Nanoose Conversion Campaign
by Norman Abbey
A quick (labour day) update on the last few days' events:
The one interesting "surprise" in Mr. Goldie's report is his unsolicited data-base which analyzes the "characteristics" and organizational strengths and weaknesses of selected activist groups and individuals. BCTV focussed on this "McCarthyism" aspect of Goldie's data-base in news coverage of the "Save Nanoose" rally on Saturday.
Neither Dr. Fry's constituency assistants, nor any of the other 4 Liberal MPs in the Lower Mainland were available to stand in on Dr. Fry's behalf.
No date was set for a "postponed" meeting. (Call Hedy Fry's office: (604) 666-0135 for more info.)
We wish Dr. Fry a speedy recovery; as we have been trying for almost 2 years now to actually meet with her (or David Anderson) on the Nanoose issue.
(Norman Abbey, of the
Nanoose Conversion Campaign)
- Court refuses to grant an injunction to prevent Nanoose expropriation.
Madam Justice Barbara Reed of the Federal Court of Canada, on September 2, 1999, dismissed a motion to stay the imminent expropriation by the federal government of the Nanoose Bay missile testing range. The motion had been brought on behalf of the citizens of British Columbia by a number of public interest groups and concerned individuals.
The motion was an early step in proceedings to halt or reverse the proposed Nanoose Bay expropriation, and if successful would have prevented the federal government from making any further moves until after it had proved that the expropriation was legal.
Yesterday's finding came despite last-minute support for the motion by the province of British Columbia, which provided a written undertaking that, should the applicants be successful in staying the expropriation, B.C. would not interfere with the military operations on the base until after the entire case had been heard.
The Court, while dismissing the motion for an interim injunction, made the following positive findings:
In doing so, the Court ignored the following:
Rocco Galati (416) 536 7811,
Manuel Azevedo, (604) 687 0231,
Harry Rankin Q.C. (604) 682 2781;
Rose-Marie Larrson for CCAFT 604 683 3733;
Connie Fogal, for DCLC(604) 872 2128 or (604) 687 0588
Connie Fogal, for DCLC(604) 872 2128 or (604) 687 0588
C/0 CONSTANCE FOGAL LAW OFFICE,
#401 -207 West Hastings St.,
Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1H7
Tel: (604) 687-0588; fax: (604) 872-1504 or (604) 688-0550;
cellular: (604) 202-7334;
|"The constitution of Canada does not belong either to Parliament, or to the Legislatures; it belongs to the country -- and it is there that the citizens of the country will find the protection of the rights to which they are entitled"|
Supreme Court of Canada
- US & Canadian gov'ts agree on sending warhead plutonium to Canada.
US Department of Energy
Press Release R-99-229
NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:
Jacqueline Johnson, (202) 586-5806
United States and Russian Fuel to be Used
in Canadian Test Reactor
The agreement involves the shipment of nine fuel rods, containing less than 120 grams of plutonium, from the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to the Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited, test reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. The material will cross into Canada at Sault Saint Marie, Mich. The shipment of United States and Russian fuel is expected to take place this fall.
Prior to reaching the agreement, DOE conducted an environmental review of seven possible routes from Los Alamos to Chalk River. The potential environmental impacts were reviewed and a determination was made that none of the routes pose a significant impact to the environment. Copies of the Environmental Assessment and the Finding of No Significant Impact are being released today and are available upon request at 1-800/820-5156 or on DOE's web site: http://www.doe-md.com
The fuel rods to be tested at Chalk River were made at the Bochvar Institute in the Russian Federation and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States. The tests will provide information on the performance of these fuel rods in CANDU reactors.
The test fuel rods will be shipped in specially designed transportation containers which conform to strict safety standards set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board. The standards ensure that the container will not break open even in a severe accident and that the public will not receive a radiation dose above regulatory limits during transport of the fuel rods.
The container will be shipped by a dedicated truck that will have no other cargo aboard. All aspects of the shipment will meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada in Canada. The trucking firm used for this shipment will be selected after a thorough review of their safety record, insurance, emergency response capabilities, hazardous material shipping experience, equipment maintenance, driver qualifications, and driver training.
Before the shipment begins, tribal, all state and local emergency response and law enforcement personnel will be notified. The law enforcement personnel from the United States and Canada will cooperate to protect the shipment from terrorist action. The shipment will be tracked by satellite and the truck drivers will be in continuous radio communication with the Department of Energy and their company.
- Ottawa gives approval for Weapons Plutonium to enter Canada.
Government of Canada
Subject to Transport Canada's approval, the MOX fuel shipment from the United States would enter Canada by truck at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, while the Russian shipment would arrive at Cornwall, Ontario by ship. Both shipments would then proceed by truck to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s (AECL) research laboratories at Chalk River.
"The MOX fuel test is a step forward in getting rid of nuclear weapons, and the Government of Canada is committed to decreasing the number of nuclear weapons in the world,"said Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs. "Eliminating the risk of theft and proliferation posed by plutonium weapons helps us to reach this goal."
"These are low-risk shipments," said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Natural Resources. "We have one of the most stringent safety systems in the world, and an excellent track record on transporting dangerous goods of all types. MOX fuel is stable. It is a solid. It's not soluble. It can't spill. It can't ignite or burn, and it's not a powder that can be inhaled."
Testing will be conducted by AECL during the next several years under contract with the United States and Russian energy departments. The small-scale laboratory testing will determine the operating performance of MOX fuel in CANDU reactors and confirm that it can meet acceptable performance standards. MOX fuel is made from uranium oxide with less than three percent weapons-grade plutonium. Once MOX fuel has been used as a fuel in a nuclear power reactor, the plutonium is effectively inaccessible for use in nuclear weapons.
The Canadian government is taking steps to ensure that all health and safety requirements are met. The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) completed an environmental assessment screening when it licensed the Chalk River Laboratories as a nuclear site in 1996 and 1998. This licence permits AECL to carry out different types of research activities, including reactor-fuel tests of the kind planned for the MOX samples.
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Natural Resources Canada
|Disclaimer: The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) does not guarantee the accuracy and assumes no responsibility for the use of information available at this World Wide Web (WWW) site.|
© Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, September 2, 1999
- Radioactive fallout from Nuclear Testing continues to do harm.
by Arjun Makhijani
Fifty years ago, the Soviet Union exploded its first atom bomb and became the second state to begin a long history of raining fallout on its own people, and others, in the name of national security.
Near the test site in Kazakhstan, in villages like Dolon, the deadly radioactive seeds of cancers, birth defects, nervous-system disorders and immunological deficiencies began to be sown. Like the United States, the Soviet Union did most of its nuclear testing in areas belonging to indigenous and minority peoples.
President Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki provoked the Soviet decision to build nuclear weapons as rapidly as possible. In turn, the Aug. 29, 1949, Soviet test triggered a panic in the United States and led to its decision to build hydrogen bombs.
The fallout created by the subsequent frenzy of atmospheric testing is projected to cause between 100,000 and half-a-million cancer fatalities by the end of the next century. And the radiation doses will go on long after that because some radionuclides, such as plutonium-239 and carbon-14, have half-lives lasting thousands of years.
The Soviet and U.S. nuclear-weapons establishments were aware of the dangers. But they did not warn, much less protect, their populations. The United States, however, did give notice of its nuclear tests to the photographic film industry, so that Kodak and others could protect their film from fallout damage.
The damage did not stop when the United States and the Soviet Union ended atmospheric testing in 1963. Underground testing has left a radioactive mess containing millions of curies of long-lived radioactive materials at scores of test sites.
Nuclear tests, and the development of nuclear weapons that the tests have have enabled, have produced a chain reaction of pollution and proliferation, resulting in new weapons in existing nuclear states as well as new nuclear powers. The process continues to this day, despite the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the United States, Russia and China have signed but not ratified.
For instance, the United States and Russia are carrying out "sub- critical" tests that supposedly do not involve nuclear explosions but still use plutonium and disperse it underground.
The United States and France are building billion-dollar machines to create small thermonuclear explosions using lasers in a laboratory setting.
They claim, without technical merit, that such explosions are exempt from the ban on nuclear explosions mandated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, even though it categorically bans all nuclear explosions for any purpose whatsoever.
The determination of the nuclear-weapons states to maintain and develop their arsenals was a significant factor in India's nationalistic decision in 1998 to test nuclear weapons. The institutionalized inequality between the five countries that tested before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968 and the rest of the world is often derisively referred to as "nuclear apartheid" in India. Pakistan's tests were, in turn, a reaction to India's tests.
Because of the nuclear-arms race, the world could fall victim to an all-out nuclear war. Further, Soviet and U.S. nuclear-weapons production and testing have resulted in vast areas of contamination. Neither country has shown a serious budgetary commitment to helping the people whom the process has hurt.
The U.S. budget for nuclear testing and design today is larger than the average for such expenditures during the Cold War. Indeed, it is about as large as the entire Russian military budget.
Nothing better epitomizes the bankruptcy of the argument that nuclear weapons have provided security than the fact that all nuclear-weapons states have harmed their own people without their informed consent in the process of producing and testing nuclear weapons.
On this 50th anniversary of the first Soviet test, the United States and Russia should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, stop developing new weapons and turn their attention and money to helping those they have injured during the five-decade folly of the nuclear- arms race.
- Greenpeace blocks nuclear waste shipment from Switzerland to France.
Agence France Presse English
GOESGEN, Switzerland - Greenpeace activists Tuesday chained themselves to an iron bar weighing a tonne and a half and dumped it on rail tracks here to prevent a train leaving with nuclear waste.
The environmental protection group said the team had prevented the consignment leaving a nuclear power station for a fuel recycling plant at La Hague in northern France.
A power plant spokesman confirmed to the Swiss news agency ATS that the exit had been blocked.
He said there were no Greenpeace activists on the grounds of the plant, which had decided against action for the moment, although police had been informed.
Greenpeace is demanding that Swiss authorities immediately stop sending radioactive waste to recycling plants in France and Britain.
"By recycling radioactive waste to extract plutonium, the plutonium plants at La Hague and Sellafield in Britain are seriously contaminating the North Atlantic, something that is forbidden under Swiss law," a Greenpeace statement said.
"The return of recycled waste furthermore increases the amount of waste being brought back and stored in Switzerland," it added.
The Swiss government gave the go-ahead in June for resumption of nuclear waste transport after it had been suspended last year following discovery of radioactive railroad cars.
After checks for radioactivity, and to ensure that freight cars were sealed, as well as a final cleaning, the transport -- the first of four -- had been scheduled to leave the plant Wednesday.
- Colorado downplays danger of plutonium leaks at weapons plant.
A study for the state of Colorado on cancer risks from secret radioactive and chemical releases at the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant found no great danger to the public.
"The bottom line is the risks at Rocky Flats were low and the public was lucky that this was the case," said James LaVelle, a consulting toxicologist on the study.
"Many of the releases and risks could have been much worse."
However, there were information gaps in the nine-year study -- the result of the defence industry's secrecy and lack of U.S. government oversight, particularly in the early years of the Cold War, researchers said.
"We don't even know where all the stuff is. We don't have a record of where they buried some of the barrels," said Niels Schonbeck, a panel member.
The study released this week is the largest yet of public risks from releases at Rocky Flats in the 1950s and the 1960s.
Researchers said people with the highest risk of developing cancer were working outside the plant when smoke spread plutonium during a 1957 fire. The risk was estimated from as high as one case in 10,000 to one in 25 million.
The plant, 25 kilometres northwest of downtown Denver, began producing plutonium [for] bombs and bomb parts in 1952.
State officials in the 1980s raised concerns about potential health hazards and the plant was closed after the FBI raided it in 1989 to investigate allegations of environmental crimes.
Details about the releases remain unknown because of poor oversight by federal regulators and the defence industry's secrecy, investigators said.
The 1957 fire was kept secret until 1969, the same year another fire released plutonium into the environment.
- Nanoose expropriation is unconstitutional, say several groups.
Times Colonist (Victoria)
by Dene Moore
VANCOUVER -- The federal government's plan to expropriate a missile testing range off the coast of British Columbia violates the Constitution, a lawyer for several groups opposed to the move told a federal court Monday.
Rocco Galati appealed to Justice Barbara Reed for an injunction to stop the expropriation of the Nanoose Bay range in the Strait of Georgia until a full court challenge can be heard.
Calling the expropriation attempt "unconstitutional and illegal," Galati said it "goes to the very heart and the underlying principles of our Constitution."
Galati -- who represents the Human Rights Institute of Canada, the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada, Citizens Concerned About Free Trade and the Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee -- called the plan an "act of political aggression." He said the federal government cannot take control of provincial land by an administrative act, as they are attempting.
"They can't simply just take the land and everything on it," he told the court.
If they succeed, it will mean "the federal government can take whatever it wants, whenever it wants," Galati said.
The federal government is attempting to seize 225 square kilometres of the Georgia Strait seabed after the province refused to renew a federal lease.
It is the first time in Canadian history that the federal government has used the Expropriation Act against a province.
The B.C. government wants assurances no nuclear warheads will enter the Nanoose range, effectively excluding the U.S. navy from using the site north of Nanaimo. Public hearings were held in British Columbia on the issue. Hearing commissioner Michael Goldie, a retired B.C. judge, is expected to complete a report by Sept. 3.
The groups want to prevent Goldie from reporting and prevent Ottawa from otherwise proceeding.
Activist Connie Fogal said expropriation would be a dangerous precedent for federal power in Canada.
"This is just bureaucrats deciding they're going to do this on the directions of the prime minister," she said.
"We have to stop that kind of delegation of power to administrators away from our elected leaders."
The federal government could expropriate as soon as Sept. 5 according to the federal expropriation act.
"We're running out of time," Fogal said.
About 50 people watched the proceedings.
Marguerite Ritchie, head of the Human Rights Institute, said the expropriation amounts to the rape of B.C.
Ottawa has no right to take over the seabed, Ritchie said, and other provinces should be involved in the lawsuit to stop it.
Federal lawyer John Hunter told the court the coalition of environmental, citizen and church groups had no standing to ask for an injunction in the case.
"It is clear that the province is the correct party to bring that forward if it is to be brought forward," said Hunter, who represents the attorney general of Canada.
- Expropriation of torpedo testing range challenged in court today.
by Jack Keating
The federal government's decision to expropriate Nanoose Bay torpedo range from B.C. will be challenged in Federal Court in Vancouver this morning.
An alliance of citizens, human rights and church groups will seek a temporary injunction to stop the move, which could begin as early as next month.
It's the first time in Canadian history that Ottawa has used the Expropriation Act against a province. The suit, filed Aug. 16 in Federal Court and B.C. Supreme Court, alleges the expropriation is unconstitutional.
"If the federal government can just come in and expropriate here, they can go to any province and do that," said Connie Fogal of the Vancouver-based Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee.
The federal government is attempting to seize 225 square kilometres of the Strait of Georgia so the U.S. navy can bring nuclear warheads into Nanoose Bay, just north of Nanaimo.
The B.C. government owns the Nanoose Bay seabed and wants assurances from the federal government there will be no nuclear weapons at the base before renewing a lease on the seabed.
- Earthquake spurs call to quash CANDU reactor sale to Turkey.
by Jessica Aldred and Christina Frangou
Edmonton - The devastating earthquake in Turkey last week has led to renewed calls for Canada to withdraw its bid to sell a nuclear reactor to the earthquake-prone country.
Scientists, environmentalists, Greek and Turkish-Canadians and politicians who oppose the bid say the recent disaster shows why Turkey should not have nuclear power.
The quake on August 17 killed more than 13,000 people and injured more than 27,000.
Three international consortiums, including one led by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., want approval from the Turkish government to build a nuclear reactor at Akkuyu Bay on the Mediterranean Sea.
"The eastern Mediterranean is an earthquake-prone region. For God's sake, don't put a nuclear plant there," said Liberal member of Parliament Jim Karygiannis.
"I'm terrified that an earthquake of the magnitude of the one several days ago would happen in Akkuyu."
The proposed site is more than 500 kilometres from the site of the recent quake. But it lies just 25 kilometres north of another major fault line that runs through southern Turkey.
Experts from Germany, Switzerland and Canada have examined the site and -- with approval from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency -- have declared it one of the safest places in Turkey to build the reactor, said AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk.
"We never said Turkey was a quiet area seismically ... but this is probably one of the quietest areas in the country," added Tarek Aziz, AECL civil designer for the project.
"We design for the most extreme circumstances."
The reactor would be built to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale directly or up to 8.0 if a quake were 60 kilometres away, Shewchuk said.
The recent earthquake measured 7.4.
The project's opponents say no major research has been conducted on the fault line in the last 15 years and new technology may reveal it to be less than stable.
"We know that quakes like the one on Aug. 17 occur every few years, therefore it's very irresponsible to build a nuclear reactor in Turkey," said seismologist Karl Buckthought, president of Earthquake Forecasts Inc.
Dave Martin, research director for the environmental information group Nuclear Awareness Project, said he has repeatedly asked Ottawa and the AECL to withdraw the bid or conduct more research on the area.
The reactor would be a boon for Turkish energy production, particularly in light of the country's air pollution problems, Shewchuk said.
Some members of the Turkish-Canadian community have expressed concern about building a nuclear reactor in their homeland.
"I wouldn't build a house right now in Turkey, let alone a nuclear reactor," said Soner Yasa, president of the Turkish Canadian Youth Association in Edmonton.
The Greek-Canadian community began a letter-writing and petition campaign last winter calling on AECL to withdraw its bid.
The letter cites the region's frequent earthquakes as well as concerns about nuclear proliferation.
Turkey was to select a bidder by mid-October. But the announcement will likely be delayed because of the quake.
Canada's most recent sale of nuclear reactors was to China, which bought two [CANDUs] in 1996.
- Protest against use of MOX in Russia results in more than 20 arrests.
The action was organized by an anti-nuclear camp near Novovoronezh NPP to protest the plan to load Novovoronezh unit 5 with plutonium (MOX) fuel.
Protesters were also demanding that the old reactors of Novovoronezh NPP be shut down.
The arrested activists are citizens of Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, Finland and UK. They came from several environmental and political groups such as ECODEFENSE!, Antinuclear campaign of Socio-Ecological Union, and Yabloko political party.
- Russian MOX program ''can't be implemented'' due to ''incompetence''.
"Specialists of the Novovoronezh nuclear plant and Russian nuclear inspectorate (GAN) aren't convinced about the technical competence of the Russian ministry of atomic power, " said Vladimir Slivyak and Alisa Nikoulina of the Antinuclear camp near Novovoronezh NPP today.
They were speaking at a press conference in Voronezh, a city with over one million population, and home of the oldest nuclear plant in Russia.
"The incompetence of our nuclear scientists, which caused the Chernobyl catastrophe some years ago, could precipitate a much greater nuclear disaster today." Antinuclear activists said this conclusion was based on interviews they had had with several local nuclear officials.
In 1996 Russian Minatom and US Department of Energy released a report for the presidents of the two countries, in which both agencies suggested the fabrication of so-called MOX fuel (mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium) incorporating weapon-grade plutonium. The report proposed to load unit 5 of the Novovoronezh NPP (among other reactors) with this MOX fuel.
"You can try to load MOX fuel into Novovoronezh 5, but then I wouldn't suggest that you start this unit up," said Alexander Krutskih, director of the technical department of GAN at the Novovoronezh NPP when he visited the camp to talk with activists on August 19.
"Plutonium (MOX) fuel should not be loaded into unit 5 of my nuclear plant because the reactor was not made for this kind of fuel," said the director of the Novovoronezh NPP in the interview to "Molodoy Kommunar" newspaper in Voronezh on August 17.
The Antinuclear Camp was established on August 17 near the Novoronezh nuclear power plant by more than 50 antinuclear activists from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Finland, Great Britain and other countries. It was sponsored by ECODEFENSE! and the Antinuclear Campaign of the Socio-Ecological Union -- the largest environmental group in Eurasia.
The Camp is pressuring local authorities to declare a ban on the loading of MOX fuel into any of the reactors of Novovoronezh NPP. They are also colling for a moratorium on the construction of new reactors, and that the old reactors be shut down within two years.
"The MOX program of Minatom is extremely dangerous from an economical as well as from an environmental point of view. Even experts of the nuclear industry are rejecting this program," said Vladimir Slivyak, camp coordinator, who is also the director of the Antinuclear campaign of the Socio-Ecological Union.
"It's another example of the incompetence of the nuclear industry and a very strong reason to shut the reactors down -- how can nuclear specialists control the nuclear chain reaction if they cannot even find consensus among themselves?"
Click here for photos of camp
- Green Party renews its drive for a French referendum on nuclear power.
by Christopher Noble
PARIS - France's Green Party has renewed its demand for a national referendum on nuclear power and repeated its threat to quit the government if a new generation of nuclear plants is authorised without debate.
The jab from the often combative Greens comes amid a rising wave of public discontent over environment and trade issues that has sparked protests and handed Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin a new political challenge in managing his sometimes fractious coalition government.
Throughout the summer, farmers outraged at U.S.-imposed tariffs on goods such as foie gras and Roquefort cheese have staged protests, ransacking McDonald's restaurants and persuading local politicians to levy taxes on Coca-Cola .
The U.S. tariffs were imposed punitively after the World Trade Organisation ruled the European Union was illegally restricting the import of beef produced with hormones.
The protests have led to the arrest of several farmers and drawn sympathy from some left-wing politicians.
The protesters say they are fighting to protect France's love of good food and traditional production methods against the encroachment of multinational corporations they say exert more and more control over the food supply.
While the protesters are not necessarily Green party members, their actions lend weight to a central argument of "Les Verts" that they deserve more power in government because their issues are of growing concern to French people.
"Without the Greens, the classic Left may have a majority in the National Assembly, but it does not have a majority in society," Green party leader and Environment Minister Dominique Voynet told a party gathering in Lorient on Tuesday.
"If strategic and irreversible decisions on nuclear power can be taken without debate or at the end of a truncated debate, the first nuclear explosion would be that of the plural majority," she told cheering members at an annual gathering.
While the threat is not new, and Jospin's government would not fall without the Greens, their strong showing in June's European Parliament elections are forcing the Socialists to take note ahead of municipal polls in 2001 and legislative and presidential elections in 2002.
Farm Minister Jean Glavany said on Wednesday the Socialists must listen to what the Greens had to say.
The government has in any case not made any decisions about the next generation of nuclear plants and French newspapers believe Voynet, reluctant to lose the party's first and only cabinet post, is as much playing to her audience as seriously attacking the coalition of Socialists, Greens and Communists.
- Worldwatch Institute says coal's demise as an energy source has begun.
WASHINGTON - Coal usage is in deep decline, according to green group Worldwatch Institute, which issued a report detailing how environmental and health concerns are helping fuel a global coal phaseout.
"Coal's share of world energy, which peaked at 62 percent in 1910, is down to 23 percent, roughly where it was in 1860," said Worldwatch researcher Seth Dunn.
Use in 1998 alone dropped 2.1 percent from the prior year.
The group's report, "King Coal's Weakening Grip on Power," says that despite historically low prices, many nations have recognised the need to curb coal use to prevent polluting the earth's atmosphere.
"Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, releasing 29 percent more carbon per unit of energy than oil and 80 percent more than natural gas," the report said. The group called for an end to government subsidies to aid coal, and a "fair transition" for affected coal miners as jobs are cut.
Worldwatch applauded recent efforts by China to reduce its dependence on coal, which still accounts for 73 percent of that nation's overall energy.
Beijing has introduced a tax on high-sulphur coal to encourage a switch to natural gas and renewable energy sources, the report said.
In the industrialised world, leading coal users are the United States, which depends on coal for 53 percent of the country's electricity needs. Denmark is more coal-reliant, tapping 74 percent of its power demand from coal.
The coal industry replied to Worldwatch by noting the affordability, availability and reliability of the fuel, saying 57 percent of electricity used by Americans comes from coal.
"In the U.S., coal represents over 90 percent of fossil reserves. These abundant reserves mean that we are guaranteed the security of supply at stable prices," according to a statement by Richard Lawson, president and CEO of the National Mining Association.
Lawson said American utilities have made great progress toward reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"SO2 and NOx emissions continue to decline. Emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of electricity are also declining and over time, with the development and use of sequestration, will almost be zero," Lawson said.
Worldwatch said despite huge reserves of coal around the world, the need to protect the environment precluded utilizing the deposits.
"Burning the entire resource (of coal) would release 3 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, five times above the safe limit identified by scientists for averting serious climatic disruptions," the environmental report said.
Lawson said that if coal mining were to cease, many states would be robbed of billions of dollars in economic revenues.
- Radiation treatment makes patients dangerous to be near --New Scientist.
LONDON - Patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer or an overactive thyroid could be irradiating their partners, New Scientist magazine said.
Japanese scientists at Kanazawa University want stricter guidelines for treatment with radioisotope iodine-131 because they believe the patients' glands become radioactive and could endanger anyone living close to them for long periods.
"They argue that the level of radioactivity recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) below which patients can be safely discharged from hospital -- 560 million becquerels -- is five times too high.
"The limit should be reduced to 97 million becquerels, they say," according to the magazine.
Kichiro Koshida and his colleagues at the university called for the new guidelines after measuring the contact times and distances of 14 patients and nearly 40 of their family members over three days. They estimated the dose that would guarantee the relatives are below ICRP safety limits.
Keith Harding, a nuclear medicine consultant at City Hospital in Birmingham in central England, assured New Scientist that current guidelines are adequate.
He said using contact times to estimate radiation doses was inaccurate and tended to exaggerate exposure.
- 28 groups ask US government to allow irradiation of ready-to-eat foods.
by Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON - Food and health groups asked the U.S. government to approve irradiation of ready-to-eat meats, fruits and vegetables, expanding the use of a technology they said could improve food safety by killing dangerous germs.
Twenty-eight groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow irradiation, which has already been approved for raw ground beef, for foods such as hot dogs and luncheon meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and juices.
The Food Irradiation Coalition, which includes the National Food Processors Association and the American Meat Institute, said irradiation would give food processors another important tool to help make foods safer.
"Irradiation is an effective and safe technique," said Rhona Applebaum of the National Food Processors Association. "We support its use in further enhancing the safety of our food supply."
Irradiation exposes foods to tiny amounts of electron beams or gamma rays that kill deadly bugs. Originally developed to protect food for U.S. astronauts, irradiation can kill germs such as E. coli 0157:H7, a bacteria that sickens an estimated 20,000 Americans each year, and listeria monocytogenes, which earlier this year killed 21 people who ate contaminated hot dogs made by Sara Lee Corp.
Health and consumer groups have reluctantly supported irradiation as a way to protect children, the elderly and others with weak immune systems.
Some groups, however, have raised questions about worker safety and said they would prefer if the industry focused on improving processing conditions to further reduce contamination.
Now, processors use a wide variety of procedures such as refrigeration and pasteurization to prevent contamination and keep foods fresh.
The FDA, which has pledged to make food safety a priority, has 180 days to respond to the petition. A spokeswoman said Monday the agency had not yet received the petition and therefore could not comment.
Irradiation is used on a small portion of U.S. foods, mostly spices and some poultry products. The U.S. Agriculture Department has not yet finalised rules that would allow irradiation of raw ground beef even though the FDA has approved it.
As much as 37 percent of a typical American's diet could come from ready-to-eat foods covered by the petition, the groups said. The foods include refrigerated deli meats, frozen fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, sprouts, dried meats such as beef jerky and frozen, pre-cooked beef patties.
Adding the procedure could increase the cost of food by two to five cents a pound, Applebaum said.
- UNEP checks for radioactive fallout from NATO bombs on Yugoslavia.
BELGRADE, YUGOSLAVIA - U.N. environmental experts assessing the impact of NATO bombing on life in Yugoslavia said that detecting possible radioactive fallout was one of its hardest tasks.
The United Nations Environmental Programme team has been in Yugoslavia for several weeks looking at places which could have been polluted by the 11 weeks of air strikes carried out because of Belgrade's policy in Kosovo. On Monday it launched a new mission focusing on the Danube River.
Pekka Haavisto, chairman of UNEP's Balkans Task Force (BTF), said it would be looking for a whole range of chemicals and other toxic waste.
But at a news conference held to outline the mission, local reporters homed in on the issue of depleted uranium, which has continued to worry many people in Yugoslavia since the bombing campaign ended in June.
Local environmental and health experts have warned that the depleted uranium would have unpredictable and immeasurable consequences on the nation's health, citing reports of a range of illnesses in Iraq after the Gulf War.
UNEP and NATO sources have confirmed depleted uranium was used during the Kosovo conflict but said it was only used in shells against tanks, which were mainly based in the province, not in the missiles fired at targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia.
UNEP said earlier this month that the possible consquences of the depleted uranium had yet to be fully established. Haavisto insisted that radioactivity in Yugoslavia was not higher than normal as a result of the uranium.
He said measuring the depleted uranium itself was complicated and that the UNEP had had to take advice from other organisations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organisation and the Swedish Radiation Institute.
"Of course, there are a lot of rumours, a lot of concerns but we'd like them (experts) to go very scientifically on this study," Haavisto said.
Haavisto said experts were having to separate the depleted uranium 238 and compare it to uranium 235.
"We face the question. What then? What is actually the consquence? What kind of results after that? And for that we need scientific advice," he said.
The first results will be completed in early September and then UNEP will decide what to do next, he said.
"Then we can decide whether we actually are capable to go on and have something to really measure," he added.
As far as the Danube goes, the main worries concern possible chemical spills.
Over the next four days, scientists will visit potential "hot-spots" around the Novi Sad oil refinery, Pancevo industrial complex and a tributary near the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac to assess the damage, UNEP said.
Experts from the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Germany, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden will visit the Iron Gates dam on the Yugoslav-Romanian border where the Djerdap reservoir holds extensive layers of sediment that can absorb organic matter and toxic waste possibly carried down in the Danube.
The new mission is organised in cooperation with the Vienna-based International Commission on the Protection of the Danube River.
- Tritium spills in CANDU-type reactors in India are cause for concern.
by M.V. Ramana
The heavy water leak in the second unit of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) on March 26 (Frontline, April 23, 1999) raises disturbing questions. The most important among them are:
There have been at least two similar accidents at MAPS. A heavy water leak forced the reactor to be shut down in September 1988. And on March 5, 1991, 0.847 tonnes [847 kilograms] of heavy water escaped from the moderator system.
Heavy water is used both to slow down neutrons generated by the fission of uranium (that is, as a moderator) and to remove the resultant heat (that is, as a coolant). Over a period of time, the heavy water becomes radioactive because some of the heavy hydrogen absorbs neutrons to become tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons in each atom). Therefore, the process of cleaning up spills and recovering the heavy water or flushing it into the environment almost invariably leads to workers and the general public receiving radiation doses.
During the 1997 strike by workers at MAPS, it was revealed that there were areas within the reactor which had routinely (that is, not related to spills or other accidents) high radiation levels and that employees were forced to work in these areas.
Some details of the 1991 accident were reported by four researchers from the Health Physics Division of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in a paper presented at the National Symposium on Safety of Nuclear Power Plants and Other Facilities (March 11-13, 1992). Of the heavy water that had leaked, only 350 kg (barely 41 per cent) was recovered. Over 53 per cent of the spilled heavy water was released into the atmosphere through the stack and about 3 per cent was released into the sea.
On March 5, 1991, the radioactivity concentration of the heavy water was 10 curies/litre and the radioactivity concentration of the air in the chamber was 3,225 times the DAC (Derived Air Activity). Derived Air Activity is defined as the radioactivity concentration level in the air such that if a worker were to work for a whole year (assumed to be 2,000 hours) in such an atmosphere, he or she would inhale the annual limit for tritiated water vapour set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. In the case of tritiated water vapour, the DAC is 20 microcuries/cubic metre. Clearly, 3,225 times the DAC of tritium air activity is dangerously high. A worker will receive more than the annual limit if he or she were to work in such an atmosphere for even an hour.
Since the volume of the spill was relatively small, the reactor containment is unlikely to have been saturated with heavy water vapour and the air concentrations lower than the theoretical limit. A larger spill would have led to even higher concentrations of tritium in the air.
Compared to the 1991 accident, the recent  spill was much larger in magnitude. There have been different estimates about the amount of heavy water that leaked. According to Dr. K. S. Parthasarathy, Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), it was less than four tonnes, whereas Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman of the AERB, felt that it could have been as high as 14 tonnes. According to a Press Trust of India report, it was about six tonnes. Despite the differences in estimates, it is clear that a large quantity of heavy water leaked. There is, however, no argument over the fact that the heavy water came from the coolant cycle.
If one were to assume that the heavy water from the recent spill was collected with the same efficiency as it was done in 1991, then somewhere between two and seven tonnes would have been released into the atmosphere through the stack. The radioactivity level of the heavy water depends on the area of its origin (whether it was from the coolant or the moderator), and the length of time it has been in the reactor. Typical values for coolant heavy water are in the range of 0.5 to 2 curies per kilogram. Thus, somewhere between 1,000 and 14,000 curies may have been released -- several times the permitted 300 curies per day per reactor, and perhaps even exceeding the discharge limit of 10 times the daily quota. Had the heavy water leaked from the moderator, it would have had 20-30 times more radioactivity, and thus the release of radioactivity into the atmosphere would have been that much greater.
According to the 1991-92 Department of Atomic Energy Annual Report, standards for MAPS are set in such a way that members of the public do not receive more than 1 milliSieverts per year (or 0.1 rem per year) per person as recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). A release that is many times the prescribed limit would presumably lead to a potential dose which is that many times higher.
It is possible to estimate the radiation doses received by the workers involved in cleaning up the recent spill. The dosage depends chiefly on the radiation levels of the heavy water spilt and the length of time the workers are involved in the clean-up, and is independent of the extent of heavy water that is released into the atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, if the heavy water came from the coolant cycle, it would have a radioactivity concentration of about 1 curie per kg. While most of the water would remain in liquid form, part of it would evaporate and workers trying to clean it up would inhale the vapour.
Since tritium emits relatively low-energy electrons [beta radiation], the primary dose received by workers would be internal -- when the tritium enters the body. The amount of water that would evaporate is determined by the temperature. Just as clothes dry faster on a warm day, the level of vapourisation goes up with the temperature. The temperature recorded in Chennai on the morning of March 26 was 36o Celsius; at this temperature, the partial vapour pressure of water is about 40 mm of mercury. This means that the equilibrium fraction of heavy water content would be about 40/760 within the reactor chamber. At this concentration, the heavy water vapour would have a radioactivity of 0.053 curies per cubic metre.
We may assume conservatively that the concentration was only 0.01 curies per cubic metre to allow for lower humidity level, some admixture with ordinary water vapour, and the possibility of lower radioactivity levels in the heavy water. This is much smaller than the measured tritium air activity during the 1991 spill.
Another useful point of comparison is the tritium concentration measured in experiments conducted by the TLD laboratory at MAPS (reported in the Bulletin of Radiation Protection, Vol. 10, 1987). In these experiments, a radioactivity concentration of 0.016 curies per cubic metre was found to result from tritiated heavy water with a radioactivity level of 0.8 curies per litre. Scaling this to the assumed 1 curie per litre in the case of the heavy water spill in MAPS would result in a radioactivity concentration of 0.02 curies per cubic metre, twice the value we have assumed.
Radiation safety standards in India and elsewhere are set by assuming that the average worker engaged in "light activity" breathes in a little over one cubic metre of air each hour and that the average worker weighs 70 kg. If workers weigh less or breathe more air, their dose would increase. Under these assumptions, assuming a concentration of 0.01 Ci/cubic metre and using standard methods of dose calculation, the radioactive dose to a single worker is calculated at about 6-8 mSv for each hour of work. This estimate should be compared with the 1991 recommendation by the ICRP, which set a limit of 20 mSv per year per worker averaged over five years, the effective dose not exceeding 50 mSv in each year.
Thus, even at the lower limit, an employee working for less than four hours would receive a dose in excess of the ICRP recommendation. Additional evidence that the actual dose the workers received is in this range is provided by the fact that representatives of the workers' union have said that seven of the workers who helped plug the leak have been placed in the "removal category" (The Hindu, April 9, 1999). The Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) subsequently confirmed that "some of the persons involved in leakage rectification tasks received tritium uptake in excess of investigation level" and that these employees have been "restricted to work in the reactor as per the station procedures" (The Hindu, April 21, 1999).
If the dose of radiation received by each worker during each hour of work in the chamber where the spill occurred was 6 milliSieverts, the collective exposure to 42 workers could be as high as 0.252 Sieverts [252 milliSieverts] for each hour they worked. Given the magnitude of the spill, it is likely that the "mopping up" operation would have taken several hours, if not days. (The 1991 spill was cleaned up over a period of four days.) Thus, the collective exposure would almost certainly exceed the 0.25 person-Sieverts the AERB Secretary has claimed.
THERE are additional components to radiation exposure. Some of the tritium gets bound to organic molecules and is not eliminated from the body for long periods of time. If workers come in contact with liquid tritiated water during mop-up operations or when the heavy water is upgraded for re-use, a dose from the tritiated water would be absorbed through the skin. Wearing plastic suits can reduce this risk, but it is unlikely to be completely eliminated. While both these paths of radiation doses are well known, standard methods do not incorporate them adequately because they are hard to quantify. In addition, if there are any small holes in the fuel element cladding, there could be tiny amounts of fission products in the heavy water, which would add to the radioactive dose. These additional components would only increase the size of the dose.
Over the last few decades, epidemiological and microbiological research has increasingly revealed that even low levels of radiation are hazardous. There is no scientific evidence about any threshold below which radiation doses may be considered "safe". Broadly speaking, two kinds of effects are predominant: an increase in a variety of cancers and mutations to genes. In addition, exposure of in utero foetuses to radiation could affect their physical and mental development.
Tritium could cause these effects because the body easily absorbs it in the form of tritiated water. Any tritiated water vapour that is inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested will result in complete absorption of all the radioactivity. The absorbed tritiated water is rapidly distributed throughout the body via blood, which in turn equilibriates with extracellular fluid in about 12 minutes. Since tritiated water can pass through the placenta, it could lead to mental retardation and other developmental effects of babies when ingested by pregnant women. Further, some experiments suggest that tritium is more effective in causing many of these effects than, say, high-energy gamma rays resulting from nuclear explosions, because the low-energy electrons that result from the decay of tritium are more efficient in ionising cellular material.
The dose estimates made here are, of course, based on assumptions and are admittedly approximate. But it does provide a genuine basis for concern. For the authorities at MAPS, the AERB and the NPC to say merely that the releases and doses are within limits is insufficient and unsatisfactory. The only way to know for sure is that the authorities release all the relevant raw data so that their claims can be verified independently.
It is important that we know if the radioactivity levels in the ambient air at the point of the spill were measured, what instruments were used to measure them, when and how these instruments were calibrated, and their measurements over a period of time -- both during reactor operation and shutdown. All the workers who were in the plant at the time of the spill or clean-up operation should be monitored for internal exposure by analysing their urine samples. These data should be made public, although the identities of the workers need not necessarily be revealed. More importantly, adequate steps should be undertaken to ensure that such accidents do not occur again.
- Nanoose First Nation asserts historical claim to B.C. torpedo range.
by Ken MacQueen
VANCOUVER - In a replay of The Mouse That Roared, the tiny Nanoose First Nation -- all 230 strong -- is squaring off against the federal government and the United States military.
The band leadership is determined to scuttle the federal government's controversial expropriation of the Nanoose Bay torpedo testing range by asserting its own historical claim to the bay and lands now occupied by National Defence Department facilities.
"We want DND property turned over to the Nanoose First Nation", says Chief Wayne Edwards, 53, who grew up on reserve lands along the southeastern shore of the bay listening to submarine dive horns, jet planes, and gun fire.
The tiny band's objection throws another wrinkle into the acrimonious federal-provincial dust-up over control of the 130 square kilometre Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Range.
The range is leased from the province and is used by Canadian and U.S. naval vessels to test torpedoes. The United States has invested $160 million in the facility.
The federal government announced this month it would expropriate the facility after repeated threats by the province to terminate the lease. Most recently, the province wanted to bar all vessels that may be carrying nuclear weapons.
Edwards says band members are upset because the federal government has not consulted them over the expropriation.
A 30-day period begins next week in which objections to the expropriation can be filed with the federal Department of Public Works. A public hearing will follow, but Chief Edwards calls the process unacceptable.
"What's the public review got to do with me? I'm talking about something totally different. I have a claim that's there and they're aware of it. They know the land they occupy was Indian land and they removed us from there."
The Nanoose claim to the bay area, including much of the test range, is part of a comprehensive treaty now under negotiation with the federal and provincial governments and the Te'mexw Treaty Association, representing bands on southern Vancouver Island.
The Nanoose First Nation is considering several options for contesting the expropriation, says Rory Mrahan, a Victoria lawyer representing the treaty association. These include filing a specific land claim for the base area or seeking a court injunction.
Both Mr. Morahan and Chief Edwards say the band shares the province's concern about the possibility of a nuclear accident, although the site has been used without serious incident for three decades.
Edwards says he and other band members have been alarmed to see military personnel dressed in "Star Wars" decontamination suits sweeping the range with testing equipment.
"They say it's training. Excuse me -- why? Why would they be training in an area to find out if there's any nuclear waste in the air?" he asked.
Morahan says the federal expropriation dispute has given the Nanoose some unaccustomed allies. "This may be one of the rare occasions where you see the provincial government and the treaty association seeing completely eye-to-eye."
- International campaign against Depleted Uranium is launched.
At The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference last week a world-wide campaign against the use of radiological depleted uranium (DU) weapons was formed.
People from around the world attended a workshop and launched the campaign to stop the production, manufacturing, testing and use of deadly depleted uranium weaponry.
Attending the launch were spokeswomen of the Indigenous Peoples from where the uranium is mined in Australia and Canada, as well as representatives from Japan, the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, South Asia, France, Germany and the Balkans.
Now being used by NATO forces in the Balkans, first used in the Gulf War, DU munitions release deadly radioactive particles upon impact. Depleted Uranium is radioactive and toxic and will remain in the environment for 4.5 billion years. These particles can be inhaled or ingested causing cancers, birth defects and other health problems to soldiers and civilians alike.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, the renowned radiation and health scientist says, "These weapons should not be used; they will contaminate the land and the water, and affect the life and health of our children for untold generations."
The international campaign to ban depleted uranium weapons will be working with international organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to implement and enforce international laws with regards to the use of radioactive weaponry. The UN Human Rights Subcommission on the Prevention and the Protection of Minorities passed a resolution listing depleted uranium weaponry as a "weapon of mass destruction and with indiscriminate effect". Ray Bristow, the first British Gulf War Veteran to test positive to DU poisoning, says, "I welcome the news that there is now an international demand to ban this hideous and grotesque weapon.
"I find this united voice of common sense and decency a fitting tribute to my Canadian friend,
Terry Riordon, the first Canadian to be tested for DU:
Result: POSITIVE, 27th April 99.
DIED 29 April 99, aged 45.
Death Certificate -- Cause of Death: Gulf War Syndrome."