Canadian Coalition
for Nuclear

Regroupement pour
la surveillance
du nucléaire

Canada's Nuclear Industry and
the Myth of the Peaceful Atom

Part Four

by Gordon Edwards

. . . back to TABLE OF CONTENTS

Canada's Uranium Abroad: The Ambiguous Atom

Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers and processors of uranium. It was second only to the United States as of 1982, though Australia may surpass Canada by 1985.

As mentioned previously, since 1965 Canada has insisted that its uranium is not to be used for military purposes. Nevertheless, by continuing to sell uranium to countries with nuclear weapons programs -- the United States, Britain and France -- Canada is undoubtedly helping them to make bombs. As Ernie Regehr points out in Chapter 5, even if Canadian uranium were being used in these countries only to fuel electricity-producing reactors, still that frees up more uranium to be used in bombs. In addition, as we will see, some Canadian uranium does find its way into weapons. Directly or indirectly, therefore, Canada is helping to sustain three nuclear weapons programs -- and, perhaps more importantly, to justify those programs by lending them a veneer of respectability. As Bill Harding of Regina wrote in 1981:

The claim that this particular pound of uranium will be the one used for producing weapons is a monstrous fantasy designed to get concerned citizens debating that very question, the way we might debate the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. What difference does it make where the uranium comes from, if the country it goes to is making nuclear weapons?

Following the Indian nuclear explosion, Canada's 1974 policy dictated that no uranium of Canadian origin might be highly enriched or reprocessed without the prior consent of the Canadian government. Despite two years of intense negotiations, neither Japan nor the European Economic Community (EEC) would submit to the "prior consent" clause. Accordingly, all shipments of Canadian uranium bound for Japan or the EEC were halted in January 1977. Within months, Japan agreed to accept Canada's terms, and regular nuclear trade was restored. However, the EEC -- comprised of two nuclear-weapon states and seven non-nuclear-weapon states -- proved to be a much more difficult customer.

Uranium shipments to the EEC were resumed in July 1977, but only under the conditions of an interim agreement. Except on a strictly temporary basis, the Europeans were not willing to concede Canada's right to consultation prior to the reprocessing of nuclear fuel of Canadian origin. Negotiations dragged on for two more years. Finally, in September 1980, the Canadian government signed an agreement with the EEC which was seen by many as a simple act of capitulation. Canada agreed to waive the requirements for consultation on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, although France stubbornly refused to sign the NPT or to accept full-scope safeguards, the Canadian government judged that the conditions of its 1976 safeguards policy were met well enough when France arranged for IAEA safeguards on its civilian (but not its military) nuclear facilities.

As this episode shows, Canada has never actually tried or intended to stop selling uranium. In fact, the Canadian government has gone to great lengths to continue selling uranium, subject to "acceptable" safeguards. The definition of "acceptable," however, seems to depend on circumstances. In particular, it depends on whether or not the customer will stop buying.

Speaking at the United Nations in 1978, Prime Minister Trudeau advocated a "strategy of suffocation" for halting the nuclear arms race by choking off the "vital oxygen" which feeds it. He was referring only to those materials which are defined as "strategic nuclear materials" by the IAEA namely, highly enriched uranium and plutonium, neither of which is presently sold (as such) by Canada. But the surest way to strangle the nuclear arms race is to stop the trade in uranium, for without uranium there could be no nuclear weapons of any description. Cutting off access to weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, without suppressing the raw material from which they are both derived, is rather like pulling a weed without removing the root.

What is weapons-grade uranium? A brief explanation follows. Natural uranium is a blend of two types: uranium-235 and uranium-238. Only the first of these can be used directly as a nuclear explosive, and it is rare: less than 1 per cent of the natural uranium blend. Since this concentration of uranium-235 is too low to allow an atomic explosion to occur, natural uranium is not a strategic material. In an enrichment plant, however, the concentration of uranium-235 is too low to allow an atomic explosion to occur, natural uranium is not a strategic material. In an enrichment plant, however, the concentration of uranium-235 is significantly increased by separating out the unwanted uranium-238 -- a sophisticated and difficult operation, for the two types of uranium are chemically identical. At present, only countries having large nuclear weapons programs have uranium enrichment plants, each occupying a huge tract of land and requiring as much energy as a large city. The weapons-grade uranium produced by these plants is typically enriched to more than 90 per cent uranium-235, although a bomb could be made with uranium of only moderate enrichment -- 20 per cent uranium-235 would suffice.

The Canadian CANDU reactor, moderated by heavy water, uses natural uranium directly as fuel. However, the American light-water reactor requires low-enriched fuel (about 3 per cent uranium-235). It follows that if Canadian uranium were used only in CANDU reactors, no enrichment would be required at all. But such is not the case. Eighty-five per cent of the uranium mined in Canada is sold abroad, mostly for use in light-water reactors. A sizable portion of that (between 5 and 40 per cent, depending on the year) goes to the USSR for enrichment, while almost all the rest goes to enrichment plants in the U.S., France and Britain. These enrichment plants are primarily military facilities with civilian spin-offs, but the military and civilian aspects are in no way separated except by bookkeeping methods. Natural uranium from several different countries is used as a feed stock. When it has been enriched to the 3 per cent level, the correct amount is siphoned off and forwarded to Canadian customers in various countries. However, most of it continues to be enriched until it becomes weapons-grade material. Thus the peaceful nuclear power program "piggybacks" on the weapons program, by using military enrichment facilities to produce civilian fuel.

To produce one pound of fuel for a light-water reactor requires more than five pounds of natural uranium as feed stock. Consequently, over 80 per cent of all uranium exported by Canada is discarded as "depleted uranium" mostly uranium-238, with very little uranium-235. This cast-off uranium is not explicitly mentioned in any of the nuclear safeguards agreements, nor are stocks of depleted uranium (usually stored at the enrichment plant) ever inspected by the IAEA.

Containers of depleted uranium
photo by Robert Del Tredici

Although depleted uranium is not categorized as a strategic nuclear material, it is an essential ingredient in the construction of H-bombs. For this reason, when the USSR enriched Canadian uranium for use in Finnish, Swedish, Spanish or East German reactors, Canada required that the depleted uranium not remain in the Soviet Union; it had to be forwarded to the customer along with the enriched fuel. However, the Americans, the British and the French are under no such obligation; they are simply trusted not to use the leftovers from the enrichment of Canadian uranium for military purposes. (In actual fact, there is only one stockpile of depleted uranium at any enrichment plant, and it is drawn upon freely for military uses as needed. Canadian depleted uranium has no independent existence, except in terms of bookkeeping : a certain number of tonnes are simply "designated" as Canadian. Thus some Canadian depleted uranium inevitably gets used in the weapons program.)

While depleted uranium is not by itself directly usable as a nuclear explosive, nevertheless, it is responsible for 50 per cent of the explosive power in an H-bomb. An H-bomb is a three-stage nuclear weapon: it is a "fission-fusion-fission" bomb. First a small plutonium bomb (called the "trigger") is detonated. This ignites an enormously powerful nuclear fusion reaction, involving concentrated deuterium and tritium -- two heavy isotopes of hydrogen (hence the "H" in "H-bomb"). The high-energy neutrons produced by the fusion reaction -- the second stage of the weapon -- causes fission to occur in a surrounding blanket of depleted uranium -- the third stage of the weapon, which accounts for more than half of the force of the explosion.

So, for a nuclear-weapon state, depleted uranium is a nuclear explosive; but for a non-nuclear-weapon state, it is not. The same can be said of tritium. Consequently, neither depleted uranium nor tritium is regarded as a strategic material by the IAEA, whose job it is to impede new countries from acquiring nuclear weapons without interfering with the mass production of H-bombs by the existing, officially recognized, nuclear powers.

Depleted uranium is also used in military reactors to breed plutonium f or nuclear weapons. (Inside the reactor, some of the uranium-238 is converted into plutonium which can subsequently be separated out by reprocessing.)

A box of "target elements", made of metallic depleted uranium.
They will be bombarded with neutrons in a "production reactor"
to produce the plutonium that is needed for nuclear weapons.

photo by Robert Del Tredici

Slugs of depleted uranium could be used in a CANDU reactor for the same purpose. By inserting depleted uranium into a few selected fuel channels when no inspector is around, and then removing them again using the CANDU system of on-line refueling -- a large stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium could be accumulated without fear of detection.

In fact, this trick has already been attempted in a different context, and there is a Canadian connection to the story. When Israeli jets leveled Iraq's OSIRAK reactor near Baghdad in 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin justified his action on the grounds that the Iraqis were intending to produce plutonium for bombs by a method similar to the one just described. This allegation was supported by an IAEA inspector, who had resigned his job in order to provide public testimony to that effect.

Just about a year before the Israeli bombing raid, Eldorado Nuclear Limited was engaged in a bizarre transaction set up by the West Germans. After chemically refining some depleted uranium from Britain, Eldorado sent the material to a firm in the U.S. to be fabricated into metal rods and then returned to Port Hope, Ontario. American officials became extremely curious and began asking questions. What on earth did Eldorado want with depleted uranium? It soon emerged that the ultimate destination fro the material was Iraq. The deal was hastily squelched.

In sum, for a material that is classified as "non-strategic," depleted uranium is remarkably useful to those in the nuclear weapons business; yet Canada has done little to control its disposition. As one official from the Department of External Affairs commented: "There's so much of the stuff around that it's hardly worth worrying about."

Meanwhile, newer methods of enriching uranium are being developed, such as the "nozzle process" (developed by West Germany and South Africa, and assumed to be the means by which the latter was able to arrange the 1979 test explosion in the South Atlantic), which require less land and less energy than the existing "gaseous diffusion" plants, but they are still very demanding technologies. In recent years, Pakistan -- still determined to acquire nuclear weapons -- has been trying to build an ultracentrifuge uranium enrichment facility. Pakistani agents have been shopping for crucial components in several countries. In 1980, three Canadian men of Middle Eastern origin were arrested in Montreal by the RCMP for smuggling strategically important information and electronic equipment to Pakistan, related to the ultracentrifuge project. For security reasons, their trial had to be held in secret.

The latest concept in uranium enrichment is "laser separation," which may eventually make it possible to enrich uranium to weapons-grade material in a basement or garage, at a reasonable cost, in a relatively short time, using only modest amounts of energy. If this technique succeeds, natural uranium -- like plutonium -- may have to be regarded as strategic nuclear material. Overnight, Canadian uranium facilities could become top-security installations requiring paramilitary police surveillance. As the Flowers Report, published by the British Government in 1976, has pointed out:

The construction of a crude nuclear weapon by an illicit group is credible. We are not convinced that the Government has fully appreciated the implications of this possibility. Given existing or planned security measures, the risks from illicit activities at the present level of nuclear development are small; the concern is with the future.

At present, weapons-grade uranium and plutonium are imported into Canada in small quantities for use in research facilities at Chalk River and elsewhere. Precise transportation routes are kept secret, communities along the way are not notified, and even the provincial police are left uninformed. Nuclear authorities feel that the less people know about the shipments, the better. When plutonium is flown into Mirabel or Toronto airports from Europe, even the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) does not know what plane it will be on until the last moment. Stringent security also applies to shipments of highly enriched uranium, traveling by truck from Tennessee to Chalk River, since each shipment contains enough weapons-grade uranium for one or two atomic bombs. Indeed, in the late 1970s, the U.S. briefly suspended such shipments because of overly lax Canadian security measures.

After the weapons-grade uranium has been irradiated, the spent fuel is returned to the United States so that the unused portion can be recycled in the American bomb program. Successive bans on the transit of this dangerous material by the St. Lawrence Bridge Authority, the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Vermont, have made the routes more circuitous, but the traffic has continued. According to the Canada-U.S. Agreement on the Civil Uses of Atomic Energy, no Canadian-supplied nuclear materials are supposed to be used for weapons purposes. However, officials in the Department of ?External Affairs have argued that the weapons-grade uranium in question was American property to begin with; the Americans are merely taking back what was theirs already, and if they wish to make bombs with it, that is their business, not Canada's.

It is a dangerous kind of argument to use, for Canada does not give Third World countries the same latitude. As it happens, the 23,000 CANDU fuel bundles that were flown to Argentina in July 1982 were fabricated from Argentinean uranium, since Canadian safeguards policies prevented the sale of domestic uranium. Might not Argentina feel justified in using those fuel bundles for military purposes, since it was Argentinean uranium in the first place? Legally, the situation is not comparable to the Canada-U.S. situation, but in terms of practical politics, it may be.

Since 1975, public opposition to uranium mining in Canada has been growing, not just because of the proliferation question, but for reasons of public and occupational health, environmental pollution, waste disposal, Native rights and socio-economic impact. In Saskatchewan, all the major churches came out against the government's plan to exploit the province's uranium resources for export purposes. Nevertheless, the government of Premier Blakeney went ahead with the Cluff Lake, Rabbit Lake and Key Lake mines. In British Columbia, the B.C. Medical Association and the West Coast Environmental Law Association joined with churches, unions, fruit growers, anti-nuclear activists and Native people to oppose uranium mining. This unprecedented coalition exerted such political pressure that the government of William Bennett declared a seven-year moratorium on uranium mining and exploration in the province, without even waiting for the results of a Royal Commission of Inquiry which was under way at the time. Eldorado's plans to build two new uranium refineries at Warman, Saskatchewan and Port Granby, Ontario, were soundly defeated by the overwhelming opposition of local residents. Following a public inquiry in Labrador, the government of Newfoundland prohibited uranium mining in that province. Public inquiries have also taken place in Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories, as a result of widespread public concern.

Yet public dissent against uranium mining -- and against the export of Canadian nuclear technology -is clearly still in its early stages. Canadian citizens do not yet have the resources or the contacts with decision-makers that might compare with those enjoyed by the Canadian nuclear lobby, which has become entrenched over the last forty years.

. . . back to TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Nuclear Lobby in Canada: Towards a Plutonium Economy

The Atoms for Peace program was based on a carefully cultivated myth, promulgated by a powerful international lobby. Nuclear power was portrayed as safe, clean, cheap and abundant -- a miraculous energy source of infinite potential, having little or nothing to do with atomic bombs. Due to its strategic origins, every aspect of the nuclear industry was shrouded in extraordinary secrecy. In addition, the mysterious world of nuclear science seemed incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Government policies were largely based on the uncontradicted advice of the nuclear technologists who had dedicated their lives to making nuclear power a success.

The power base of the Canadian nuclear lobby originates in the upper echelons of AECL and Eldorado. Most of the key figures in the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) come from these two crown corporations, as do most of the top Canadian government advisors on nuclear policy. In 1970, the Canadian Senate Committee on Science Policy declared that it was "startled to learn that most of the members of the AECB prove to be senior representatives of the very agencies" which the AECB is supposed to control. This tightly-knit power base is supplemented by the nuclear divisions within Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Electric, together with the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), comprised of nuclear manufacturers and financial backers. Movies, slide shows, comic books, brochures, museum displays, educational kits for schools, full-page ads, even a glossy magazine called Ascent, all are used by the nuclear lobby to promote a near-utopian vision of a nuclear-powered world. As one CNA comic book (still in circulation in 1983) glowingly reports: "In time it is possible that nuclear power will lead to temperature-controlled, germ-free cities and a better life for all mankind."

Within the U.S. industry-regulatory structure there has been some awakening to the fallacies of Atoms for Peace. David Lilienthal, the first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, confided in 1970:

The basic cause I think was a conviction, and one that I shared fully and tried to inculcate in others, that somehow or other the discovery that had produced so terrible a weapon had to have an important peaceful use. We were grimly determined to prove that this discovery was not just a weapon.

By 1976, however, Dr. Lilienthal had concluded that Atoms for Peace was in fact a dangerous exercise in self-deception:

Once a bright hope shared by all mankind, including myself, the rash proliferation of nuclear power plants is now one of the ugliest clouds hanging over America. Proliferation of capabilities to produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction is reaching terrifying proportions. If a greater number of countries come to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, then I'm glad I'm not a young man, and I'm sorry for my grandchildren.

But in Canada, even after the Indian nuclear explosion, the Canadian nuclear lobby expressed no concern whatsoever about the proliferation aspects of the nuclear trade. Lorne Gray, president of AECL during the signing of the Korean and Argentine contracts, told a graduating class at Carleton University in November 1975:

If we don't help the developing world with their energy resource problems, the odd nuclear explosion will be a minor event to the international conflicts that will arise.

A few months later, on 30 March 1976, Ian MacKay of AECL testified to the Prince Edward Island Legislature as follows:

Now first of all, what is nuclear power? Well, it's just a method of generating electricity using uranium as fuel instead of oil. It has practically no technology in common with nuclear bombs. This, of course, is undramatic, and any possible relationship with bombs is much more news than claiming no relationship; so you can't blame the press for reporting on that sort of thing. Now the used fuel contains plutonium, which is about a quarter of one percent of the used fuel, and this is potentially useful in the future. Right now it is not useful. It is not useful for making bombs. I would like to emphasize that.

This kind of assertion has been discredited many times, perhaps most forcefully just two days before MacKay's address, when Dr. Bernard Feld, in charge of the explosive mechanism for the Nagasaki bomb during the World War II Atomic Bomb Project, had this to say on British television:

Plutonium is the stuff out of which atomic bombs are made. And the amount of plutonium in the world is increasing year by year as nuclear power spreads. Within the next ten years nuclear power plants will be producing around 100 tons of plutonium a year, enough for 10,000 atom bombs, each with the same power as the one that destroyed Nagasaki ... This terrifying possibility will become an inevitability if the major industrialized nations persist in their current grossly irresponsible policies. Nuclear reactors, plutonium reprocessing plants, uranium enrichment facilities and the technologies needed to operate them are today being sold to any country with sufficient cash or oil to buy them.

Yet Ian MacKay's remarkable explanation that plutonium "is not useful for making bombs," broadcast live throughout the Maritimes, has never been set straight by AECL or by the Canadian government, despite repeated requests to three successive Liberal energy ministers to do so.

The nuclear lobby in Canada has defended its position by arguing that "reactor-grade plutonium," produced by a nuclear power plant, is not the same thing as "weapons-grade plutonium." Ross Campbell, chairman of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Resources and Public Works on 14 December 1977:

As far as quality goes, neither light-water reactors nor the CANDU produce plutonium of a grade that would make a high-energy release weapon. You could in theory make a weapon from it but it is quite likely to go off in the face of the man who tries.

Campbell's statement was incorrect and misleading. Nevertheless, members of the committee were baffled, and hence unable to deal with the weapons issue in a realistic way. Frank Maine, one of the few MPs on the committee with any technical training, lashed out angrily at nuclear critics for muddying the waters by suggesting a link between nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons which, he felt had no basis in fact.

But like Ian MacKay, Ross Campbell was no expert. He was a career diplomat who had become a CANDU salesman. Where did he get his information? Since AECL had never built an atomic bomb, the organization had no experts in nuclear weapons. Among those who are experts in the field, there is a broad consensus that there is no magical dividing line between "reactor-grade" and "weapons-grade" plutonium . In July 1976, Science magazine reported that Carson Mark, one of the few Canadian nuclear scientists with extensive bomb-making experience in the U.S. military program, "is on record as saying that nuclear weapons can be made without insuperable difficulty from 'essentially any grade of reactor-produced plutonium.'" In November of the same year, Victor Gilinsky of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was even more explicit;

There is an old notion, recently revived in certain quarters, that so-called "reactor-grade" plutonium is not suitable to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The floating of this idea is perhaps a natural move by those who want to exclude plutonium from strict controls. The obvious intention here is to create the impression that there is nothing to fear from separated plutonium derived from commercial power plants. This is not true.

As far as reactor-grade plutonium is concerned, the fact is that it is possible to use this material for nuclear warheads at all levels of technical sophistication. Even simple designs, albeit with some uncertainties in yield, can serve as effective, highly powerful weapons reliably in the kiloton range.

Despite the added "uncertainty in yield," Albert Wohlstetter, author of a major study on proliferation for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, has pointed out that if the Nagasaki bomb had been made of reactor-grade plutonium, it still would have devastated the city. In fact, the U.S. has since detonated an atomic bomb made from reactor-grade plutonium to demonstrate the feasibility of using this material as a nuclear explosive.

As it happens, the CANDU is an exceptionally versatile reactor. It can produce weapons-grade plutonium as well as reactor-grade plutonium, without interfering with the normal operation of the plant. Early in 1977, a major U.S. nuclear policy review -- the Ford-Mitre Report -- singled out Canadian reactors as being particularly suited to meet clandestine military needs, noting that the CANDU

can be operated without undue economic penalty at low fuel irradiation to produce plutonium with a low concentration of plutonium-240, which is more suitable for reliable weapons. It is in operation or under construction in Argentina and India as well as Canada.

Victor Gilinsky was right when he intimated that the nuclear lobbyists did not want to see tough international restrictions imposed on plutonium reprocessing, because they were eager to get into the act themselves. Even in Canada, they estimated that, with a large nuclear program, uranium supplies would become inadequate early in the twenty-first century. In February 1977, AECL hosted a secret briefing where top civil servants were told that Canada should immediately begin planning for the separation of plutonium from spent CANDU fuel. Ross Campbell opened the day-long seminar on a note or urgency: "We are already late in starting to bring this new energy source on stream in the critical last decade of this century, when real shortage of energy will appear." AECL president John Foster closed the seminar with this thought:

Admittedly, a positive decision takes a certain amount of guts, because authorities all over the world are proceeding with understandable caution in the face of the bad name undeservedly attached to plutonium. But plutonium is an extremely useful substance and we will be dealing in it.

AECL was proposing that, in addition to the $2.2 billion in subsidies that the federal government had already provided to develop the CANDU system, another $2.2 billion should now be invested in an experimental "Fuel Cycle Centre." At the Centre, all the spent fuel from CANDU reactors would be reprocessed and plutonium would be fabricated into new fuel for reactors, while the rest of the radioactive garbage would be solidified and buried in underground storage chambers excavated out of hard rock.

The prospect of plutonium becoming the nuclear fuel of the future has alarmed more than one observer of the nuclear industry. As Dr. Bernard Feld puts it:

So within the next ten years, there will be hundreds of tons of plutonium wandering around the world. It will be as easy as pie for a determined group to get hold of the twenty or so pounds needed for a Nagasaki-type bomb. And making a crude version of one of these bombs, once you've got the plutonium is not all that difficult. Even a crudely-made bomb, much less efficient that the Nagasaki bomb, would be powerful enough to level whole areas of a city and to cause thousands or tens of thousands of immediate fatalities, not to speak of the further thousands condemned to slower death by lung or bone cancer from plutonium inhalation.

The Canadian government forbade AECL to proceed with its plans for reprocessing until the results were in from the Carter Administration's International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, set up in the fall of 1977 to see if there is any way that nuclear fuel could be reprocessed without producing weapons-usable materials. The answer, delivered in 1980, is "no." Since then, the nuclear lobby in Canada and elsewhere has nevertheless been pushing hard to get commercial reprocessing facilities committed.

Canadian nuclear lobbyists often refer to the "thorium cycle" as an alternative to the "plutonium economy." By itself, thorium -- which is more plentiful than uranium -- cannot be used to build an atomic bomb or to fuel a nuclear reactor. However, when thorium is placed inside a nuclear reactor, it "breeds" a new substance called uranium-233, which does not exist in nature. If the thorium is then reprocessed, the uranium-233, can be separated from the rest of the radioactive garbage and used as a reactor fuel. But uranium-233 is also an excellent weapons-grade material, in many respects superior to plutonium. Thus the thorium cycle in no way avoids the security problems associated with a plutonium economy. In January 1982, AECL announced plans to build a laboratory at Varennes, Quebec, to produce uranium-233 as an "artificial substitute" for natural uranium. (In technical terms, the AECL thorium cycle involves a "near-breeder" rather than a "breeder" concept.)

The new enthusiasm for the plutonium economy and the thorium cycle shows that, as before, any attempt to change the priorities of Canada's nuclear industry will run up against the wall of technological complexity that has given it a certain degree of immunity from lay scrutiny. But there is a larger obstacle: because of huge investments of public money and extensive public ownership, the goals of the nuclear lobby are inextricably intertwined with those of governments at various levels. It sometimes seems that the nuclear industry is a force unto itself, operating with impunity. On one of the rare occasions when AECL was held publicly accountable, during the investigations into financial wrongdoing by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, unsettling revelations came to light. In its final report, tabled on 27 February 1978, the committee concluded:

Some witnesses of AECL management were reluctant and uncooperative in testifying, and in the case of the chief witness, J. Lorne Gray, evasive as well.

Mr. Gray, then President of AECL, on his own initiative, committed the Crown corporation, and therefore the Government and the people of Canada, to immense expenditures of public funds for agents' fees. Furthermore, Mr. Gray did not know what services were being performed by the agents nor who ultimately received the payments. In the case of the Argentine sale, he stated that he did not even want to know the agent's identity.

Mr. Ross Campbell, Chairman of the AECL, not only failed to put the agreement [ with sales agent Shoul Eisenberg] on a better footing, but also appointed Eisenberg as exclusive agent for the sale of a second [CANDU] unit to South Korea without specifying the charges to be made for these services.

AECL management did not follow acceptable business practices ... nor did it have due regard for the high standard of business ethics which Crown corporations should observe.

The senior management of AECL, including the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the Internal Auditor, did not properly discharge their responsibilities as officers.

Following the publication of the committee' report, John Foster was fired from his position as president of AECL for financial mismanagement. Nevertheless, a few years later, Lorne Gray and John Foster were elected to serve terms as executive director and president respectively of the CNA, during which time they assailed the government's non-proliferation efforts and called for a relaxation of Canadian safeguards to help promote overseas sales.



Over the years, in Albert Wohlstetter's words, Canada has been "spreading the bomb without quite breaking the rules." By accepting the double standard implicit in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which assumes that some nations are entitled to have nuclear weapons while others are not, the Canadian government has blinded itself to the true magnitude of the challenge facing humanity, which is to eradicate these weapons from the face of the earth. Sister Rosalie Bertell of Toronto has suggested that Canada withdraw from the NPT on the grounds that the superpowers have already violated it. This could be a very constructive step on Canada's part, for the NPT could then be tested in the International Court of Justice. Unless one of the parties to the treaty alleges that its provisions have been breached, the International Court has no jurisdiction to intervene.

Canada is too small to be a world power in terms of military might, but not too small to be a world leader for peace and disarmament. It is time to recognize that nuclear disarmament is an essential prerequisite for any peaceful application of nuclear power on a large scale. Canada could withhold its uranium and its reactors from world markets while bending all its diplomatic efforts to halt the nuclear arms race, and to reverse it. During the fall of 1982, in 118 municipal elections held across Canada, 76.5 percent voted in favour of phased, multilateral disarmament. If the government in Ottawa wishes to represent the people of Canada, these are the kind of policies it should be pursuing.

In so doing, Canada would acknowledge the wisdom of the Flowers Report from Britain, which concluded that horizontal proliferation and vertical proliferation are inextricably linked. Preventing horizontal proliferation

would be possible only in an atmosphere of general disarmament, and the prospects for this are receding rather than improving. It has been argued that the possession of these weapons by the USA and the USSR has been a powerful force for mutual toleration, but however true this is it would be folly to suppose that proliferation would necessarily lead to a similar balance and restraint in relations between other nations. Indeed, we see no reason to trust in the stability of any nation of any political persuasion for centuries ahead. The proliferation problem is very serious and it will not go away by refusing to acknowledge it.

~ finis ~

. . . back to TABLE OF CONTENTS

[ Nuclear Industry Sub-Directory ] [ Plutonium Sub-Directory ]



Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. "Nuclear Fuel Cycle Seminar." Ottawa, 1977. (Available from Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, C.P. 236, Snowdon P.O., Montreal H3X 3T4).

Canada. Nuclear Policy Review Background Papers. Ottawa: Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, 1981.

Dunn, Lewis A. Controlling the Bomb. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

Duric, Sheila, and Edwards, Rob. Fueling the Nuclear Arms Race. London: Pluto Press, 1982.

Flowers, Sir Brian. Nuclear Power and the Environment. London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1976.

Harding, Bill. Uranium Mining in Northern Saskatchewan: Correspondence with the Premier. Regina: Regina Group for a Non-Nuclear Society, 1979.

Inter-Church Uranium Committee. Atoms for War and Peace: The Saskatchewan Connection. Saskatoon, 1981.

Lovins, Amory B., and Lovins, L. Hunter. Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link. San Francisco: Friends of the Earth, 1981.

Markey, Ed. Nuclear Peril: The Politics of Proliferation. Boston: Ballinger, 1982.

Moss, Norman. The Politics of Uranium. London: Andre Deutsch, 1981.

Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group. Nuclear Power: Issues and Choices (Ford-Mitre Report). Boston: Ballinger, 1977.

Nuclear Free Press, c/o OPIRG, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

Robertson, A. Preventing Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: A Positive Factor for Peace. Ottawa: AECL, 1982.

Saskatchewan. Final Report of the Cluff Lake Board of Inquiry. Regina, 1978.

United Nations. The Plunder of Namibian Uranium. New York, 1982.

Weissman, Steve, and Krosney, Herbert. The Islamic Bomb. New York: Times Books/Quadrangle, 1981.

Wohlstetter, Albert, et. al. Swords From Ploughshares. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

[ Nuclear Industry Sub-Directory ] [ Plutonium Sub-Directory ]


Since March 27th 1996, there have been over
100,000 outside visitors to the CCNR web site, plus

(counter reset July 2nd 1998 at midnight)