Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout

412-1 rue Nicholas St.,
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
Tel: (613) 789-3634 Fax: (613) 241-2292


1997 Federal Election

Nuclear Policy Survey

[ pour la version française ]

May 2, 1997

Dear friends,

The Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout is participating with a number of environmental and other public interest groups from across Canada in launching the 1997 Federal Election Nuclear Policy Survey Project.

Please find enclosed a survey to federal candidates on nuclear issues and related energy policies. This survey was created to inform the electorate of the views of federal parties and candidates in the upcoming election. On May 1st, a version of the 1997 Federal Election Nuclear Policy Survey emphasizing party positions was sent to party leaders. Now we are asking for your help with this important project.

Here's how you can participate in the 1997 Federal Election Nuclear Policy Survey:

Thanks for your help. We look forward to hearing from you.


Kristen Ostling Coordinator

P.S. Thanks to all those who participated in CNP's letter writing campaign to Parliament Hill against the import of plutonium fuel. We counted over 60 signatures on letters to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs and Environment in April. The plutonium fuel import issue is the first question raised in the 1997 Federal Election Nuclear Policy Survey. Please emphasize this question with your local candidates.

National Nuclear Policy Survey
1997 Federal Election

This survey was developed to help the Canadian electorate determine where federal candidates in the upcoming election stand on a number of national nuclear issues and related energy policy questions-ranging from the export of nuclear reactors to renewable energy options. The survey is divided into three sections:

A) New Nuclear Initiatives

B) Nuclear Phaseout Initiatives

C) Nuclear Waste Legacy and Clean-up Initiatives

For your convenience, we have attached a one-page faxback form at the end of the survey.

A) New Nuclear Initiatives

Several new nuclear initiatives are under consideration by the Canadian government including the possible use of imported plutonium fuel in CANDU reactors, the burial of high level nuclear fuel waste in the Canadian Shield, a new international treaty on transboundary movement of nuclear waste, and a proposal to build a fusion test reactor. Each one of these proposals represents a major development having inherent environmental costs, as well as implications for aboriginal rights and the Canadian political economy.

A.1) Plutonium Fuel Imports

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Ontario Hydro propose to import 100 tonnes of plutonium from the United States and Russia over the next 25 years. This plutonium, extracted from nuclear warheads, would be imported in the form of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel bundles (a mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide) to be used in CANDU reactors located in Canada. Without public consultation or parliamentary debate, permission has been granted to import 600 grams of plutonium from nuclear weapons stockpiles for the purposes of a 'test burn' in a nuclear reactor located at Chalk River, Ontario.

1) Do you support the proposal to import mixed-oxide plutonium fuel for use in CANDU reactors in Canada?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

2) Before the mixed-oxide plutonium fuel import proposal proceeds any further, do you support full public hearings on the advisability and acceptability of this proposal?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

A.2) Nuclear Fuel Waste

After 15 years of research costing $700 million, AECL and Ontario Hydro are proposing to bury the high-level radioactive waste produced by Canadian nuclear reactors in the Canadian Shield. A federal environmental assessment of the 'generic concept' is presently underway, but no specific site has yet been selected. If the waste is buried in this manner eventually some will leak out and reach the surface environment-the only question is how much and when. Even the smallest amounts of this waste can be very harmful. Yet no other waste management options have been assessed in sufficient detail to allow for a reasoned judgment as to which option is best.

1) Do you agree that there is, at present, no proven, acceptable way to safely and permanently dispose of nuclear fuel waste?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

2) Do you support further research, conducted by an independent agency and funded by nuclear power producers, into management options other than burial of nuclear fuel waste in the Canadian Shield?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

3) Do you support ending further public subsidization of the AECL 'generic concept' research and suspending site selection until other alternatives are examined and developed?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

A.3) Import of Nuclear Wastes

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA - a United Nations organization which promotes the peaceful uses of nuclear technology) is negotiating an international treaty on the transboundary movement of nuclear waste. The treaty is expected to be completed by September 1997. Canada does not have a policy allowing or disallowing the import of nuclear waste.

1) Will you support a federal policy which bans the import of nuclear waste into Canada?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

A.4) Fusion Research

Ontario Hydro is bidding for the $20 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER - a fusion test reactor). The present federal government has decided not to help fund the bidding, construction or operation of ITER. Other countries are opting out of bidding for the reactor because the host country is expected to pay for 50% to 70% of total costs. Many decades of research into fusion has failed to reach a 'break-even' point where more energy is generated than is used to fuel the test.

1) Will you support a policy of not providing government funding for any aspect of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and other fusion research?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

B) Nuclear Phaseout Initiatives

The Canadian government supports the nuclear industry with direct and indirect subsidies, as well as with policies that support the expansion of the nuclear industry and promote the export of nuclear technology and materials. In addition, Canada still allows testing of U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines in the coastal waters of British Columbia, risking the environment and the economy in the event of a serious accident.

B.1) CANDU Exports

Export of CANDU reactors has entailed extraordinarily high costs, both in financial and in human terms. In order to secure the recent export of two CANDU reactors to China, Canada loaned China $1.5 billion. The ethical cost of CANDU exports has also been high, as CANDU sales have repeatedly involved bribery and have contributed to Canada's abandonment of an effective human rights policy. Human rights violations are particularly severe in countries which AECL has targeted as its highest priorities for CANDU sales (i.e. China, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea). In addition, reactor exports inevitably contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

1) Do you support ending the export of CANDU reactors?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

B.2) Uranium Exports

While Canada is often portrayed as a peacemaker nation, the reality is that Canada is the world's largest exporter of uranium which can be used to make nuclear bombs. According to many experts, including a federal-provincial panel on uranium mining in Saskatchewan, "no proven method exists for preventing incorporation of Canadian uranium into military applications."

1) Do you support a 50 year moratorium on all new contracts for uranium exports from Canada?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

B.3) Nuclear Subsidies

Total federal subsidies to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) since its creation in 1952 to March 31, 1997 amount to $15.2 billion (1997 dollars). The nuclear industry was created through government intervention, and has always relied on public funding. Despite its failure to become financially self-supporting, the industry claims to be providing a net benefit to the Canadian economy. However, the "opportunity cost" (i.e. what the subsidies would have been worth if the government had invested in more cost-competitive ventures) for the accumulating subsidies to AECL is now over $160 billion.

1) Do you agree that all federal funding for and subsidies to AECL should be ended by the year 2000?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

B.4) Sustainable Energy

Canada has reached a crossroads in terms of electricity generation. We have a choice to make: to continue down the environmentally and economically destructive path of fossil and nuclear power, or to chose energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. With massive subsidies still being provided to the nuclear and fossil sectors, energy efficiency and renewable energy options are less viable. A transition to a sustainable energy future starts with the recognition that renewable energy is affordable and feasible, but that the political will to level the energy sector "playing field" is missing.

1) Do you support the creation of a level playing field in the energy sector?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

2) Do you agree that nuclear power should be phased out in favour of economic, environmentally safe and renewable energy alternatives?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

B.5) Nuclear Submarines

The Department of National Defence operates the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges at Nanoose Bay in the Georgia Strait, British Columbia. Under a Canada - U.S. agreement, the U.S. has permission to test nuclear-powered attack submarines at the Test Range. An accident involving nuclear materials could have a devastating impact on the Georgia Strait ecosystem and the economy. Conversion of the Test Range to non-military use would reduce risks to the environment and increase employment opportunities, while ending Canada's direct support for Cold War-era military manoeuvres by a foreign government.

1) Do you support the immediate cancellation of the Canada - U.S. Nanoose Agreement?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

C) Nuclear Waste Legacy and Clean-up Initiatives

The nuclear industry has failed to provide guaranteed funds for the future liabilities of cleaning up radioactive wastes. From every aspect of the industry's operations in Canada, there has resulted a legacy of radioactive waste. In some cases the companies responsible for the problems no longer exist, leaving the problem squarely on the shoulders of the taxpayers. The federal government's own crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) refuses to reveal the extent of radioactive contamination problems at its properties, and refuses to estimate what the eventual clean-up might cost taxpayers.

C.1) Uranium Tailings

As the world's biggest uranium producer and exporter, Canada has a legacy of uranium mining and milling wastes (known as tailings) strewn across parts of Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Some of the mining companies don't even exist any more, so responsibility for clean-up rests with the government. These so-called low level radioactive wastes will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. In cases where uranium mining companies are required to come up with closure plans, they propose to simply flood tailings areas to help control acid generation. In many areas the tailings remain exposed to the elements, and are accessible to humans and wildlife.

1) Do you agree that uranium tailings areas should be isolated from the environment using the best available technology?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

2) Do you support a 50 year moratorium on the licensing of all new uranium mines?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

C.2) "Historic" Radioactive Waste Dilemma

Canada has a history of over six decades of involvement with the nuclear industry, beginning in Port Hope, Ontario, where radium was refined in the 1930's. For several decades the wastes from radium refining, and then from uranium refining were not controlled. The Port Hope harbour is seriously contaminated. Some wastes were used as building materials and fill in the town, or dumped in nearby landfills at Welcome and Port Granby. Partial decontamination of the town was attempted in the 1970's, but more than ten sites in the town are still being used for temporary storage of radioactive wastes.

The federal Department of Natural Resources is proposing to build a cavern on the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories property of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) for disposal of these Port Hope area refinery wastes and other radioactive wastes. This plan is still under negotiation with the town of Deep River, despite a high level of public opposition to the proposal in all other communities in the Ottawa Valley, and evidence that the wastes would leak into the Ottawa River.

1) Do you favour monitored, retrievable storage of the Port Hope area wastes, as opposed to permanent disposal at this time?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

C.3) Nuclear Waste Hotspots

Canada launched the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in 1944 to participate in the Manhattan Project's development of nuclear weapons. Chalk River, now operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), as well as AECL's Whiteshell Nuclear Research Laboratories near Pinawa, Manitoba, are both contaminated with radioactive wastes. AECL has refused to account for the future cost of cleaning up these properties as a liability in its accounts, despite requests from Canada's Auditor General to do so for the past five years. AECL has also refused to release detailed information to the public about the type and amount of wastes located at these properties.

1) Do you agree that a complete clean-up plan and budget should be developed for Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and Whiteshell Nuclear Research Laboratories?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

2) Do you agree that complete details of the extent and nature of radioactive contamination at these AECL properties should be made public?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

C.4) AECB R-104-Limiting Waste Management Options

The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) developed a regulation (R-104) on radioactive waste which dictates that nuclear waste management and 'disposal' plans should be developed which do not rely on 'institutional controls' for safety (i.e. not requiring human monitoring or intervention). This out of sight, out of mind policy means that proposals other than burial of nuclear waste are ruled out prior to any detailed consideration. R-104 was developed without broad public consultation or debate.

1) Do you favour a broad public review of nuclear waste management policies and regulations including review and revision of R-104?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

C.5 Nuclear Pollution Reduction

Although all radioactive substances are carcinogens - they can cause cancer if ingested or inhaled - they are not regulated in the same way as non-radioactive carcinogens. In many cases, Canadians can be, and are, exposed to cancer risks from radioactive substances that would never be tolerated from non-radioactive carcinogens.

The U.S.-Canada International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes and two special government committees in Ontario have recommended that radioactive substances be regulated as strictly as non-radioactive carcinogens. One committee recommended that drinking-water standards for radioactive pollution should be tightened several hundred-fold, to conform to standards for cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, trihalomethanes, and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). None of these recommendations have been implemented and a review of the "double standard" by the federal bureaucracy, behind closed doors, has been going on for the past two years with no results.

1) Do you support the recommendation of the Ontario Task Force on the Primary Prevention of Cancer (March 1995) that the government "impose regulatory limits on radioactive contaminants using the same methodology as that used for chemical contaminants, which would result in more stringent standards"?

Yes                        No                      Undecided

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