Areva (France-based nuclear company), and after a full inspection carried out by both French maritime safety authorities and by the French nuclear safety regulator on Wednesday 14 October, the ship’s seaworthiness was confirmed and certified."
Greenpeace and French environmental campaign group Robin des Bois objected to the selection BBC Shanghai by the French nuclear firm Areva.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific head of programme Emma Gibson said: "It’s outrageous that the BBC Shanghai is heading towards Australia and it is not outfitted to safely carry nuclear waste.
"What we have is a vessel that will be ill-equipped to deal with any sort of accident involving the nuclear waste. It’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen."
The environmental groups have sought assurances from Australia regarding the safe disposal of the waste.