TOKYO - North Korea on Thursday denounced Japanese shipments of plutonium from Europe as a disguised attempt to turn itself into a nuclear military power and conquer Asia.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Tokyo, criticised the shipments as a step toward "nuclear weaponisation and the conversion of Japan into a military power, in a bid to realise the old dream of the 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere'".
Japan said after invading Asian nations during World War Two that it wanted to unite Asia in a large "co-prosperity" sphere.
"This move of Japan to become a nuclear power by shipping a large quantity of plutonium from other countries and stockpiling it has now come in for strong protest and condemnation by the world," the spokesman was quoted by KCNA as saying.
Two ships carrying weapons-grade plutonium recently left Britain and France for Japan. The move has drawn protests from environmental groups around the world.
Japan uses the nuclear material for fueling power plants. The North Korean spokesman also suggested that recent Japanese protests about North Korea's missile programme are little more than an excuse to re-arm.
North Korea launched a missile that sent shockwaves through Asia last August when it flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
Pyongyang has steadfastly characterised the incident as a satellite launch, not a missile test.
The two armed British cargo ships loaded with recycled nuclear fuel known as MOX left the northern French port of Cherbourg for Japan on July 21.
The voyage marks the first transfer of so-called "direct use" nuclear material -- considered easiest to convert into bombs -- since 1992.
Agence France Presse English
PARIS (AFP) - France's nuclear reprocessing firm COGEMA won a government agreement Monday to extend a plant in southern France producing recycled plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel.
The agreement will enable COGEMA -- Compagnie générale des Metières Nucléaires -- to supply MOX to Japan, which needs slightly different MOX than that used in Europe.
COGEMA's Melox de Chusclan plant is situated near Marcoule in southern France. It has two other plants producing MOX, which at the last update in February was being used as fuel in 17 of France's 57 nuclear power plants.
In Europe, 10 of Germany's 21 plants use MOX as do two of Belgium's seven power plants and three of Switzerland's five plants.
The fuel, which contains 93 percent of spent uranium and seven percent plutonium, was at the centre of a controversy with environmentalists last month involving shipments of MOX to Japan by Britain and France.
Two British ships carrying MOX nuclear fuel are currently on their way to Japan after protests in Britain and France by Greenpeace which claims the shipments could be separated and made into bombs if they fall into the wrong hands.
by Kevin Carmichael
The Armed Forces spent more than $300,000 scouring scrapyards in Eastern Canada for six missing radioactive gauges from Gagetown, N.B. , last year.
All six devices - earplug-sized metal pellets emitting enough gamma radiation to cause a serious skin burn if left in a pocket for half a day - were found and destroyed.
Four were discovered before the month-long search was called off in early June 1998; the other two turned up by fluke last August.
Despite the cost, Lt.-Col. Dave Eagles, who wrote an article about the search in a military newsletter, called the search a success story.
Eagles said the military reacted with exceptional speed after a rail car loaded with scrap set off a radiation detector at a scrapyard in Montreal early last May.
Investigators tracked the radioactive device to a recently dismantled heating plant at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown within three days.
Soldiers then spent the next month digging through scrapyards and landfills in Fredericton, Saint John, N.B., Sydney and Montreal.
Four of the devices, encased in lead shields the size of a loaf of bread, were retrieved within five days, said Eagles.
A helicopter equipped with a detection device later found a radioactive object not related to the missing Gagetown gauges in a scrapyard near Saint John.
The remaining pair were only found when a radiation detector went off at a Montreal steel foundry in early August, several weeks after the search had been called off.
Eagles said the incident provided a wakeup call for the Forces.
The Defence Department has since improved training for its radiation safety officers and improved its tracking and cataloguing of radioactive materials.
The Eagles article describes a comedy of human errors as the military lost track of the gauges, which contained enough radioactive isotopes to increase the risk of cancer.
A technician with the private company hired to tear down the heating plant mistook the wrong devices as being radioactive.
The six benign sensors were then placed in the foreman's trailer for safe keeping - a move Eagles said would have been "very unsafe" if they were the real thing. The radioactive gauges were then mistakenly scrapped with the rest of the plant.
The military also wasn't without blame.
Gagetown issued the demolition contract without taking steps to unsure safe destruction of the gauges.
MADRID - A Spanish environmental group said on Wednesday it would take legal action against a government decision to approve construction of a nuclear waste storage facility northeast of Madrid.
Ecologistas en Accion opposes the plan to build the facility next to a nuclear power station near Guadalajara, due to be shut down in late 2002 or early 2003.
The government has ordered the project to go ahead on the grounds that it is urgent and of "exceptional public interest," despite contravening local regulations.
The plant is jointly owned by Spanish electricity companies Iberdrola, Union Fenosa, Hidrocantabrico and Nuclenor.
by Suzanne McElligott
SINGAPORE - China said on Wednesday it wanted to be the first nuclear power to sign a treaty making Southeast Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone, and India said it was ready to endorse the pact.
The treaty seeks to prevent the manufacture, possession or testing of nuclear weapons in the region and bans the passage of nuclear arms through Southeast Asian airspace as well as nuclear waste through its waters.
"China will try to be the first to sign the protocol to the treaty," Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi told a news briefing at a conference of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore.
"This decision of the Chinese side clearly shows the support of China in the denuclearisation of Southeast Asia," Wang said.
ASEAN members are keen to get support for the treaty from the seven nuclear states - Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
China was part of the ASEAN conference as a "dialogue partner", along with Russia, the United States, India and other nations.
"India is fully committed and is ready to sign the protocol about Southeast Asia being a nuclear weapons-free zone," Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on Tuesday Moscow supported the concept and goals of the treaty but that the comments of nuclear states must first be reflected in it.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did not refer directly to the pact but said this week the United States had a "profound interest" in the region's security and in preventing the "destabilising spread of weapons of mass destruction".
The treaty came into force in March 1997 after seven ASEAN nations ratified it. ASEAN groups Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.
by Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday that 30 nuclear power plants still needed to upgrade their computers to be immune from the so-called millennium bug -- but described remaining problems as not serious.
Electrical utilities have retooled their computers to avoid possible year 2000 (Y2K) problems in older computer systems that use only two digits to represent the year. Experts fear that many computers worldwide could malfunction or crash on Jan. 1 if they misread the year as 1900 instead of 2000.
The commission said 73 of the nation's 103 operating nuclear power plants were completely Y2K-compliant and the work that needed to be done at the remaining 30 plants did not involve computer safety systems.
"We conclude that the year 2000 problem will not adversely affect the continued safe operation of U.S. nuclear power plants," Chairwoman Greta Dicus said.
She made her comments in written testimony to a special Senate committee studying the Y2K problem.
She said that by Sept. 30 the commission would check on the progress of the remaining 30 plants and determine if any facilities where computers were not ready should be shut down. She said, however, that she did not think that would be necessary.
"At this time, we believe that all licensees will be able to operate their plants safely during the transition from 1999 to 2000, and we do not anticipate the need from the NRC to direct any plant-specific action," Dicus said.
She said the agency expected that only six plants would have Y2K work remaining by Nov. 1.
Lawmakers on the committee warned that allowing such a late deadline might not leave enough time to correct any unexpected problems at the six plants.
"Nuclear power plants shouldn't play Russian roulette when it comes to Y2K, where they wait until the last minute and hope for the best," Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said.
But Dicus said two of the facilities, the D.C. Cook plants in Berrien County, Michigan, were in an extended plant shutdown and had only minor work remaining which should be completed by Dec. 15.
The other four plants would require outages to complete their computer work, she said. Those plants are the Brunswick Unit 1 near Wilmington, North Carolina; Comanche Peak Unit 1 in Sommervell County, Texas; Salem Unit 1 in Salem County, New Jersey; and Farley Unit 2 near Dothan, Alabama. The Alabama plant has a Dec. 16 deadline.
by Eriko Sugita
(With additional reporting by Elaine Lies)
HIROSHIMA - Tens of thousands gathered in this western Japanese city on Friday, the 54th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, to mourn those killed and renew calls for the elimination of nuclear arms.
Demands for arms reduction took on a grim significance amid mounting tensions in Asia after a Chinese missile test earlier this week, rising friction between China and Taiwan, and fears that North Korea may be preparing to test-launch a new missile.
Incense spiralled from altars in central Hiroshima's Peace Park, near the site of the atomic bomb explosion on August 6, 1945, as people clad in black made offerings of flowers and lit candles.
Others brought thousands of folded paper cranes as a symbol of peace by which to remember the day 54 years ago when the city became a living hell.
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed some 140,000 people by the end of 1945, out of an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more succumbed to illness and injuries later.
At Friday's ceremony another 5,071 names were added to the lists of the dead, bringing the total to 212,116.
Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba declared the abolition of nuclear weapons to be the most important responsibility for the future of the world.
"We also call upon the government to place the highest priority on forging the will to abolish nuclear weapons," he told an estimated 50,000 people attending ceremonies at the park.
In a veiled dig at recent moves toward possibly revising Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, he added: "It is imperative that the government of Japan follow the philosophy outlined in the preamble of the Constitution."
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi pledged that the government will work towards nuclear disarmament, but warned that many difficulties exist.
"There has been no end of regional conflicts due to ethnic and religious problems, as seen in Kosovo, and we see new moves toward possessing nuclear arms," Obuchi said.
"The world security situation is difficult, and we still have a long way to go towards achieving nuclear disarmament."
Later Obuchi touched on one of Asia's more pressing security concerns, the possibility that North Korea might launch a missile. He told reporters covering his visit to Hiroshima that in the government's judgment a missile launch is not imminent.
He added that Japan was in close contact with South Korea and the United States on the issue, Jiji news agency reported.
In a demonstration of expanded defence cooperation between Japan and South Korea, naval vessels from the two nations took part in a joint training exercise earlier this week in the East China Sea.
The first-ever exercises consisted mainly of search-and-rescue drills and were roundly condemned by North Korea, whose Korean Central News Agency called them an "ill-boding military movement" and "prelude to re-invasion".
While words of warning on nuclear weaponry emanated from Hiroshima, however, the international environmental group Greenpeace on Friday called Japan to task for shipping plutonium fuel from Europe aboard two British-flagged ships. The shipments left Europe in late July.
In a statement, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director Sanae Shida said: "The people of Japan have had direct experience of the use of plutonium in nuclear weapons. As a result, Japan has long sought to become a world leader in nuclear non-proliferation."
But she added: "If it continues with a plutonium programme, its actions may threaten its words."
TOKYO - Kansai Electric Power Co Inc said on Wednesday it halved the power output at its Takahama nuclear station's No.2 reactor in order to investigate a possible leak of sea water into the condenser.
The utility said no radiation leaked into the environment.
Takahama's No. 2 reactor, in Fukui prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, has a capacity of 826 megawatts.
Kansai Electric said an alarm went off at 6:37 a.m. (21:37 GMT on Tuesday) indicating an anomaly at one of the three steam generators, followed by alarms at the other two steam units.
Later the company observed a rise in readings on the condenser's salt detection meter, which led it to suspect there had been a slight leak of sea water into the unit.
Japan's second-largest power company began reducing the reactor's power output at 9:17 a.m. (0017 GMT), cutting it to about 50 percent of capacity while making inspections and necessary repairs.
LONDON - Britain's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate said yesterday British Energy's nuclear plants were safe but the impact of recent job cuts on future safety standards was being studied.
Earlier, the Sunday Times said a report by the inspectorate found the company had shed so many jobs that there were not enough people to operate its nuclear power stations safely.
The Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations, Laurence Williams, said the report was a draft document which was part of an audit of the company's staff reduction programme.
"Current stations are operating within acceptable safety standards - this audit was done to see how staffing reductions were affecting the ability of British Energy to maintain their safety standards in the future," Williams said in a statement.
He did not give any details of the report's contents but said British Energy was studying the document.
The inspectorate planned to publish the report in the autumn after discussions with the company, Williams said.
According to the Sunday Times, the report said job cutbacks meant British Energy had nobody qualified to deal with any severe accident at its pressurised water reactor at Sizewell in eastern England.
The newspaper said the inspectorate warned that British Energy could lose its licence unless it acted to prevent further staff losses.
"In many other safety areas, such as criticality - the conditions that could lead to a meltdown - the (inspectorate) says British Energy's staffing is at or below the minimum required to operate safely with just one member of staff who has relevant experience," the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times said the inspectorate was insisting British Energy did not cut any more jobs and had given it three months to solve its problems.
British Energy denied on Sunday that safety at its eight nuclear powers stations had been put at risk since privatisation.
It said the inspectorate's report had failed to consider measures already in place.
"I am entirely confident that once the (inspectorate) have completed the validation process, the report will be far more balanced," Mike Low, managing director of British Energy Generation, said in a statement.
"However, if the (inspectorate) identifies areas where it considers further improvements in the area of technical support would be beneficial, British Energy will make the necessary changes."
British Energy reported a 56 percent rise in pre-tax profit for the year to March 1999.
BOOST, COLOGNE - Germany's Finance Minister Hans Eichel said yesterday the government expects 16.7 billion marks ($9.18 billion) to flow into the exchequer from a planned tax on reserves set aside by utilities for nuclear plant closures.
The government wants to tax nuclear power suppliers reserves, on which the companies earn interest, but have so far failed to reach agreement with utilities on energy industry reform and a schedule for winding down the plants.
But Eichel said on Sunday he was in no doubt major utilities could stomach a tax on their provisions."They can afford it and that is why I am in favour of such a law," he said at a meeting of Germany's postal workers' union.
Electricity producers said in June any agreeement with the government on the way the industry is taxed would have to come as part of a broad consensus on sector reforms.
Germany's nuclear providers, including utilities RWE AG , Veba , Viag and Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg , provide around a third of Germany's energy requirements.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's election pledge to shut down Germany's 19 nuclear reactors has become a major headache for his Social Democrats-led coalition with the ecologist Greens.
The Greens have criticised a plan to phase out nuclear power in Germany by 2024 as too slow while resistance by industry to the proposals has stalled any progress on the issue.
Threats by Britain and France that they would sue if lucrative nuclear waste reprocessing contracts were lost as a result of the pull-out have so far meant all legislation on the issue has been frozen. ($1=1.820 Deutsche Mark).
LONDON - British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) is sending an empty container used for transporting nuclear waste to Germany, Nuclear newsagency NucNet said.
The move could reignite the anti-nuclear feelings that led to suspension of German nuclear waste shipments over a year ago.
NucNet quoting sources at BNFL said an empty flask was being sent to the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in preparation for the resumption of transport operations.
In May 1998, the then German Environment Minister Angela Merkel, suspended all nuclear waste shipments following a public outcry over reports that some containers had leaked radiation.
Merkel announced plans to improve security and safety but the issue was clouded following the election of Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor in 1999. Schoeder's SPD coalition partners, the Greens are vehmently opposed to nuclear power and the current German government has announced it intends at some stage to phase out nuclear power completely.
BNFL said since the 1998 ban it has had its transport procedures independently assessed on behalf of the German government.
A spokeswoman at the nuclear giant, which is set for partial privatisation, said all necessary authorisations had been obtained.
Germany has historically shipped its nuclear waste to Britain and France for reprocessing.
by Mohammed Adam
Plans to decommission the contaminated Chalk River plutonium processing plant, in which four workers inhaled radioactive dust, are still not complete, five years after they were supposed to be ready.
A 1994 federal government document dated Jan. 25 said plans for Building 220, the plant in question, would be available for review by the Atomic Energy Control Board "in March or April." Another document, dated March 25, said the draft plan had been delayed for a month and would be ready by the end of April or early May. AECB is the body that regulates the nuclear industry.
But yesterday, a spokeswoman for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., said the plans are still not ready.
"The plan has to be submitted to the AECB for approval, and that hasn't happened," said Rhea Cohen, director of public affairs for AECL, which operates nuclear sites in Canada, including the Chalk River facility near Pembroke.
Ms. Cohen said she cannot explain why the plans aren't ready or when they will be completed. The manager responsible is away on vacation, she said, and won't be back until Monday.
"I personally don't know anything about this," she added.
Dave Martin, research director of the nuclear watchdog group Nuclear Awareness Project, said it's scandalous that the decommissioning is not under way. "It's pretty astounding that the plan is not ready," he said. "The roof is collapsing and leaking. It's a race against time before this building collapses."
Mr. Martin said there is no "possible rationale" to delay decommissioning.
"AECL been sitting on their hands and AECB is not willing to force them to undertake the decommissioning," he said. "It boils down to dollars and cents for these guys.
"They don't want to spend on anything they can get away with."
What decommissioning entails varies according to site and problem. But generally, it will involve removing pieces of equipment and decontaminating them.
Dust particles would be vacuumed. Once the building is cleaned up, it would be razed. The debris would be disposed of at a special site. Where liquid contaminants are present, as the case may be at Building 220, the structure may be encased in concrete.
The cleaning process is expensive and time-consuming, AECL officials say. They were not able to say yesterday how much it would cost to decommission Building 220, but a 1997-98 auditor general's report says the estimated cost of decommissioning and site remediation for AECL is $400 million.
But Mr. Martin said the real cost is more like $1 billion, taking into account clean-up costs for all the nuclear waste buried underground.
He said the time has come for federal Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale to step in to ensure the appropriate funds are in place.
"This is a real threat to public health. Really, the buck should stop with Mr. Goodale. His feet should be held to the fire," Mr. Martin said.
Chalk River officials are currently investigating a May 26 incident in which four Atomic Energy of Canada employees inhaled contaminated dust while working in a mothballed plutonium processing plant at Chalk River. The men spent less than two hours in the basement of Building 220, working on a shut-down ventilation system. They were wearing protective and monitoring equipment, but were still exposed to up to a year's allowable dose of radiation in less than two hours.
Frank Finley, a former plant spokesman, said he was confused why the incident would be labelled an accident because the men would have known about the exposure risk ahead of time.
"These people who went in there, I suspect they were under strict supervision," he said. "They would know the amount of radiation they would expect to receive.
"They wouldn't go in there and say 'oops, we didn't know there was that much there.' That would have been checked by the radiation detectors before they went in there."
Health Canada says the men are not at risk.
According to accepted medical wisdom, there should be no immediate health effects from the exposure.
"What they've basically done is picked up what would be deemed to be the incremental risk for the year," said Robert Bradley, a manager in the radiation protection bureau of Health Canada.
Ms. Cohen said an investigation is under way to find out how the men could have been exposed to radiation while wearing protective suits that are supposed to be airtight.
"There is an investigation to find out why this happened. We want to make sure this doesn't happen again," she said.
Ms. Cohen stressed that Building 220 poses no danger to the 1,800 workers at the Chalk River site. She said the building has been shut down and no one works there. Those who venture inside do so for specific reasons, such as an inspection.
She said the building is not falling apart and indeed, had a new roof installed in 1994. It also has fire protection, heating and lighting. And there's siding on the outer walls so no water leaks in.
"The building is stable and if it is stable, it is not dangerous," she said. "They check it daily. This is a licensed building and AECB does an annual compliance inspection to make sure the building is as it should be."
The condemned plant is one of about 200 buildings at Chalk River, the oldest nuclear site in Canada. It was commissioned in 1950 for the extraction of plutonium from used fuel. It was mothballed seven years later when the research became redundant following the discovery of uranium deposits in Canada.
Some of the equipment was removed in the 1960s, but the building has sat idle since 1957.
Plans for decommissioning took off about 1990, and a blueprint was expected to be ready by 1994.
An AECB document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Nuclear Awareness Project reveals significant contamination problems going back to 1994. The problems range from a contaminated fuel-isolation pool to the dangers related to asbestos insulation and fears about "possible loss of containment from structural failure."
The report noted that "evidence of evaporation on the outside surfaces of the thick concrete walls suggests possible full penetration of the contaminants into the structure."
A report on the May 26 incident is expected by Oct. 8.
by Graham Hughes, Kelly Egan,
Joanne Laucius, Carrie Buchanan
and Chris Shulgan
Atomic energy officials are trying to determine how four workers at Chalk River got up to a year's allowable exposure to radiation in less than two hours.
On May 26, four Atomic Energy of Canada employees inhaled contaminated dust while working in a long-closed plutonium processing facility at Chalk River.
The four spent less than two hours in the basement of Building 220, working on a shut-down ventilation system wearing personal protective and monitoring equipment. AECL is decommissioning the building, which had been mothballed in 1957.
The Atomic Energy Control Board said the men were cutting away a baffle box -- a component of the ventilation system -- and saw dust falling from it. When they finished their work, they left the area and took off their protective clothing and respirators. At that point, monitoring equipment "identified significant levels of contamination on each of the four persons," a AECB report said.
The four men showered twice, reducing the contamination to less than detectable levels, the report says, but subsequent testing of urine samples revealed they had received radiation dosages that required they be removed from any further work involving radioactive materials.
AECL reported the incident verbally to AECB staff June 24, and submitted a formal written report on July 13, when AECL said two men had received a dose of 35 to 55 millisieverts (mSv). The others received more than 20 but less than 50 mSv. A millisievert is an international unit used to measure the radiation dose to the body.
The incident was reported as a "Level 2 Incident" on the International Nuclear Events Scale. The classification is described as "an incident with no off-site impact, related to significant spread of contamination on-site/overexposure of a worker." The scale ranges from zero (deviation) to seven (major accident).
Most people receive two to four mSv of radiation from natural sources each year. Other people might be exposed to higher doses of radiation. Cancer patients, for example, might receive a dose of 20 to 40 mSv in radiotherapy to a small section of their bodies over the period of only a few weeks.
Atomic workers should be exposed to no more than 50 mSv over the course of a year. However, although a report prepared by AECB shows reactor workers average 0.33 mSv annually, with dosages ranging from 0.11 to 5.2 mSv annually.
According to estimates from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a male radiation worker who is exposed to 50 mSv has a 0.002 per cent greater chance of dying of cancer than someone who wasn't, said Norman Rubin, director of nuclear research at the anti-nuclear organization Energy Probe.
"This incident is a very good indicator of the dangerous conditions at Chalk River," said Dave Martin, a researcher with atomic energy watchdog, the Nuclear Awareness Project. "Building 220 is only one of many dangerous buildings there."
A 1994 government memorandum about Building 220 predicted decommissioning the building would present a number of challenges.
The building, commissioned in about 1950 to extract plutonium isotopes from enriched recycled fuels, was closed about seven years later.
Although breathing air, lighting and heating have been maintained since that time and some equipment was removed in the 1960s, "to a large extent, the facility was left as it was left in 1957," said the memorandum.
"It has been over 30 years since anyone worked at this site and there is little remaining operational experience of the contaminated systems," the document noted. "There appear to be gross discrepancies between the as-built drawings and the actual site."
The memorandum adds that there are also pipes, conduits and vents that are not fully understood or shown on drawings.
"Every time we start cleaning up, we're going to find problems we didn't anticipate," said Mr. Rubin. "It's going to be an enormous job. This is nothing compared to what happens when we start dismantling nuclear reactors. We'll be in for surprises for the next 100 years."
The building in which the incident occurred was once used to test alternative fuels, said Joe Carr, now retired, who was the manager of nuclear services at the plant 14 years ago before he retired.
"This whole area's been shut down. Nobody has worked in it for, I don't know how long. And it's contaminated," Mr. Carr said. "They used it mainly as a plutonium processing plant, to test plutonium for use in various reactors."
However, the absorption of a year's dose of radiation in two hours is "not a big deal," said Mr. Carr, provided the type of precautions that are being taken by AECL in this case are observed.
"This is not the first time that's happened," he said. "I'm sure I've had that happen. I worked in the NRU reactor for nine years."
He was, however, surprised to hear the men had become contaminated despite wearing protective suits. "The suits should have been air-tight."
Yesterday, AECL officials said they consider any incident to be important, said spokeswoman Donna Roach said yesterday from Chalk River.
AECL is working closely with the AECB on the investigation, she said. However, AECL is not expecting any adverse health effects from the incident.
The men have been assigned to work in areas where they will not come in contact with radioactive materials, Ms. Roach said. "We want to make sure that they don't get further exposure -- it's just standard procedure."
She could not say when the inquiry will wrap up. "It's prudent to get all the facts rather than rush it through to meet a date."
It is standard procedures for people working in a contaminated environment is that when they leave the area they are checked for contamination, said Ms. Roach.
"The procedure we follow is that when they come out of the area they've been working in, they're monitored by radiation surveyors. They are generally dressed in multiple layers -- different layers of equipment.
"As they remove each layer individually --there is a special procedure they follow for removing the different layers -- each layer is monitored. Once everything is removed, they're monitored again before they leave the area and then they shower."
Robert Bradley, a manager in the radiation protection bureau of Health Canada, said the fact that the workers received the annual acceptable limit within two hours does not present any additional risk.
"There is a considerable safety margin built into these limits, such that working at that level is not going to cause any immediate effects. Basically it is an indicator of increased risk over a lifetime exposure."
Mr. Bradley said "withdrawing the workers" from the contaminated site was obviously the right thing to do.
According to the accepted medical wisdom, there should be no immediate health effects from the exposure. "Any exposure adds to your incremental risk," said Mr. Bradley. "What they've basically done is picked up what would be deemed to be the incremental risk for the year."
The nuclear industry has set a maximum dosage for radiation workers to ensure that they are not at any greater risk of radiation damage than anyone in any other industry, Kathryn Higley, a radiation health physicist at Oregon State University's department of nuclear engineering.
However, she points out that calculating the dose of radiation is a difficult thing. People who have been exposed to radiation metabolize what they have absorbed over time. Plutonium will also decay over time when it's inside a person's body.
"You can take plutonium now, and it will give you a dose 40 years from now," said Ms Higley.
Radiation workers are being tracked by scientists. "Plutonium is doing a pretty poor job of being deadly," she said. "There are workers in their 80s who were exposed 40 years ago. These guys are still around and they're fine."
Jeff Cox, head of a United Steelworkers local that represents about 440 technical workers at the research centre, said AECL sent around a staff bulletin briefly outlining the incident. The bulletin indicated that at least one set of the protective gear worn by the four was torn, but it didn't explain how the other three workers would have become contaminated.
However, he had no first-hand knowledge about the matter and hadn't been contacted by any of the affected workers.
The incident clearly hasn't caused any panic among workers at AECL. Another union leader said the contamination wasn't even mentioned during the last two meetings of the site's health and safety committee.
Mr. Cox said it's too early to know just how serious the incident was and what, if any, corrective action should be taken in the ensuing decommissioning of the building.
"If indeed they received more than their annual dose, then it would be a serious incident and we'd want to make bloody sure it didn't happen again," said Mr. Cox.
Although he said it's premature to start blaming anyone, "we're going to be watching the investigation with eagle eyes, that's for sure, to make sure that it's done right."
Occasionally, there is low-level contamination of an individual, said Mr. Cox, but "a lot of times, it's a shower and you're OK."
Meanwhile, the AECB announced yesterday it is setting up a system for monitoring cancer rates in communities near nuclear plants.
The system will periodically monitor the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths in those areas, said Sunni Locatelli, a AECB spokeswoman.
AECB is taking action in co-operation with Health Canada because of growing public concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants.
The announcement comes on the heels of the World Conference on Breast Cancer last week in Ottawa, which heard from experts on the risks to people living near nuclear plants.
An American researcher told the conference he found "extraordinarily high levels" of cancers in females living within 16 kilometres of a reactor on Long Island, N.Y.
Dr. Jay Gould, director of the Radiation and Public Health Project in the U.S., later said he thought Canadians living near reactors would be at similar risk.
The control board has always maintained Canadian reactors release less than one percent of acceptable levels of strontium -- the radioactive element Dr. Gould measured in his study.
It added there are ''gross discrepancies'' including pipes, conduits and vents that are not fully understood or shown on as-built drawings.
by Graham Hughes,
with files from
and Colin Grey
Longtime Liberal MPP Sean Conway has demanded a briefing to find out exactly what happened at the Chalk River plutonium processing plant -- and he is furious he has been kept in the dark for months about the exposure of four employees to high levels of radioactivity at the site.
"I was not happy I had to read about this in the Ottawa Citizen. I want some answers for what happened," said Mr. Conway, who represents the Nipissing-Pembroke riding which includes Chalk River. "I had no indication from people at Chalk River this incident occurred."
Mr. Conway, the Liberal Party's energy critic, said he has told the Atomic Energy Control Board and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. he wants a briefing on the accident this week.
The AECB regulates the nuclear industry; the AECL oversees the Chalk River facility.
In May, four AECL employees inhaled contaminated dust while working on a ventilation system in the basement of Building 220 at the plant. In just two hours, they received the maximum annual allowance of radiation.
Building 220, a plutonium extraction facility, has been shut down since 1957, and the entire plant is slated for decommissioning, although plans for the work are years behind schedule. Decommissioning is the process of removing or safely storing radioactive materials on a site.
Mr. Conway said the recent events were highly disturbing and hinted that they would only serve to further unsettle local residents already nervous about the plant's condition.
"We have to know what happened and what is being done to ensure it doesn't happen again," said Mr. Conway. "We're dealing with a nuclear installation and the public has to be given assurances."
But if history is any indication, the problems faced by Atomic Energy Canada in handling facilities such as Building 220 are not going to go away soon. All nuclear powers must face the problem of what to do with the "hot" buildings and equipment once they've been taken out of service.
The solution requires two things -- time and lots of money.
In a paper published in 1993, the California-based risk management company EQE International says "decommissioning is a major issue facing the nuclear industry worldwide.
"The financial, planning, and engineering problems are complex, and the possible consequences of error for human and environmental safety are far reaching. However, by carefully planning operations over long time scales and paying attention to the detail of decommissioning options available, the nuclear industry has shown that safe and cost-effective decommissioning can be undertaken."
The process may go through a number of stages as different levels and sources of radioactivity are removed.
In this way, decommissioning a reactor may extend over 140 years, with long periods of care and maintenance between operations.
The scale of the projects involved are demonstrated by efforts in England to decommission Windscale Piles One and Two, early production reactors built in the 1940s to produce plutonium for the U.K. weapons program.
In 1957, Windscale Pile One was damaged by a fire in the reactor core and nuclear material was released. Since then, the piles have been monitored to ensure the safety of the structure and to ensure no radioactivity can escape.
The first phase of decommissioning, however, only began in 1993 and involved sealing biological shields and emptying and sealing the air and water ducts of both piles.
In September of that year the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority awarded an eight-year contract worth $13.2 million to a consortium of companies for the remote dismantling of the Pile One core. Waste from the pile will eventually be removed and packaged for storage at Windscale.
UKAEA was incorporated in 1954 and pioneered the development of nuclear energy in the U.K. Today it manages the decommissioning of nuclear reactors and other radioactive facilities used for the nuclear research and development program.
But the granddaddy of all nuclear jackpots is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. As a plutonium production complex, Hanford played a critical role in U.S. defence for more than 50 years, beginning in the 1940s with the Manhattan Project.
Hanford is the world's largest environmental cleanup project, with many challenges to be resolved in the face of overlapping technological, political, regulatory, and cultural interests.
Despite the complex and dangerous nature of the work, U.S. authorities report progress toward the safe cleanup and management of the site's wastes, a storehouse of material accumulated over the decades.
Nanaimo Daily News
VANCOUVER (CP) -- Ottawa's move to expropriate the Nanoose Bay torpedo test range is an act of "political aggression" against British Columbia and all of Canada could suffer, Senator Pat Carney says.
The senator, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, told hearings into the expropriation that the federal government is setting a horrible precedent.
"It is an act of political aggression which could torpedo Confederation as we know it and whose shock waves would damage Canada in ways which have never been calculated," she said.
Carney said if the Nanoose expropriation goes through, there's nothing stopping the federal government from taking similar facilities, such as the weapons range at Cold Lake, Alta., and the foreign military training site at Goose Bay, Nfld.
The senator also said the federal government is simply picking on British Columbia because Premier Glen Clark and his government are unpopular.
"Canada has faced no greater security threat ... than the possible break-up of the country, but no expropriation has ever preceded a referendum on the separation issue in Quebec."
Hearings into the expropriation began last month after talks broke down between the provincial and federal governments.
The province accused Ottawa of backing out of an agreement that no U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons would be allowed into the test range. It is the first time in recent history the federal government has attempted a hostile expropriation of provincial land.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Andrew Petter said he's still hoping the federal government will return to the negotiating table and the agreement that both sides signed last May.
He wouldn't comment on whether the province plans to take the federal government to court.
"That's a bridge we haven't crossed yet. I don't want us to end up in court, I personally think that would be further evidence of failure," Petter said in an interview.
"I think Canadians, British Columbians in particular, are tired of governments that can't resolve issues to their benefit and having to leave these issues to the court is an indication of that federalism isn't working.
"I think our obligation ... is to find a way to resolve this."
Hearing commissioner Michael Goldie has rejected requests for an adjournment by some of those wanting to appear at the hearing.
Goldie, a retired B.C. judge, is to complete his report by Sept. 3. Meantime, the Nanoose First Nation has filed a land claim against Defence Department land on Nanoose harbour.
Nanoose chief Wayne Edwards said Thursday a 1,900-hectare reserve that included the Defence Department installation in Nanoose harbour was taken back by the federal government and now his people want the land back.
"The fact that we've been denied use of our property for over 100 years has to be dealt with," he said.
The claim is being done under the specific land claim provisions in the Indian Act, which are separate from the comprehensive claims of the treaty process.
A specific claim allows bands to apply to have reserve land that was taken back by the Crown to be returned.
Linda Vanden Berg, a consultant for the Nanoose First Nation, said the reserve on the north shore of Nanoose harbour was created and then never signed off.
"There's no legal surrender under the Indian Act," she said.
Edwards, who was make a presentation to the expropriation hearing today, said it was opportune to file the land claim while the hearing is under way.
by Stewart Bell
Civilians are at risk; equipment
failures are cited in defence report.
Bases are not ready for emergencies.
Canada's naval bases -- all located near heavily populated areas -- aren't fully prepared for a nuclear accident caused by a visiting foreign warship, according to reports released by the Department of National Defence.
Report cards on the bases in British Columbia and Nova Scotia that host nuclear-powered or potentially nuclear-armed ships award a mark of satisfactory overall, but point out serious flaws.
After testing how the bases responded to a simulated radiation leak from a visiting ship, the chief of maritime staff said in evaluation reports that the bases were all unsatisfactory in some areas.
Equipment failures, lack of training and poor coordination and communications marred the exercises, conducted last year and late in 1997 at navy bases at Halifax and Esquimalt as well as the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges at Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island.
CFB Esquimalt is on the outskirts of Victoria and Nanoose Bay is near Nanaimo. Residents downwind of a nuclear accident would be vulnerable to radiation sickness, but emergency planning can minimize the damage.
CFB Halifax was the worst performer, scoring unsatisfactory or marginal in a third of the areas examined. The base was given poor marks for failing to promptly notify off-site authorities of the emergency, not adequately tracking the air quality and not securing access to the contaminated area.
CFB Esquimalt and the Nanoose testing range fared better but still had troubles reacting to the simulated disaster.
The reports were released under Canada's access to information law.
The issue of nuclear safety has surfaced recently in a feud between the B.C. and federal governments over the torpedo testing range, used by the U.S. navy.
After Ottawa took steps to expropriate the site, Victoria made a formal objection, partly on the grounds that the [ nuclear-powered ] foreign ships were "an unacceptable danger to the residents of British Columbia".
Art Eggleton, the Minister of National Defence, responded that nuclear weapons are not tested at Nanoose and the site had been accident-free since it was opened more than 30 years ago. David Anderson, B.C.'s senior Liberal, said earthquakes and lightning were more likely to kill Canadians than US. warships.
But just to be sure, the defence department has been conducting a series of what it calls nuclear emergency response exercises, records show, involving simulated leaks of radioactive material from fictitious nuclear-powered American warships.
"The department of national defence is involved in hosting visits of nuclear-powered and nuclear-capable [ i.e. nuclear-weapons capable ] vessels of other countries," said an introduction to one of the reports.
"They shall be managed in a safe and responsible manner to ensure the minimum level of risk to DND personnel and the public . . . Part of this responsibility is the provision of an appropriate response to emergency situations which may involve radioactive material."
Halifax scored satisfactory or better in just 27 out of 41 categories, with ratings of marginal in seven and unsatisfactory in another seven. Despite the performance, the report called the nuclear-response team at the base "well organized and directed".
Esquimalt, near Victoria, scored satisfactory in 27 out of 37 categories and excellent in five others, but rated only marginal in three and unsatisfactory in two. Evacuation plans for the base were called "deficient" in the report, which also said communications "proved to be a problem".
Members of the team sent to check the air quality did not know how to operate the testing equipment. "This could jeopardize appropriate decision-making during a nuclear accident, and it warrants special action in the near term," the report said.
Other glitches, such as equipment with dead batteries, a cellular phone that didn't work and a lack of scrapers for clearing frozen windshields on military vehicles, also hindered the response.
Nanoose scored highest, with satisfactory ratings in 35 of 48 categories and excellent in seven, but it also scored marginal in five areas and unsatisfactory in one. Communications were "not fully effective" and guards "did not regulate pedestrian traffic well." Equipment was missing and a shower stall in the decontamination centre leaked, allowing potentially radioactive material to escape.
The military isn't the only branch of government not fully prepared for a nuclear disaster. Last December, Canada's auditor general said most of the concerns expressed in his 1992 report on the federal government's preparedness for nuclear emergencies had not yet been addressed.
by Bill Robinson
The following information was supplied
to the BC government's lawyers
for use in the hearings
Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton told the House of Commons on 25 May 1999 that
"with respect to nuclear weapons being aboard any of the U.S. vessels that come into the [Nanoose] area, it is the policy of the U.S. government not to do that."But his open letter of 21 June 1999, posted on the DND website, added extremely significant qualifications to this statement, stating that
"the United States has a general policy of not carrying tactical nuclear weapons aboard ships visiting Canadian waters"The latter formulation is the correct one.
[ emphasis added ]
The qualifications added to Minister Eggleton's open letter highlight two crucial facts:
The adequacy of such estimates is further undermined by gaps in the data on ship and submarine visits supplied by DND. As described below ("Notes on data"), the lists supplied by DND to the B.C. government under the Access to Information Act are both incomplete and inaccurate. Thus, while it is possible to determine beyond any reasonable doubt that nuclear weapons have been brought into Nanoose (and that, in the absence of a significant change in deployment patterns, they will continue to be brought into Nanoose in the future), it is not possible to be certain how often such visits take place.
Ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are currently the only U.S. Navy vessels that routinely carry nuclear weapons. The sole mission of these submarines is to serve as launch platforms for the nuclear-armed Trident I or Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles that account for approximately 50 percent of the US strategic nuclear arsenal.
US SSBNs operate out of two home ports: one on the Atlantic Ocean at Kings Bay, Georgia and the other on the Pacific Ocean at Bangor, Washington. Only the submarines based at Bangor are likely to visit Nanoose under normal circumstances. The eight SSBNs based at Bangor all carry the Trident I missile. Each submarine carries 24 missiles, and each missile is armed with up to eight 100-kiloton W76 nuclear warheads, for a total of up to 192 warheads per submarine. Four of the Bangor-based submarines are scheduled to be withdrawn from the nuclear force following entry-into-force of the START 2 strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty. Current plans call for the remaining submarines to be upgraded to carry the Trident II missile (currently armed with a mixture of up to eight 475-kiloton W88 and 100-kiloton W76 warheads; likely to carry fewer following START 2 ratification) and for two or three of the SSBNs based at Kings Bay to be transferred to Bangor.
US SSBNs operate on an extremely tight schedule. Approximately 50-60 percent are at sea on deterrent patrol at any given time. Since 5-10 percent are undergoing major overhauls at any given time, the operational portion of the SSBN fleet spends as much as two-thirds of its time at sea on patrol. A typical patrol lasts 60-70 days, divided approximately equally between time spent on "alert" (ready to launch missiles without delay) and time spent on "modified alert" (transiting to or from launch areas, conducting training operations, etc.). Submarines on modified alert remain capable of moving to full alert on short notice. Under no circumstances would any SSBN on alert or modified alert not carry nuclear weapons.
Between each patrol, the submarines spend 25-30 days at their home port. During this time all equipment modification and maintenance short of major overhauls is conducted, the crew is changed, the submarine is reprovisioned, and in-port training and testing is conducted. Individual missiles are occasionally removed from the submarines for extensive maintenance during this period, but the normal practice is to leave the submarines fully loaded with their nuclear-armed missiles during their time in port. Among other advantages, this practice reduces the time it would take the submarine to put to sea in the event of a crisis. It is extremely unlikely that an operational SSBN would leave its home port without its nuclear weapons, even if it were not on patrol.
Because of the tight schedule maintained by these vessels, it is perhaps not surprising that SSBN visits to Nanoose are rare. DND records covering the period from 1980 to 1996 show just three visits, all of which took place during the 1990s. Two of the submarines that visited, USS Alexander Hamilton and USS Will Rogers, had already been removed from alert operations pending their retirement at the time of their visits. It is possible, therefore, that neither was carrying nuclear weapons. But the third submarine, USS Ohio, was fully operational at the time of its visit in January 1995 (it remains in operational service today); there can be little doubt that the Ohio was fully armed.
As these records demonstrate, SSBN visits do occur at Nanoose. Such visits are infrequent (assuming DND's records are complete and correct in this respect; see "Notes on data," below), but, in the absence of any form of binding commitment from the federal government that operational SSBNs will no longer be permitted to visit Nanoose, there is every reason to expect that such visits will continue to take place from time to time and no reason to believe that nuclear weapons will not be on board at the time of such visits. Any claim to the contrary (based on the supposed uncertainty engendered by the "neither confirm nor deny" policy, for example) would be disingenuous at best.
Although tactical nuclear weapons used to be routinely deployed on a wide variety of U.S. Navy ships and submarines (and were thus frequently brought into Nanoose), this practice was ended in 1991. As of 1993, the only naval tactical nuclear weapons remaining are some 350 nuclear versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile (TLAM-N), all of which are stored ashore during normal peacetime. (Non-nuclear versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile continue to be deployed on ships and submarines on routine operations.) It would be highly unusual, therefore, for nuclear weapons to be brought into Nanoose by Tomahawk-equipped vessels during normal peacetime operations. As noted above, however, it is possible that such weapons do get deployed on some vessels on some occasions, so it is impossible to be certain that no nuclear weapons are aboard such a vessel when it visits. It will remain impossible as long as the Canadian government continues to condone the "neither confirm nor deny" policy.
Examination of the ship-visit lists provided by DND to the B.C. government, and comparison of these lists to lists previously provided by DND, indicates that:
The following examples will serve to demonstrate these points.
- incomplete data were provided to the B.C. government in a number of cases;
- relevant data were arbitrarily withheld in a number of cases;
- incorrect data were provided in a number of cases; and
- DND's overall recordkeeping with respect to ship visits is disturbingly slipshod and erratic.
The 1991 list of visits to West Coast sites provided to the B.C. government is incomplete, covering only the January to June period.
A similar list provided to me under a previous Access to Information request contains data on the entire year, including visits to Nanoose that do not appear on the list provided to the B.C. government by the
and several other vessels.
- USS Omaha (SSN 692),
- USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716),
- USS Parche (SSN 683),
- USS Nimitz (CVN 68),
- USS Gurnard (SSN 662),
- USS Topeka (SSN 754),
- USS Texas (CGN 39),
- USS Chicago (SSN 721),
A separate list provided to the B.C. government of ships that conducted trials/firings on the CFMETR range identifies most of these vessels, but it does not include all of them. The CFMETR list does, however, record a visit by the USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN 617) that was not reported on either the overall list released to the B.C. government or the list released to me.
Similarly, the two lists of 1992 visits to West Coast sites provided to the B.C. government cover only the March to December period and June to September period respectively.
The first list provided to the B.C. government lists only 15 visits, but identifies each visitor by name. The second list, which covers a shorter period, lists 36 visits, but arbitrarily deletes the names of all submarines, which are described only as U.S. Navy SSNs or, in one case, SSBN.
The visit of the SSBN (Nanoose, 27-31 July) does not appear on the first list, but it does appear on the separate list provided to the B.C. government of ships that conducted trials/firings on the Range, where it is identified as the USS Will Rogers (SSBN 659).
Unlike the lists provided to the B.C. government, the 1992 list provided to me under a previous Access to Information request covers the entire year, listing 91 visits to West Coast sites including several visits to Nanoose that do not appear on any of the lists provided to the B.C. government. The unnamed SSN visitors are identified on the list released to me as the
- USS Bremerton (SSN 698),
- USS Honolulu (SSN 718),
- USS Portsmouth (SSN 707).
The lists provided for other years also contain a variety of omissions and discrepancies. In every case, vessels appear on the list of ships that conducted trials/firings at CFMETR that do not appear on the overall lists of visits to West Coast sites.
Serious errors are also present in these lists, such as identification of the USS Ohio -- recorded on the 1995 list of trials/firings as visiting Nanoose on 12-13 January -- as a fast attack submarine (SSN 726) instead of the ballistic missile submarine that it is (SSBN 726).
This visit of the Ohio is the clearest example of a visit to Nanoose by a vessel carrying nuclear weapons in the post-1991 period (once it is understood to be a ballistic missile submarine).
In light of the foregoing list of errors and omissions, it can hardly be surprising to add that this very significant visit is missing from the overall list of 1995 visits to West Coast sites provided to the B.C. government.
Phone: 519 888-6541 x264 Fax: 519 885-0806
Project Ploughshares is a member of the
Canadian Network to AbolishNuclear Weapons
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Testimony of David Krieger
President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
I am the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and have served in this position for 17 years. The Foundation is a non-governmental education and advocacy organization with headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. It has members in many countries throughout the world, including Canada. The Foundation is a United Nations Peace Messenger Organization, and is on the roster in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Our advisors and consultants are some of the great peace leaders in the world, and include the XIVth Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and Joseph Rotblat, all Nobel Peace Laureates.
By training I am a political scientist and lawyer. I have written and lectured extensively throughout the world on nuclear dangers and the need to abolish nuclear weapons. I believe, in fact, that these are not weapons at all, but instruments of genocide and portable incinerators. I serve on the International Steering Committee of the Middle Powers Initiative, an abolition initiative led by Canadian Senator Douglas Roche. I am also on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000, a network of some 1,400 organizations in more than 80 countries seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons.
It is also relevant that I am a citizen of the United States. While I represent only myself and the organization that I lead, I think you should know that most Americans oppose nuclear weapons and support their global elimination. Some 87 percent of the American public want their government to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention, similar to the Chemical Weapons Convention, leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
I have come to Vancouver to testify in these hearings because I believe that the issue at stake here has global significance. On the surface this is a dispute between the federal government of Canada and one of its provinces about a piece of seabed territory. Beneath the surface, however, the issue at stake here is whether or not ordinary people – the ones referred to in the opening words of the United Nations Charter – are going to have a voice in shaping their own destiny on this planet, or whether national governments are going to usurp the right of the people to create a future that is healthy for children and other living things.
The issue at stake in these hearings is not the land; it is the intended use of the land. It is the intention of the Canadian government to allow the United States the possibility to bring nuclear weapons into an area that the citizens of British Columbia have declared a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. This intention is contained in the acceptance by the Canadian government of the U.S. policy to “neither confirm nor deny” whether U.S. Navy ships are carrying nuclear weapons. It is a policy of deliberate ambiguity and deceit.
In the Notice of Intention to Expropriate the Canadian government said that the seabed areas at Nanoose “are required by Her Majesty the Queen in the right of Canada for purpose related to the safety or security of Canada or of a state allied or associated with Canada and it would not be in the public interest further to indicate that purpose.” This is a statement right out of the Cold War handbook. It provides very little information to citizens. Is the purpose for the safety of Canada or the security of Canada? Or is it for the safety or security of another state that is allied of associated with Canada? If the issue is the safety of Canadian citizens, I’m sure that there has been testimony at these hearings regarding the radiation dangers to the people and environment of British Columbia that are related to possible accidents from nuclear powered submarines and nuclear armed submarines in your waters. It is hard to imagine that it could be in the security interests of the people of British Columbia to invite the targeting of Nanoose Bay by other nuclear weapons states.
If I were a citizen of British Columbia I would find the Notice of Intention to Expropriate highly insulting. It appears to be purposely vague and ambiguous, similar to the U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons. The worst part of the Notice is the Canadian government telling its citizens that it would not be in their interest for the government to further indicate the purpose of the expropriation. In effect, the Canadian government is telling its citizens to be good children and not ask any more questions. This form of governmental paternalism is unbecoming of a mature democracy.
I wish to object to the expropriation of the seabed in Nanoose Bay for three reasons related to the purpose of the expropriation, which is to allow the United States the possibility to bring nuclear weapons carrying submarines into the waters above the expropriated land. These reasons are illegality, immorality, and lack of respect for democratic principles.
The International Court of Justice, the highest international court in the world, stated in its opinion of July 8, 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal if such threat or use violates international humanitarian law. This means that no threat or use of nuclear weapons can be legal if it would cause or threaten to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants or fail to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Since nuclear weapons are weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction, they cannot be used legally under international law and their threatened use for deterrence is illegal as well.
Should this expropriation occur and the United States bring nuclear weapons into Canadian waters, the citizens of Canada would become accomplices to threatening to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. These were two of the three crimes, along with crimes against peace, for which Nazi leaders were brought to justice at Nuremberg.
The Court also stated in its opinion: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” This is the Court’s clarification of the obligation set forth in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to which Canada is a party. By refusing to aid and abet nuclear crimes, Canada would be helping to move the United States and the other nuclear weapons states to fulfill this obligation under international law.
Nuclear weapons threaten the mass murder of millions of innocent people, the destruction of civilization, and perhaps the extinction of the human species and most forms of life. Nuclear weapons place all creation in danger of annihilation for what some states have defined as their national security interests. I believe that the citizens of British Columbia should have the right, indeed the duty, to dissociate themselves from such extreme immorality, and in fact they have done so by declaring their province to be a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Now, the government of Canada seeks to expropriate this territory. In doing so, they will also expropriate from the citizens of this province the right to act upon their morals in their own community on this issue of such great importance to the future of life on Earth.
Decisions about the deployment and strategy of nuclear weapons use are being made by only a small number of people in governments aided by the military-industrial-academic complex. Decisions about the actual use of nuclear weapons reside in the hands of even fewer persons, only perhaps a few dozen throughout the world. The people have been cut out of the equation, even though in countries where polling has taken place they overwhelmingly support a treaty to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
In Canada, 92 percent of Canadians want their government to lead negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Canada could lead in this area as it did so ably with the Treaty to Ban Landmines. Yet, rather than doing so, the federal government is seeking to trample on the rights of the citizens of British Columbia in forcing them, through this expropriation, to accept the possibility of nuclear weapons in their midst.
British Columbia made a seemingly simple request in the negotiations with the federal government to extend the lease for the area in question. They simply wanted “a provision confirming that no nuclear warheads will be present at any time within the licence area.” Rather than championing this cause for the citizens of British Columbia, the federal government of Canada chose instead the route of expropriation. Rather than choosing democracy and listening to the voices of the people, the federal authorities have chosen the sledgehammer of expropriation as the means to resolve this issue. It is behavior unbecoming of a democratic state, and the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada should oppose it.
When Canada took the lead on the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines it was lauded throughout the world for its efforts. Canada could also exert such leadership in creating a world free of nuclear weapons. For it to do so, however, the federal government will need to listen to the voices of its people. What is happening here in British Columbia is a serious test of whether Canada will lead or continue to be – as some have unkindly said – a lapdog of the United States.
I want to conclude by assuring you that the great majority of citizens in the United States, as in Canada, support a world free of nuclear weapons. These American citizens, if informed of the issues at stake, would strongly support the efforts being made in British Columbia to oppose the expropriation of their land without the assurance that they seek that nuclear weapons will not be brought onto their territory.
By seeking to expropriate the Nanoose seabed, the Canadian government is crushing not only the dreams of the people here for a nuclear weapons free world, but also the dreams of the great majority of ordinary American citizens who would prefer to live in and leave to their children a world free of nuclear weapons. The fight of the citizens of British Columbia is a fight for global dignity, decency, and democracy. I am here to support your effort.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation,
PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1,
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Web site: www.wagingpeace.org.
VANCOUVER (CP) -- Hearings on Ottawa's plan to expropriate the Nanoose Bay underwater weapons testing range opened here today as protesters promised to step up their drive to stop weapons testing. After two relatively quiet weeks of hearings in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, proceedings began today with protesters rallying outside the downtown hearing room.
Members of the Raging Grannies, clad in flowered hats, carried signs warning against "nuclear warmongers" and questioning Canadian trust in the United States.
The federal government moved to expropriate the provincially owned seabed weapons-testing range after talks with the NDP government to renew Ottawa's lease collapsed in May. The lease expires next month. The B.C. government wanted a guarantee U.S. Navy ships, the main users of the range, would not be carrying nuclear weapons.
Anti-nuclear activist Peter Coombes suggested many more critics are now likely to attend the hearings than in Nanaimo. "The approach, now that it's in Vancouver, is to make sure hundreds of people get involved and remain involved," said Coombes, a representative of End the Arms Race.
Ottawa has received more than 2,500 notices of objection to the expropriation but only a relative handful will be allowed to make submissions at the hearings. A U.S. activist said the use of Nanoose by nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships is more than a local issue.
"What happens here will affect people throughout the world," said David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
The debate has more to do with American than Canadian policy, he said. The U.S. military faces opposition to such testing in its own country and other nations have also objected.
"It will be the sum of these kinds of local protests that will end up turning around the arms race," said Krieger.
But Coombes said he was concerned the hearings will turn out to be a sham, not reflecting what he believes is vast opposition to the move in British Columbia.
"The commission could end up being a sham, a bit of a futile effort," he said. "I have concerns, but I am hoping to make sure the chair does report back to the federal government that British Columbians oppose the expropriation."
Nanaimo Daily News
by Andrew Lupton
NANAIMO, B.C. (CP) - The testimony of an expert in nuclear arms and navy weaponry was shot down Tuesday because the speaker didn't come with evidence of his academic credentials.
Michael Wallace, a University of B.C. political science professor who has published academic works on the safety of nuclear weapons, was attempting to testify at a hearing into the federal government's move to expropriate the seabed under a weapons testing range off Vancouver Island.
But hearing commissioner Michael Goldie, a retired B.C. Appeal Court judge, told Wallace he would not be considered an expert witness without evidence of his credentials.
Goldie questioned Wallace about his credentials shortly before the professor was scheduled to speak.
"I was told that I had to have documents that would establish my credentials as an expert witness," said Wallace, who has appeared in U.S. courts as an expert witness on nuclear-powered submarines.
"I don't carry around everything I've written." Wallace will now speak at the Vancouver portion of the hearings, set to begin Aug. 3, when he can provide evidence of his credentials.
Defence Department spokeswoman Athana Mentzelopoulos said Goldie was only trying to determine whether Wallace was speaking as an expert or as a personal objector to the expropriation.
"I think it's standard that if you are an expert, you provide information about your credentials," she said.
Wallace did file a personal objection to the expropriation and said he was never told the hearing officer would ask to see his resume.
"If [Goldie] wanted to make those rules that's fine, but it would have been courteous for me to know ahead of time," he said.
The hearings are a legal part of the land expropriation process.
The federal government is expropriating 225 square kilometres of provincially owned seabed after a lengthy dispute with Victoria over the terms of a new lease.
The site is a testing range used by American vessels.
British Columbia has demanded that those armed with nuclear warheads be banned from the site -- something Ottawa has said it cannot do.
Premier Glen Clark also threatened to use the site for leverage in the Pacific salmon dispute with the United States.
Wallace wasn't the only speaker at Tuesday's session to complain about Goldie's conduct.
Kristen Ostling, who came from Ottawa to voice her objections on behalf of the National Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, said Goldie frequently interrupted her and was often rude.
"It seems that he only wants us to raise the issues that were in our written submissions," she said.
Chris Bradshaw, a Parksville, B.C., councillor who also made a presentation objecting to the expropriation, said Goldie is being heavy handed.
"His interjections seem formulated to intimidate and disrupt the objectors," Bradshaw said. "It made me feel like I needed a lawyer beside me."
The Nanaimo portion of the hearing runs until July 30.