ReutersBy Amran Abocar
TORONTO - In Canada's largest city, summer usually spells trouble for the ozone layer - and for anyone who likes to breathe.
Toronto residents crank up the air conditioning when temperatures soar, but relief comes at a price because air quality dips, the smog thickens and the heat becomes even more oppressive. Now a proposal from a nonprofit utility could change all that by providing a natural energy source for air conditioners - cool water from one of world's largest lakes.
"It's a leading-edge project. It will result in a cooling system that is cheaper, a lot cleaner air, less ozone-depleting substances going into the atmosphere and less greenhouse gases," said Kevin Jardine of Greenpeace Canada.
Environmentalists are giddy about the estimated C$110 million plan to draw frigid water from the depths of Lake Ontario, which sits at the foot of Canada's largest city, and use it as a natural coolant to chill the water that presently cools buildings in the downtown district, drastically reducing the amount of electricity needed.
The project, first of its kind in Canada and likely the largest in the world, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 tonnes annually, engineers say. If successful, it would help Canada meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 6 percent by 2010.
NEXT STEP - FIND FUNDS FROM PRIVATE SECTOR
The plan has already garnered environmental approval from the Ontario provincial government. The next step is to rustle up funding from the private sector to construct a 1.6 mile (2.6 km) intake pipeline that will draw water from the lake and a distribution pipe in the city's downtown core.
When the Deep Lake Water Cooling project replaces traditional electricity-driven air conditioning, perhaps as early as next summer, it will dramatically improve air quality in the city by reducing demand for electricity.
It is estimated that one suburban plant, one of the largest sources of pollution in the summer, will burn more than a million tonnes of coal this year to provide electricity for air conditioning. In 1997, Ontario Hydro's power plants released approximately 23,500 gigagrams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel consumption (1 gigagram is equal to 1,000 metric tons).
"Hydro companies' only concern has always been to sell more electricity. They don't care at all about human health or environment," Jardine charged, predicting that the companies would not endorse the new system because it would cut demand for their product.
Districtwide energy systems are common in Europe and a deep lake system, already used by nuclear plants including one near Toronto to cool their condensers, can be established by any city that is near a deep body of water.
Toronto's project will draw frigid water from more than 200 feet (70 metres) deep in Lake Ontario, where it is a constant 40 degrees (5 C) year-round.
Using new and existing pipelines, the lake water will be run through heat exchangers that will transfer its coolness to water already in a cooling loop. Purified lake water will then run back into the city's water supply while water in the cooling loop is supplied to chillers in downtown towers.
'UNIQUE BECAUSE IT'S SO SIMPLE'
"It's unique because it's so simple. We're just borrowing the water," said Yuri Pill, head of the Toronto District Heating Corp., the not-for-profit utility.
The idea has been bandied about since 1981 in Toronto but it was once dismissed as unworkable, not least because of its projected cost. There were also concerns that the temperature of the lake would be raised and its fish population adversely affected, but studies have found the impact would be less than that presently caused by generating stations.
Eventually the temperature balance of the lake will change so much that some environmentalists say people will have to look not for new sources of energy to power air conditioners but for new ways to live without it. "You have to start asking yourself if you want to run air conditioners ... the (water) supply is not infinite," Jardine said.
Another major concern has been the impact of the intake pipes on living organisms. Small larval fish get sucked into the pipes used by nuclear plants and die even where screens are installed. This has led to a decline in a source of nutrients for larger fish that will get worse when Toronto's pipes begin operating, according to Bill Beamish, an ichthyologist with the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.
For now, however, the benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks. Environmentalists say big office buildings are the largest single users of chlorofluorocarbons, and with the largest concentration of such buildings in Canada located in downtown Toronto the project would be a giant step toward cutting the emission of harmful gases into the ozone layer.
ReutersNICE, France - Health Minister Bernard Kouchner on Friday dismissed reports of dangerous levels of radiation in the French Alps but said more studies were needed to fully assess the risks.
During a visit to the southern Mercantour range, Kouchner said radiation in the region "is not insignificant but does not pose a genuine threat to public health".
He called for more radiation measurements as well as studies of human cancer rates in the region.
Kouchner scheduled his visit after the independent CRII-RAD laboratory three months ago reported finding high levels of Caesium-137 in the Alpine mountains of Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.
The laboratory blamed the elevated levels on the cloud of radioactivity that spread over Europe following the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, the world's worst nuclear disaster.
The CRII-RAD findings were later dismissed by France's official nuclear watchdog agency, the state-run Office of Protection against Ionising Radiation (OPRI). Kouchner decided to try to settle the dispute by asking specialists from both agencies to accompany him on his visit.
After taking a series of measurements in his presence in the Mercantour's Haute Tinee Valley, the experts agreed that a few small patches of ground were highly radioactive but played down the danger to human health.
"Should we clean up these patches, close down these areas? We are in the process of studying these matters with all concerned parties," Kouchner told reporters.
BONN - Companies running Germany's nuclear power stations, smarting from a contamination scandal, want to end their part in shipping radioactive waste to foreign recycling plants, Der Spiegel news magazine said on Sunday.
The environment ministry confirmed it had received a letter from Otto Majewski, chairman of electric utility Bayernwerk, in which Spiegel said he suggested that a third party should take over responsibility for the shipments.
He said this should be the railways offshoot company, Nuclear Cargo and Service, along with a newly formed company instead of NTL, which currently organises the shipments and which is owned by the country's electricity generating firms.
Radioactive waste from German nuclear power stations is recycled at plants in Britain and France.
The government banned all shipments in May after saying some transporters were contaminated with radiation far above permissible levels and that the electricity companies had been aware of this but had not reported it as they must.
Executives from the utilities said they had made mistakes but broken no laws.
Majewski said in his letter that he and colleagues from other utilities believed the shipments could resume if such a separate company took over control of them, Spiegel said in a report released ahead of publication on Monday.
The opposition Social Democrats, tipped to head the government after next month's general election, say they want to stop using nuclear power some time in the future.
The ecologist Greens, with whom they might form a coalition, have made an immediate end to nuclear power a cornerstone of their election campaign.
The first plutonium from a nuclear warhead will be trucked through the Ottawa Valley to Chalk River this fall, possibly as early as September, a senior U.S. congressman says.
Mixed with uranium, the former nuclear "trigger" will be tested at Chalk River to see whether Canadian reactors can destroy former warheads by using them as fuel.
The test batch, containing 150 grams of plutonium, will be trucked from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where it is being mixed with uranium to make fuel.
U.S. congressman David Bonior of Michigan is calling for public hearings in the Sarnia-Port Huron area where the shipment could cross into Canada.
Mr. Bonior, the Democratic whip in Congress, says in a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Energy: "Those of us who rely on the St. Clair River for our drinking water and the Great Lakes for our livelihood are deeply troubled by the possibility of a plutonium spill."
Plutonium, he says, is one of the most carcinogenic substances on earth, especially if it is inhaled.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley is also calling for public hearings.
"The arguments (for bringing plutonium to Canada) were pretty specious, in my view," he said. "There's a real strong campaign more on the American side than the Canadian side to stop this, or at least have a fair process so people can have some input."
But Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. says the fuss is unnecessary, since shipments of more radioactive supplies often cross Ontario.
"What you're talking about has less radioactivity than the used nuclear fuel that for 30 years went back and forth between the Toronto reactors all the way through Thunder Bay to Manitoba" where AECL had labs to analyse fuel, said spokesman Larry Shewchuk.
Used reactor fuel also contains plutonium as a byproduct.
For the imported weapons material, he said, high security won't be needed.
"There's no police escorts or anything like that."
AECL has consulted the Ontario Provincial Police about the shipment, but the OPP said it sees no security problems and won't be involved in the shipment.
The exact timing of the test shipment is secret.
"All we know is it's sometime this fall," said Jeff Friedland, emergency management director for St. Clair County, Michigan, which is across the St. Clair River from Sarnia.
AECL says the shipment may not come until later in the fall, but it isn't certain, either. "The start of the test is currently being dictated by the issuing of an export licence," said David Cox of AECL's Chalk River office. And the U.S. Department of Energy hasn't yet granted that licence.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said the department believes the test is likely to be delayed until early 1999.
There are three possible routes from Los Alamos to Chalk River.
One would cross the border at Sarnia and come east along Highway 401, turning north at Belleville toward Pembroke. Another would come through Watertown, New York, cross the St. Lawrence River at the Ivy Lea Bridge, then turn east to Brockville and north through Smiths Falls, Carleton Place, Almonte and Arnprior on the way to Chalk River.
The third would cross into Canada in Manitoba and travel north of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway.
But it's AECL policy not to say publicly which route it will use, or when the shipment will come through.
Municipal officials in Lanark County, Smiths Falls and Carleton Place -- all on one of the possible shipping routes -- said they didn't know about the shipment.
The reactor at Chalk River is one of about 18 sites where the plutonium-uranium mix (known as mixed oxide, or Mox) will be tested.
Ontario Hydro is hoping for the right to use large amounts of Mox from old nuclear missiles over the next 20 years, subsidized by the U.S. government.
If it wins a contract, based on results from the test "burn" at Chalk River, it would modify an existing reactor at the Bruce A nuclear plant on Lake Huron to use 2,000 tonnes of Mox fuel.
"We believe the test burn has to be viewed in the context of the whole program," said Irene Kock of the Nuclear Awareness Project, an anti-nuclear group.
"Those routine shipments (of full-scale commercial fuel) would be massive, and they would be a security risk," she said.
Chalk River is the only Canadian site where Mox will be tested. The rest are in the United States at a variety of nuclear generating stations where private utilities are also bidding for the subsidized fuel.
The long-term plan is to dispose of tonnes of plutonium from both Russian and American missiles. Used Mox fuel is still highly radioactive, but unlike pure plutonium it could not easily be used to make new nuclear weapons.
AECL's regulator, the Atomic Energy Control Board, agrees the shipment is small enough that regulations don't demand special security for the test shipment.
"The plutonium is in fuel pellets" and is mixed with uranium, said Michael Grace, of the control board. "It can't just be dropped into a bomb."
by Murray Lyons Cogema Resources Inc. announced Thursday it is shutting down its Cluff Lake uranium mine in December 2000, throwing more than 400 people out of work. Corporate vice-president Tim Gitzel made the announcement to media in Saskatoon shortly after workers at the mine 720 kilometres northwest of the city were told of the development.
Gitzel said the mine can't support the investment needed to create a new waste tailings facility in the industry's current economic conditions. The new facility would have been required after 2000.
The Cluff Lake mine opened in 1980 as an open pit mine and has operated many years beyond its original life as an underground facility, Gitzel said. He pointed out spot prices for uranium were $42 a pound when the mine opened, and are currently about $10 a pound, close to the commodity's historic low.
Gitzel said the closure was due to economics and is not directly related to recent conflicts Cogema has had with the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB). Cogema, a French-owned company, was chastised by the AECB for its management at Cluff Lake and its attitude in responding to regulators' requests.
The AECB expressed concerns about radiation programs and the storage of tailings. With the announcement, Cogema will drop any efforts at getting environmental approval for a new tailings facility, which could have allowed the mine to operate into the next decade.
The move caught AECB's Tom Viglasky by surprise. As recently as a week ago, there were meetings with Cogema officials to discuss how to handle tailings from the mill at Cluff Lake, said Viglasky, director of AECB's uranium facilities division.
The company had estimated there were another 26 million pounds of recoverable uranium which could have extended the mine's operation by 10 to 15 years, Viglasky said. "I have to believe them when they say it's economic," the AECB official added.
Gitzel said the existing tailings facility will be filled by the time the mine operations are suspended on Dec. 31, 2000. Keeping the mine economic until that time will require a job loss of 30 to 40 people, he said.
"We regret the consequences of this decision which will cost the jobs of 400 people, half of those from northern Saskatchewan," he told the news conference. "This will also mean the loss of approximately $80 million a year of economic activity to the province."
The job losses will have an economic impact from one end of Canada to another. Thyssen Mining employee Ted Quinlan of Newfoundland has been flying into Cluff Lake and working four weeks on and two weeks off for 10 years now. "No one was expecting this whatsoever," he said. "It really hasn't sunk in."
Shift boss Roy Bryant of British Columbia is another Thyssen employee facing an uncertain future now. He says Saskatchewan is about the only province where miners could find good jobs. "There's not much else going in the country."
Thyssen has operated a joint-venture company at Cluff Lake with local First Nations people, and many of the underground workers are from the area, Bryant said.
Energy and Mines Minister Eldon Lautermilch could not be reached for comment Thursday, but a department official said the actual revenue loss to the province will be relatively small.
George Patterson, executive director of the department's exploration and geological services division, says mine royalty rates are based on profitability, and Cluff Lake is the least profitable of the province's uranium mines because of its low grade ore. The province does not release royalty revenues from specific mines.
Patterson said about $20 million of the $80 million in economic activity cited by the company takes place in the North. Located south of Lake Athabaska, Cluff Lake was the only operating uranium mine on the west side of the province.
Gitzel says Cogema will continue to explore for uranium in the Cluff Lake area after mine operations are suspended. He says Cogema Resources remains a major player in Saskatchewan uranium industry despite the closure.
"We've prepared for this eventuality by investing approximately $400 million in the McClean Lake project and are partners in Cigar Lake, MacArthur River and Midwest projects," he said. Cogema will operate the mine at McClean Lake, which comes on stream later this year.
Gitzel said it's too early to say what economic impact the mine closure will eventually have at the company's head office in Saskatoon, where 100 people are employed. Besides the 200 Cogema employees at Cluff Lake, who work seven days at the mine before being flown home for seven days off, there are about 200 permanent employees of companies with long-term contracts who will lose their jobs.
Thyssen Mining has 140 to 150 people doing the actual underground work. Another 40 northerners work for a First Nations-owned catering company from La Loche, while the security and janitorial company is owned by a company from Ile-a-la Crosse.
Globe and Mail, Page A1
by Geoffrey York
Romania's only functioning Canadian-designed reactor is operating so close to the bone that it cannot stockpile the parts needed for emergencies. At another half-built CANDU reactor on the same site, construction workers are angrily protesting against a five-month delay in their wages. Others have been laid off or sent on unpaid vacations.
Even the Romanian cabinet is dubious about the idea of massive new nuclear projects. Its finance minister is openly critical of a proposed deal to borrow $140-million to salvage construction of the unfinished CANDU. Yet for Canada's nuclear merchants, the Romanian market is vital. Exploiting the legacy of an ambitious Communist-era plan, Canada is hoping to complete as many as four more reactors at the town of Cernavoda on the Danube canal in southern Romania.
Billions of dollars are at stake. Merely to complete construction of an existing half-built CANDU reactor would cost more than $1-billion over the next five years. But if all goes smoothly, Romania could end up with a total of five Canadian nuclear reactors, more than any other foreign country in the world.
Romania could be crucial to the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the federally owned corporation that is trying to sell CANDU reactors around the world. "If all five go ahead, it would eventually be our biggest export market," said John Saroudis, marketing director for AECL in Bucharest.
"We think Romania is a very important market for us, which is why we've hung in here for so long. We've been very patient." Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who has aggressively promoted AECL's reactors in overseas markets, travelled to Cernavoda in 1996 for the official opening of its first CANDU reactor, almost two decades after the project was first planned by Romania's megalomaniacal dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.
Mr. Chretien has supported Romania at every opportunity, including the controversial issue of whether it should become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Many analysts believe Ottawa's support for Romania's entry to NATO is linked to the prospect of further nuclear sales.
The second CANDU reactor at Cernavoda is about 40 per cent completed, and the empty shells of three more reactors have been erected at the same site. But now Romania has run out of domestic funds for the second reactor, and it is debating whether to borrow money from foreign sources, including the Canadian government.
For close to four years, AECL has been bogged down in talks with Romania over the financing of the second reactor. Now the Romanian cabinet is finally close to a decision. Last week, a high-level government committee gave its unanimous approval to a plan to borrow $140-million from foreign sources to finance another nine months of construction on the second reactor.
But even as the decision nears, Romania's financial pressures are growing worse. Hundreds of construction workers from the second CANDU reactor held a protest rally last week, complaining that their wages have been unpaid for five months. The workers say they are owed $8-million in back wages. More than 1,000 workers were sacked or sent on unpaid holidays last month, according to Romanian media reports.
At the same time, Romania cannot even afford a proper supply of spare parts for the first CANDU reactor, which supplies about 10 per cent of the country's energy. "They haven't stocked up on spare parts as much as they should have," Mr. Saroudis said in an interview in his Bucharest office.
"If they're too short of spare parts, they might have to have a shutdown. A loss of just one day of operation would cost them $500,000 (U.S.). There's always a possibility that something could happen." For months, AECL has been urging Romania to buy more spare parts, to follow the accepted practice at other CANDU reactors around the world. Even a few million dollars would solve the problem, Mr. Saroudis said. But the Romanian government is apparently too cash-strapped to find the money.
Mr. Saroudis confirmed that Romania has failed to pay some of the construction contractors on the second reactor, forcing them to lay off workers or stop paying wages. It's just the latest example of the turmoil caused by Romania's drastic budget cuts as it struggles with a long-delayed restructuring of its state-dominated economy.
"Of course it's frustrating," he said. "But we understand why it's happening. It has happened in most of the Eastern European countries and Russia. It doesn't make it easier, but at least we understand why liquidity is a problem. And it pushes us to get them working on the financing."
In the long run, Bucharest dreams of getting cheap fuel from the CANDU reactors and exporting it to countries across the continent, bringing in badly needed revenue and making Romania a key energy source for much of central and southern Europe.
Nuclear officials are talking of exporting energy to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Moldova and Bulgaria. They argue that nuclear energy would be so cheap that it could replace the country's existing network of polluting coal-fired plants, with the savings ultimately paying for the cost of the new CANDU reactors.
But those who would have to find the money to pay for the CANDUs are more skeptical. Finance minister Daniel Daianu, who is under pressure to cut Romania's budget, questions the claims of financial savings from nuclear energy. "This is pretty speculative," he said in an interview. "We could apply the same reasoning to all sorts of energy projects."
Even the supporters of the CANDUs acknowledge that Romania has far more energy than it needs. The current capacity of all of its energy sources is four times greater than its present rate of consumption, and its consumption is steadily declining as its economy worsens. "As far as I'm concerned, we do not face a shortage of energy," Mr. Daianu said. "There's an overcapacity. We overconsume."
The second reactor might have to be mothballed for several years until Romania can afford to finish it, he said. "I'm asking myself whether we have the financial muscle to undertake such projects. Nobody is saying it would be dead; it's only a matter of postponing it."
Nicolae Staiculescu, a deputy minister in the Romanian industry ministry, heads the government committee that recommended borrowing money to finish the second reactor. But even he is less than enthusiastic. He supports the plan only if Canada or other governments subsidize the cost of the loan by delaying the repayment schedule. At normal commercial terms, Romania cannot afford it. Proceeding with the second CANDU reactor would be like a gambler's decision to try to recover his losses by doubling his bet, Mr. Staiculescu said.
"We know that the second reactor has cost a lot already. If you've lost $1-million already, is it better to stop with a loss, or keep trying with another $2-million or $3-million to see if you win? It's the philosophy of a roulette gambler. Should we continue or should we stop? Both options exist."
So far, Romania has been a tough bargainer, rejecting some offers of financing and even allowing the offers to expire as it seeks more favourable terms. Mr. Staiculescu hints broadly that Romania might eventually complete the CANDU reactors if AECL can use its political skills to persuade Ottawa to offer a cheaper loan.
"There are people who are interested in this objective," he said. "I do not name them. If they want this project to go ahead, they should fight for it. They should lobby and do everything they can to obtain this financing. Otherwise, we have every option."
Globe and Mail
by John Stackhouse
Before launching five nuclear tests last month, some of India's top nuclear scientists visited Canada and met with their Canadian counterparts in what one Indian said was an unofficial attempt to break more than two decades of Canadian sanctions on nuclear cooperation.
Officials in both countries said none of the information shared helped India develop its bombs. "Our scientists and your scientists are sensible fellows", said Y. S. R. Prasad. Mr. Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director of India's Nuclear Power Corp., visited the Canadian reactors. "We are human beings. We are not politicians. We want what is good for humanity."
Indian and Canadian officials said the information they exchanged was used only by India's civilian nuclear program, and was unrelated to the May tests or weapons development. However, some observers question the separation of the civilian and military programs in India.
Since the tests, at least four Indians connected with the nuclear program have been denied visas to Canada for conferences and academic work. The Canadian government has banned most forms of nuclear co-operation with India since 1974, when India tested its first nuclear device, using plutonium from a Canadian-donated test reactor. The two countries are not allowed to trade nuclear hardware, materials, spare parts or research.
Canadian scientists are permitted to meet their Indian counterparts as part of the CANDU Owners Group, an informal club of CANDU operators, to share public information on safety. But there appears to be disagreement between Canadian scientists and the Department of Foreign Affairs on how much they can discuss -- a split which the Indian side has noticed.
"We are trying to rebuild ties", said P. K. Iyengar, former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission. "The scientists have always been friendly", he said. "The scientists are not the problem. It's your Foreign Affairs people. If I may say so, the Canadian bureaucracy is more bureaucratic than the Indian bureaucracy."
Many of India's top nuclear scientists trained in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, and maintain friendships with their Canadian counterparts. Mr. Iyengar, who trained at the Chalk River facility in Ontario, said he and his colleagues frequently visited Canada in the 1980s and early 1990s, and exchanged notes with Canadian scientists. He said most discussions were about pure science.
Mr. Prasad, who spent three years at Douglas Point generating station in the 1960s, visited the Pickering and Darlington reactors in 1996, after attending a conference on nuclear safety in Toronto. An Ontario Hydro spokesman said Mr. Prasad was taken to the reactors to brief Ontario Hydro staff about a series of recent accidents in India's CANDU reactors.
Mr. Prasad described it as a social visit. After the visit, India decided to replace all 306 coolant tubes in its troubled Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant (RAPP), which was built in the 1970s using the Douglas Point design. Indian officials said they were turned down when they asked Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Ontario Hydro to help with the repairs.
Having carried out major repairs on its own to a CANDU reactor, India plans to build at least 10 more like it over the next 15 years. The expansion almost certainly will increase India's stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium and tritium, said David Martin, research director for the Nuclear Awareness Project in Uxbridge, Ont. He said that India makes no clear distinction between its civilian and military nuclear programs, and often uses the same scientists and research facilities for both. Aid for one is aid for the other, Mr. Martin said.
Canada has a policy of making public, non-proprietary information available to CANDU owners, including India, so that they can safely maintain the reactors, government officials said. "If [the visit] was for safety information on their reactors, if they're not getting any secret information, then there's nothing wrong with that", said John Embury, a spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale.
Canadian scientists have also beat a steady path to India's reactors in recent years. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s chief engineer last year visited the troubled CANDU reactor in Rajasthan and was supposed to be followed by AECL president Reid Morden. Mr. Morden reportedly attended a nuclear conference in Bombay in January but cancelled the Rajasthan trip at the last minute, Indian officials said.
Despite sanctions imposed by Canada and the U.S. since the 1970s, India has developed its own nuclear designs, equipment and material, and built scientific ties around the world. Ottawa is considering new sanctions against India's nuclear program, including the removal of India from the CANDU Owners Group. But Mr. Prasad said such measures would have little impact because Indian scientists can access international expertise through other bodies such as the World Association of Nuclear Operators.
"I have been under sanctions since 1974. I survived", Mr. Prasad said in an interview at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Bombay, home of the Indian nuclear program. "I'm going to survive whatever you do." The Bombay centre and an adjoining research reactor were established in the 1950s with Canadian aid, and are thought to still produce much of the fuel for India's weapons program.
Although most of India's facilities are not under international safeguards, they are shown to international experts as part of a peer-review process. One team, including Canadian and American technicians, spent two weeks in January at the troubled Kakrapar reactor, which is not under international safeguards. "We get the best people from America and Canada", Mr. Prasad said.
As part of the CANDU Owners Group, Indian scientists meet regularly with Canadians and nuclear experts from other CANDU clients such as South Korea and Argentina. Both India and Pakistan were admitted to the group in 1988. Pakistan has relied on the group's expertise to repair a Canadian-built reactor. Using designs given by Canada in the 1960s, India operates seven CANDU clones, and plans to add 10,000 more megawatts of nuclear power by 2010.
India also has developed a rare ability to extract highly radioactive tritium from its reactors. Tritium is important to the creation of hydrogen bombs. Mr. Prasad said India developed the technique, which will be used in operations in about a year, without assistance from Canadian scientists or the CANDU Owners Group. He also said he did not see any of Ontario Hydro's tritium-extraction facility at Darlington -- the only one of its kind in the world -- during his visit. Only Canadians have developed that process and we don't know what process they are using, he said. What catalyst they use is a commercial secret. What good is it to me when I go to see the plant? Even an operator doesn't know what's inside.
By Paul Tait
SYDNEY - Australian police arrested nine people on Tuesday in a dawn raid on a group of protesters outside a planned A$12 billion (US$7.5 billion) uranium mine in the country's tropical north, police said.
Tactical response police scuffled with protesters at a blockade outside the mine, which has been picketed since March by up to 100 environmentalists and the traditional Mirrar Aboriginal land owners.
Police spokeswoman Sue Bradley said police moved in at about 5.30 a.m. (1730 GMT) and attempted to move protesters and cars blocking the main entrance to the mine, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Darwin.
Some police were slightly injured during scuffles as protesters attempted to chain themselves to the cars, she said.
"Nine people have been arrested on charges ranging from trespass to assaulting police and hindering police," Bradley told Reuters by telephone from Darwin.
Environmentalists and Aborigines oppose the development of the mine in the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, warning it risks destroying the fragile ecosystem of the vast wetland park.
"This won't deter us, this is what we've been expecting," protester Kirsten Blair told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
A Federal Court hearing on Wednesday will determine whether work can begin on the mine later this week. The same court granted an injunction last Friday restraining final approval pending an environmental assessment and other reports.
Mine operator Energy Resources Australia (ERA) had its right to build the mine upheld in the Federal Court in February after the government removed 13 years of limits on new uranium developments in October 1997.
ERA has said the Northern Land Council, which acts for Aborigines in the area, had cleared the development of the site.
ERA said earlier in May it would provide an additional A$9 million in benefits for Aboriginal people on top of the A$210 million in royalties the Jabiluka mine is expected to generate for the Northern Territory's Aboriginal people.
ERA also owns and operates the nearby Ranger mine.
Jabiluka is regarded by geologists as one of the world's richest known uranium deposits with estimated reserves of 900,000 tonnes of uranium oxide.
The new mine is expected to generate A$12 billion in revenue in its 28-year life, making Australia one of the world's leading uranium producers. Australia has about 30 percent of the world's uranium deposits but less than 10 percent of the market.
ReutersBy Mark John
BONN - The German and French governments on Tuesday attacked the energy industries of both countries for failing to report a series of radiation leaks from nuclear waste shipments since the 1980s.
In a joint statement issued after a meeting of French and German environment ministers in the French city of Strasbourg, the two said the blame for the leaks clearly lay with the firms involved.
"These firms did not tackle the problem in an appropriate manner. This behaviour requires our severest condemnation," a copy of the statement faxed to Bonn said.
German Environment Minister Angela Merkel, under fierce pressure to resign over the scandal, and her French counterpart Dominique Voynet said a German-French working group would be set up to examine what went wrong.
Future shipments of nuclear waste in the two countries would only be allowed to go ahead on a case-by-case basis when it was demonstrated that the firms involved had taken measures to ensure no further leaks, the statement said.
The controversy involves rail and road shipments of spent fuel rods from nuclear power stations in southern Germany to reprocessing plants at La Hague in France and Sellafield in Britain and back to Germany for storage.
French authorities informed Bonn last month shipments had shown spots of radiation over 3,000 times the tolerance level. Subsequent queries by a regional German government to British authorities turned up similar, though less serious reports.
Merkel last week suspended all German shipments pending an investigation. The joint statement from Strasbourg stressed that the contaminated shipments posed no health risk.
Earlier, Germany's nuclear industry apologised to Merkel for failing to report radiation leaks from nuclear waste shipments.
Wilfried Steuer, president of the German Nuclear Forum, praised Merkel for being a "dedicated advocate of the nuclear industry" at an annual meeting of industry experts in Munich.
He urged her not to turn her back on it now.
"I am personally extremely sorry the nuclear energy industry has brought the minister such considerable political problems," Steuer told some 1,000 delegates from 21 countries.
He added industry experts had been aware of contamination but had failed to inform the board members of nuclear utilities.
Bayernwerk, one of the German utilities involved, said at the weekend no health risk had been posed by the shipments and that there was no legal obligation on it to report the contamination.
Merkel is due to give a full account at an emergency parliamentary session on Wednesday.
The opposition Social Democrats on Tuesday renewed calls for Merkel to quit and said the debacle could lead to the abolition of nuclear energy in Germany.
Ecology group Greenpeace said it was pressing charges against several nuclear power stations for endangering public health by sending contaminated cargoes to France and Britain.
Nuclear waste shipments have in recent years become the focus of Germany's anti-nuclear lobby. Thousands of people have joined protests to stop them, prompting some of Germany's largest police operations since World War Two.