The Global (Plutonium) Economy

CANAL ZONE, Panama - Forty-four tons of highly radioactive waste passed through the Panama Canal Jan. 17, aboard Britain's Pacific Swan, en route from France to Japan. It was only the third of 30 planned round-the-world shipments. Greenpeace and the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) both objected to the risk-taking, which came on the heels of the spectacular Dec. 13 wreck of the giant oil tanker Erika off the coast of France. The NCI said the waste casks cannot withstand a shipwreck or fire, and that the consequences of a spill "would be long-lived, hard to clean up and could render the canal inoperable and the surrounding areas uninhabitable." More than 1,300 tons of the Japanese waste is left from the notoriously dangerous process of extracting plutonium and uranium from irradiated fuel rods.

- Nuclear Control Institute; New York Times, Jan. 15, 2000 & Dec. 14, 1999.