by Pavel Polityuk
KIEV, UKRAINE - Several European firms will build a plant in Ukraine to process and store radioactive waste from the Chernobyl nuclear power station, site of the world's worst nuclear accident, officials said yesterday.
The head of Ukraine's state-run company Energoatom Myrkol Dudchenko said the 17.4 million euro ($18 million) contract signed in Kiev on Thursday, would help the country to carry out its promise and shut the Chernobyl station.
Under the contract a consortium formed by Belgium's Belgatom, a unit of Tractebel , Italy's Ansaldo Nucleare and France's SGN undertook to build facilities for around 23,000 cubic metres of Chernobyl's liquid radioactive waste by 2001.
"The start of construction works is a step towards a timely closure of the Chernobyl station," Dudchenko told a news conference. "It shows that the West fulfils its promise to help close the station," he said.
The construction is financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development under an international assistance programme designed to boost safety of nuclear power sites in eastern Europe.
"This contract is a real challenge for us and we can assure you that we will do our best for your satisfaction," said Marcel Gaube of Belgatom, adding that the three companies had been involved in similar programmes in Central and Eastern Europe.
Chernobyl's reactor number four exploded in April 1986, spewing a poisonous cloud of radioactive dust over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Western European countries in the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.
The disaster-prone station is now run on one reactor after one reactor was switched off after a fire in 1991 and another one closed down in 1997 after exhausting its safe lifespan.
Ukraine had initially promised to close down Chernobyl in 2000 in exchange for foreign aid to complete two replacement reactors. But it has dragged its feet on closing the station, blaming the West for failing to provide the promised funds.
It is not clear when Chernobyl could be finally shut.
Earlier this year, three French companies signed a contract with Energoatom to construct an interim storage for nuclear waste at Chernobyl, worth 69 million euro ($72 million). The storage should be completed by 2003.
WASHINGTON - A Senate vote on a nuclear waste disposal bill is expected to take place in early October, after being bumped off next week's calendar, a legislative source said.
A spokesman for Sen. Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said it appeared that action on the Alaska Republican's bill would "be in early October."
The legislation is aimed at ending years of debate and legal wrangling over what to do with thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, currently stored at more than 100 commercial nuclear power plants across the country.
Murkowski's committee has approved the bill, which calls for the construction later next decade of a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., around 90 miles from Las Vegas.
The Clinton administration opposes the plan, since Murkowski's bill authorises the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and not the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to set a radiation exposure standard for the proposed repository.
The White House has promised a veto if the final version of the waste bill, which eventually must be reconciled with a pending House bill, blocks the EPA from setting the limits.
Murkowski has said repeatedly that the EPA could set exposure limits that could prohibit storing the spent fuel in the Nevada desert. EPA insists that it has the expertise and the traditional role for setting the standard.
A spokesman for the nuclear industry said even with the debate over the NRC-EPA, the Murkowski bill represents a compromise with the Clinton administration.
"In general, it is a significant compromise on what the administration has said that it wanted to see," said Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Nuclear utilities want nuclear waste moved, as the law states, from their reactor sites to a permanent storage facility. The Murkowski legislation would have the Department of Energy (DOE) take control of the waste at reactors until the Yucca Mountain site is ready.
Previously, nuclear utilities and many lawmakers pushed for a temporary storage site until a permanent one could be constructed. Murkowski dropped such language from his bill, but the pending House legislation still calls for an interim site by 2003, a point that is deeply opposed by the White House.
DOE is exploring whether to confirm Yucca Mountain as the permanent repository and a final recommendation is due in 2001.
Toronto - Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton today asked Premier Mike Harris to speak out against the Federal government's plan to ship weapon-grade nuclear fuel through Sault Ste. Marie en route to Chalk River. Hampton sent a letter against the nuclear fuel transport project to Prime Minister Chrétien today and asked Premier Harris to do the same. "People living on the route, including the entry points of Sault Ste. Marie and Cornwall will be understandably worried that they are being exposed to unnecessary risk," said Hampton. "The question that needs to be asked in a full environmental assessment with full public hearings is whether it is appropriate to import weapons grade plutonium at all." While the Federal Government promises that any "large scale burning of MOX fuel" will be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, anything short of that is being given the green light with a perfunctory 28 days public comment period. Mixed oxide fuel (MOX) is made from plutonium and uranium oxide from dismantled American and Russian nuclear weapons. The Federal Government announced today that it will receive comments on the proposal of shipping small quantities of MOX to the Atomic Energy of Canada laboratories in Chalk River, through Cornwall and Sault Ste. Marie. Hampton noted that "the reason for choosing the rather circuitous route through Sault Ste. Marie appears to be the opposition of US politicians to having the fuel transported through the more populated parts of Michigan and New York State." Last month, the Federal Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, dominated by Liberal MP's, unanimously "rejected the idea of burning MOX fuel in Canada, because it is totally unfeasible." "For the people of Northern Ontario, the likely site of permanent nuclear fuel disposal facilities, the prospect of receiving additional nuclear fuel from the burning of MOX fuel which federal documents say would stay in Canada rather than being sent back to their sources, is unacceptable," said Hampton. "Our party will continue to speak out on this issue and demand a fair process. We hope Premier Harris will join us in speaking out."
For more information:
Robin Cantin (416) 325-7324
VANCOUVER (CP) - The British Columbia government today made a last-ditch court bid to block the federal expropriation of the Nanoose Bay torpedo testing range.
"The B.C. government is filing a court action challenging the constitutional validity of federal expropriation of provincial land," lawyer Greg McDade said.
"Today is the last day that B.C.'s lease is proceeding, so we've waited this long in the hopes that there would be some resolution of the matter."
But the province has run out of options, he said.
The province, however, will not seek an injunction to block the expropriation pending the court action.
But McDade expressed hope the federal minister will consider the province's arguments and abandon the expropriation plans.
McDade said the B.C. argument is that the Constitution "gives the land to provincial governments and it gives only an extremely limited right of expropriation to the federal government."
"We allege this is well outside of that."
The action was to be filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Earlier this week, a lawyer for several groups opposed to the expropriation was in Federal Court, also arguing that the expropriation violated the Constitution.
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.
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."
The federal government is attempting to seize 225 square kilometres of the Georgia Strait seabed on the east coast of Vancouver Island 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, was expected to release the report soon.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GRAND COUNCIL CHIEF VERNON ROOTE
CRITICIZES DECISION BY CANADA
TO TAKE U.S. AND RUSSIAN MOX FUEL
Nipissing First Nation, North Bay - The Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation, reacted with disgust and anger at the announcement made by the federal government that Canada would be accepting U.S. and Russian samples of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for disposal.
"Now Canada prepares itself to become the dumping ground for the world's most dangerous garbage", stated Vernon Roote. The transportation of the MOX fuel through Sault Ste. Marie to Chalk River prompted grave concerns from the Grand Council Chief.
"The proposed route for transportation to the Chalk River facility cuts through the heart of the Robinson-Huron Treaty area and we have not been asked or consulted on the transportation process. We have to be consulted on this", stated Mr. Roote.
There are no less than 8 First Nations that this material will either pass directly through or through areas immediately adjacent to the reserves.
"This is the traditional territory of our people. Once again, the north is being affected by circumstances we had no control over, with no benefits accruing to our people, only risk", added Mr. Roote.
Statements by the federal government that the MOX fuel is safe for transportation did not reassure Grand Council Chief Roote. "If this material is so safe, why don't the governments of Michigan or New York want it transported through their states? Why isn't it brought through southern Ontario?"
The Grand Council Chief finished his statements by calling on the producers of this material to keep it within their borders. "Surely the United States of America has the technology and resources to properly dispose of this material. Maybe they should assist their old enemies in the Russia to do the same."
Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote
Anishinabek Nation Nipissing First Nation
Deputy Grand Chief Eugene Manitowabi
Anishinabek Nation Nipissing First Nation
Dwayne Nashkawa Executive Policy Analyst
Anishinabek Nation Nipissing First Nation
Toll Free: 1-877-702-5200
Detroit Free Press
by Emilia Askari
Although federal officials insist it's safe, some Michiganders are upset about plans to ship a small amount of radioactive plutonium through the state into Canada.
Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Verna Lawrence, whose city lies at the end of the Michigan route is vowing to prevent the material from passing through.
"We don't have 'stupid' written on our foreheads", she said. "We'll figure out a way to stop it. We're very resourceful in the UP [upper peninsula], and they better not underestimate us. They can go put it under the White House. They can take it wherever they want, but keep it away from our Great Lakes."
The shipment is planned for this fall. The date will not be released for security reasons, but local officials will be notified.
The cargo will consist of nine fuel rods that contain a total of about four ounces of plutonium from disassembled nuclear weapons. The material will be shipped in a special truck from Los Alamos, New Mexico, to an experimental reactor in Chalk River, Ontario.
The shipment is part of a long-term project to turn old nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear power plants.
The plutonium will be encased in ceramic and transported in a container that has been tested to withstand severe impact, punctures, fire and water, the Energy Department says.
The route calls for the shipment to enter western Michigan on I-94, connect with I-69 north and pass through Lansing before moving onto I-75 at Flint. It will cross the Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula, then enter Canada at the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie.
John Truscott, a spokesman for Governor John Engler, said the governor is not happy about the plan but is powerless to block it.
Earlier this year, Port Huron convinced the Energy Department to scrap plans to ship the plutonium through there.
A department spokesman said last week that the agency backed away from that option because the Blue Water Bridge is under renovation.
The spokesman, who would not give his name because he said agency rules allow only top officials to be quoted by name, said the shipment on the new route would be safe, even if a crash happened.
Nonetheless, concern remains.
"My gut reaction is: It would be better not to do it," said Lawrence Rubin, who oversaw Mackinac Bridge operations for 33 years before retiring in 1984. "I don't want anything dangerous on my bridge."
But Neal Godby, secretary-treasurer of the International Bridge Authority in Sault Ste. Marie, said he was not opposed to the shipment, given what he knows.
"We're in an information-gathering mode," he said. "Based on what I know now, if the people who should know deem it can be safely transported, I'm not going to recommend otherwise. We presently allow explosive trucks and gasoline tankers, but we also demand extreme attention to safety that includes escorts."
by Connie Fogal
The Human Rights Institute of Canada, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Ukrainian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada, Citizens Concerned About Free Trade, Rose-Marie Larsson, Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee, and Constance Fogal were in B.C. Supreme Court September 17, 1999 to ask for an order setting aside the transfer of the Nanoose Bay lands from the province of British Columbia to the federal government for the use by the United States of America for torpedo testing and other weapons testing including nuclear.
The B. C. Supreme Court hands down its decision Tuesday Sept 21,1999 whether it will overturn the Nanoose Bay land transfer from B.C. to the Federal government pending a full hearing on the legality of the expropriation.
The federal government formally took possession of the land today, Friday September 17, 1999. It did so by order in council made September 14, 1999 by which the government reduced the number of days the federal crown is supposed to wait before taking possession of the base from 90 days to 1 day.
So what is the big hurry? What great defence need exists that propels our federal government ahead so fast? Is there a promised deal already made between our executive branch of government and the United States that overrides the duty our government has to us, its citizens?
Once again it is not our elected representatives making these decisions that run roughshod over us. Our Parliament is not even sitting. It is only the Prime Minister, his cabinet and a small number of bureaucrats directing the lawyers acting for them using the taxpayers' money to oppose the Citizens.
The main argument of the federal government lawyers on behalf of the government is that we, the citizens, have no right to ask the court for protection (the Standing issue). But, they say, even if we do, it is too late because the feds have already done the deed by chopping their required waiting time from 90 days to 1 day (the Mootness issue). You see, the Rule of Law does not apply, apparently, to the feds.
Tune in sometime after September 21 to find out whether the BCSC has the will to find in the interest of the citizens.
If you can get there , it is important that you be there.
2:00 p.m Tuesday September 21,1999
800 Smythe St Vancouver BC.
Courtroom to be assigned on September 21.
(We were moved five times today before they finally found a courtroom big enough to accommodate us for the hearing of our application.)
Remember, the struggle continues past September 21, 1999. Our show of growing strength is very important for all of us. It makes a difference. These bureaucrats in the executive arm of government who advise and direct government make their living by virtue of paycheques from our tax dollars. Similarly, the few decision makers who are elected receive their paycheques from our tax dollars. It does not hurt for us to remind them of that. Canada has not become East Timor, yet.
Quiz of the day:
What issue did the press give most coverage to :
by the Federation
of Canadian Municipalities
PLUTONIUM SHIPMENTS AND BURNING
IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
L'EXPÉDITION ET LA COMBUSTION DE PLUTONIUM
DANS LA RÉGION DES GRANDS LACS
BE IT RESOLVED
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED
KIEV, UKRAINE - Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power station, site of the world's worst civil nuclear accident, will host an international training exercise for measuring radiation during nuclear accidents, officials said yesterday.
The exercises will take place on September 15 and 16, ministry spokesman Oleh Bykov told Reuters, adding that 27 mobile laboratories had arrived from several countries including Germany, Austria, France and Hungary.
Bykov said experts participating in the event, organised by the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry and the International Atomic Energy Agency, would focus on working jointly during a nuclear accident to measure radiation levels and prevent public panic.
Chernobyl's Number Four reactor exploded in April, 1986, sending radioactive fallout across much of Europe and affecting the health of thousands.
Some specialists have expressed concern over whether Ukraine has prepared adequately for possible computer problems associated with the turn of the millennium and the potential impact on its five nuclear power stations.
But Bykov said the exercises were unrelated to those fears.
Officials say the country's nuclear stations are impervious to the computer problems, dubbed the "millennium bug", and are in any case prepared for any unforeseen glitches.
Chernobyl's last remaining reactor, shut for regular repairs until November 9, is expected to continue to function into 2000. One reactor was stopped in 1997 after it exhausted its safe lifespan, and another was disabled in a fire in 1991.
Story by Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON - Russia and other former Soviet states could face dark, cold homes, dead phones and the failure of other essential services if the Y2K computer bug hits, the U.S. State Department said in a report.
The report on 196 countries and territories, meant to help Americans abroad at the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000, found Russia "somewhat prepared" for Y2K, Ukraine unprepared, Belarus not prepared, and Latvia working hard but needing improvement.
Even though none of the former Soviet states relies heavily on computerized systems, they depend on them enough to make the Y2K glitch a potential problem, the report found.
"Although Russia continues remediation efforts and contingency planning, at the present time, Y2K disruptions are likely to occur in the key sectors of electrical power, heat, telecommunications, transportation and financial and emergency services," the report from the State Department's bureau of consular affairs said.
In Ukraine, a former home to Soviet nuclear missiles, "there may be a risk of potential disruption in all key sectors, especially the energy and electric services," the report said.
Belarus could face disruptions in electricity and medical services because it relies on imported energy, and Y2K-related problems could hit the countries that supply power to Belarus, the report found.
"Americans who are planning to remain in Belarus should be prepared to withstand power, water and heat outages during cold winter weather that can last several days or more," the report said.
CHERNOBYL-TYPE NUCLEAR PLANTS
Other former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, carried only a generic warning about the possible consequences of Y2K.
The so-called Y2K bug could prevent some computers from distinguishing 2000 from 1900 because of old programming shortcuts that recorded the year with the last two digits only. Unless fixed, this could disrupt everything from airlines to health care to telephones.
Russia and former members of the Soviet Union raise special concerns regarding computers because of the 16 Chernobyl-type nuclear power plants located there. The Chernobyl plant in Ukraine was the site of the world's worst nuclear reactor accident in 1986.
While no nuclear power plant catastrophes are expected, a Senate panel dealing with the Y2K problem suggested last week that the computers controlling daily operations could experience problems that could affect safety operations.
On another front, some 2,500 nuclear-tipped missiles remain on hair-trigger alert in Russia. U.S. and Russian officials have agreed to jointly staff a missile command centre in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to protect against false warnings of missile attacks as the new year dawns, leaders of the Senate Y2K panel said in a statement.
"The greatest Y2K danger comes not from the threat of an accidental launch, but from the threat of Y2K glitches being misinterpreted by personnel on either side of the Atlantic," said Sen. Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, in announcing Russia's commitment to the project.
by Connie Fogal
The Canadian Federal government is proceeding to expropriate Nanoose Bay, in British Columbia, Canada for the use of the US Navy as a testing range for US weapons including nuclear. The paper work to effect the takeover will be completed on Friday, September 17,1999. Part of the process is the registration of the ownership papers in the Land Title Office of British Columbia.
The citizens go to the Supreme Court of BC tomorrow, Friday 17,1999 to ask for an order that the Land Title Office be prohibited from registering the transfer of the property.
If you can, please come! It makes a difference.
Courtroom number to be assigned.
|The Human Rights Institute of Canada, |
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Ukrainian
Citizens Concerned About Free Trade,
Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee, and
Remember that the whole issue remains alive even though the feds are expropriating. It is not over just because they have expropriated. If they are subsequently found to have acted illegally, the expropriation will be a nullity.
The concern is what deals the feds will have made by that time with the US government.
This is the first time in Canadian history the federal government has violated history, tradition, and provincial and citizens' rights to this extent. In effect they are spitting in our face. This is a blatant, concrete example of the New World Order in action -- citizens do not count!
CANADA IS BECOMING UNDONE.
La lutte continue. The struggle continues.
SHEFFIELD - A British geologist has proposed a novel way of disposing of high-level radioactive waste which he says is safer and cheaper than standard methods.
Dr Fergus Gibb, of the University of Sheffield in northern England, told Britain's annual science festival that he has a solution to the problem about what to do with spent nuclear fuel and old weapons - bury them four or five kilometres beneath the Earth's surface in granite.
"It's quite a simple concept. It just puts the high level waste into containers, puts them down these deep bore holes and the concentrations of the waste are sufficient to generate enough heat to melt the rock," he said.
"The rock cools with the natural decay of the waste and the whole thing recrystalises to a solid sarcophagus of granite, so the waste creates its own funeral. It buries itself in the granite."
Gibb believes it is a potentially safer and more robust solution to the problem of disposing high level waste than simply burying it several hundred metres (yards) below the surface.
"From an environmental angle, putting it back into the Earth's crust deeper than it came from in the first place is probably the next best thing to never having dug it up."
The system is safer than the more shallow burial method, Gibb says, because the surface ground water system in the rocks rarely extends below 600-800 metres (yards).
"This is a depth which is pertinent to the shallow repositories. That's why there is so much concern about ground water flow through them," he said.
Once the container is lowered into the bore hole, which can be half a metre wide in diameter, it is back-filled with crushed rock and sealed up to prevent anything pushing back to the surface.
"This scheme is very controlled. The waste doesn't go anywhere. It stays at the bottom of the hole where you put it," Gibb added. "You put it away so far it can't come back. It's gone forever."
A bore hole could take upwards of 50 cubic metres of waste and there are ample areas of granite far beneath the surface to bore into. Gibb estimates his system would cost much less than shallow repositories.
He has consulted the British government about his scheme as well as British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which is also responsible for disposing of high level waste.
BNFL has funded some of the research which the Journal of the Geological Society is publishing.
by Dominic Evans
LONDON - Don't travel to Ukraine at the dawn of the new millennium. Avoid Russian airports, take extra cash to Egypt, and don't get sick in the Philippines.
Be wary of air traffic control at some Indonesian airports and don't even try to fly Air Seychelles -- all flights are cancelled over the New Year, just in case.
Britain unveiled the first instalment of its global guide to the millennium on Tuesday, setting out how far 50 countries have gone towards overcoming the Year 2000 problem and warning travellers and businesses about potential blackspots.
The report released on a Foreign Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) outlines preparations for millennium compliance in key areas including transport, the economy, health, water, energy and communications.
The Year 2000 problem, or Y2K glitch, occurs because many older computers - which allocated only two digits for the year in a date - may read the year 2000 as 1900, causing computer systems to make mistakes or shut down.
Foreign Office Minister John Battle said the report was impartial, not judgmental, and aimed to give "the most reliable and impartial information about Y2K preparedness worldwide".
"We want to ease the impact of the millennium date change," he said. "It should be an occasion for celebration, not a time for unnecessary fear and worry."
Not, that is, unless you are planning to travel to Ukraine in late December.
"We advise against all holiday and other non-essential travel to the Ukraine over the New Year period and early January 2000 until the situation becomes clearer," the Foreign Office says in a travel advisory released with the report.
It said Ukraine's cabinet was warned in March that a quarter of government computer systems could be non-Y2K compliant. "Finance, banking, transport, power, defence and social sectors could all be vulnerable," the Foreign Office said.
And 13 years after the explosion at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant, loss of power output from nuclear plants was possible, it said.
Few countries escaped without the caveat that "some disruption" was possible over the New Year.
The report named three Indonesian airports where air traffic control was not yet compliant and said there were worries about other smaller airports. On the economy, interbank transactions were a concern, it said, though most were still done on paper.
Russia faces the "high likelihood" of widespread failures in communications and 400 of its 600 airports are "sure to have some Y2K difficulties".
In Egypt, travellers are advised be prepared for temporary disruption. Precautions should include "checking insurance cover and having enough cash to cover contingencies".
In Uganda, where many people live in rural societies largely untouched by the blessings and curses of technology, the Foreign Office said the main impact would be in the capital Kampala.
"Recent non-Y2K related bank failures and closures have damaged confidence in the banking sector and hoarding of bank notes is already beginning," it said.
In the Philippines, the diagnostic systems of government hospitals contain "embedded systems", which often have computer chips which are date-sensitive and could go haywire at the start of the new year.
Big industrial states don't escape without words of caution.
Spain could face problems in water distribution, while a lack of awareness of millennium problems among small and medium sized enterprises is a major concern for the French government,
Paris at least doesn't have to worry about catastrophe in the Channel Tunnel, which closes for the night of December 31.
TOKYO - Officials at a Japanese electric power plant due to receive a shipment of nuclear fuel from Britain have said they will recheck data on the fuel following admissions of slack safety inspections from the plant.
Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO) spokesman Katsuhiko Takahashi said the company was told by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) that the quantity and quality of MOX fuel intended for use in one of its electric power plants had not been sufficiently checked following production.
The poorly checked product was discovered prior to loading a shipment destined to be used by KEPCO at one of its plants in Fukui, in north-central Japan.
"We have sent employees to Britain to re-check the safety of the shipment," Takahashi said.
A shipment of MOX fuel -- a mix of uranium and plutonium made recycled from spent nuclear fuel -- for another KEPCO reactor in Fukui is scheduled to reach Japan on September 22 aboard the British cargo ship Pacific Pintail.
Takahashi said KEPCO was told by BNFL officials that this fuel had been properly inspected, but added they will thoroughly re-check data on this shipment as well.
He denied reports by Kyodo news agency that this re-inspection could delay the November start of a project involving the MOX fuel at one of the company's Fukui reactors.
"At this point we aren't really thinking of delaying this," he said.
Britain's Nuclear Installation Inspectorate said it was sending an inspector to the Sellafield plant after owner British Nuclear Fuels said some safety checks of fuel pellets for export were falsified.
But BNFL denied a report in Tuesday's Independent newspaper that the falsifications created serious safety concerns.
The NII said it had been told about the irregularities by BNFL last Friday and was sending an inspector to the northern England plant.
"We do have an interest in the fact that the procedures were abused and we want to investigate to see whether there are any implications for procedures in general," Peter Morgan of the NII told Reuters on Tuesday.
by Jeff Coelho
TALLINN, ESTONIA - Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are talking up ambitious energy restructuring plans to dim their Soviet past and win friends in Brussels.
Lithuania aims to close its Chernobyl-style nuclear plant and the three states are pushing for a united Baltic energy system with physical links to central and northern Europe as part of a drive to cut dependence on Moscow.
Energy industry experts said that despite huge costs the Baltics would not be able to face alone, conveying the correct politics of electrical power could help sweeten talks about issues such as membership to the European Union, or even NATO.
"That is the main reason why they are talking like this at the moment -- just to get Brussels to listen to them," Bo Kragelund, head of division at the Danish Competition Authority told Reuters after an electricity industry conference in Tallinn.
"Their main issue now is to get friends in Brussels, to get the possibility of going into the EU and working on it from there, because they can see it as an advantage," he said.
The 15-nation bloc opened EU membership talks with Estonia in March 1998, while Latvia and Lithuania are among the next wave of applicants to begin accession negotiations in December.
BALTIC INDEPENDENCE FROM RUSSIAN ENERGY
The Baltic states, largely dependent on energy exchange with Russia, want to expand their options away from Moscow which ruled the Baltic republics for five decades until independence in 1991.
"We need to find a way to develop ties to the west, as well as keep the possibilities open to trade in the east," said Janis Ositis, technical director at DC Baltija, a joint venture of state power companies in the three Baltic states.
He said political and economic support from Brussels would help make the physical transition for a unified Baltic energy system possible.
"The result of these political activities could be a distinct physical development, because physically it is clear how to do it," he said, referring to much talked about plans to build power cables and natural gas lines connecting to Europe.
The first phase of an underwater power cable from Estonia to Finland is slated for operation in 2002. The Estlink cable is part of a wider plan to integrate the Baltics with Nordic power pool members Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Lithuania, meanwhile, hopes to boost electricity exports to Europe via a power line connecting it to Poland.
"Estonians and Lithuanians are looking for a possible market in the west...but there is no great need for additional electricity in Finland and Poland," said Jurgis Vilemas, director of the Lithuanian Energy Institute.
"From that point of view the interconnections between Finland and Poland are at least in this short-term period more political than economical," he said.
SCRAPPING REACTORS EARNS PRAISE
Lithuania won kudos from Brussels earlier in the month by setting 2005 as the deadline for decommissioning the first of its two reactors at the Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear power plant.
Even though some nuclear experts say the plant is safe, its two RBMK reactors are similar to the one that caused the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine when a reactor exploded, sending radioactive dust over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and parts of western Europe.
The cost of closing the first reactor was estimated at around $2.5 billion while projections for a full decommissioning of the plant ranged as high as $4 billion, for which Lithuania says it wants financial support.
Lithuania gets 80 percent of its electrical energy needs from Ignalina, making it the most nuclear-dependent nation in the world.
Setting a deadline date for even a partial decommissioning underscores Lithuania's desire to please the west, particularly when it had spoken of building a new Ignalina plant with Soviet technology shortly after independence.
Vilemas said the government had to give up something in order to open the door for possible fast track EU entry talks.
"To promise one unit is some kind of compromise," he said, noting that Lithuania wanted to avoid a political confrontation with Brussels, which wants to shut down all the power plants.
"It was some comfort to announce to Brussels when we are going to shut down those reactors," he said.
BALTIC REGULATORS NEED "GUTS"
The first steps toward an integrated Baltic energy system could be seen during the first five years of the new millennium, said Kragelund.
But, he said, regulators with "guts" were needed to form an independent system which would open up the monopolistic Baltic electricity market for competition.
"The problem is not that the regulators don't want to do it. The problem is the politicians who don't allow the regulators any freedom," he said.
Kragelund said the easiest way to construct an integrated and open Baltic energy market would be to establish closer links to the EU system.
"The pressure will not come from regulators in these states. It will come from Brussels or the politicians, because I don't think the regulators these days have the guts," he said.
KIEV, UKRAINE - Fears of a second Chernobyl may spur foreign residents in Ukraine to find alternative venues to greet the new millennium, but officials said on Wednesday potential Y2K problems were no worse than elsewhere.
Concerns about the possible effect of millennium bugs in Ukraine have focused on the safety of its five nuclear stations, including Chernobyl, where a reactor exploded in 1986 in the world's worst civil nuclear disaster.
But officials say the millennium bug could threaten only secondary computer programmes at Chernobyl and that all five stations are undergoing a safety audit by foreign experts.
At a news briefing, presidential spokesman Olexander Martynenko did not address the nuclear problem specifically but said the situation overall was under control.
"The problem is under the control of the president and government...Computer experts say in countries where there is not yet full computerisation such as Ukraine that this problem is not as critical as in more developed countries.
"In the near future the Security and Defence Council will hold a press briefing at which they will calm foreign tourists so that they do not think it will be the end of the world here on January 1, 2000."
Millennium-time blackouts and chilly apartments might dampen holiday spirits, as two reports published separately by the United States and Britain warned on Tuesday.
But Ukraine is not the worst culprit in the lineup of millennium bug rogues, Martynenko said. "The list of New Year consequences in Russia is twice as long," he said.
"So against that background, which is indeed quite dangerous in the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Ukraine looks no worse but also no better than other countries."
The U.S. and British reports said most key sectors in Ukraine could be vulnerable to Y2K problems, which experts believe will be triggered if older computers read 2000 as 1900 and malfunction or shut down.
by Dan Bellerose
There is no shortage of questions when the federal government gives preliminary approval to truck weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled U.S. atomic warheads through your community. Steve Butland, mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, forwarded 13 preliminary questions Wednesday to Ralph Goodale, Minister of Natural Resources.
That follows Butland's request Tuesday for an immediate public forum involving representatives from Transport Canada, Natural Resources and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
Butland, who had yet to receive an official response to his forum request as of late Wednesday afternoon, wants answers about the city being used as an access point into Canada for mixed oxide fuel being trucked from Los Alamos, N.M.
One week ago, in an announcement from Ottawa, Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that a MOX fuel shipment, containing 120 grams (4.2 ounces) of weapons-grade plutonium, would pass through the Sault en route to AECL facilities in Chalk River, in the Ottawa Valley.
The fuel, a blend of 97 per cent uranium oxide and three per cent plutonium oxide, will be tested over the next two years to assess the suitability of CANDU reactor technology to dispose of surplus plutonium.
A similar-sized shipment of fuel will arrive in the port of Cornwall by ship from Russia and be trucked to Chalk River.
The test burn is one way for the U.S. and Russia to convert the plutonium from their nuclear weapons programs into MOX fuel to use in generating electricity in reactors. Once the fuel is used in a reactor, it cannot readily be used for nuclear weapons..
The government describes the shipment as posing minimal risk to public health and safety and the environment.
Transport Canada, which selected the Sault over seven possible access points into the country, has given the public 28 days to respond to the proposed route -- which would follow Highway 17 East to Chalk River.
- North Bay Council wants more information on plutonium fuel shipment.
North Bay Nugget
pages 1 & 3
The city doesn't have enough information to decide whether to join other Northern Ontario communities opposting a federal plan to track nuclear fuel along the Highway 17, Mayor Jack Burrows says.
"I think council has yet to reach that point yet," said Burrows, "and know whether they really want to object or whether, in their own minds, after hearing the evidence, that it's being well done."
"All I'm saying is that we wnat to know more, and we just don't have that information yet."
Burrows said he and councillors intend to "ask a lot of questions" in a closed door session with officials from the four federal departments involved on September 21. Civic leaders from neighboring communities, including Mattawa and Sturgeon Falls, will also attend.
Natural Resources Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Foreign Affairs and Transport Canada confirmed the meeting date Monday, said Jeff Celentano, manager of organizational development and policy.
The departments are also willing to hold an open house information session for the public later that day.
But that format doesn't sit well with Burrows, who thinks residents should have an opportunity to ask questions about the plan.
Earlier this month, Ottawa announced about 120 grams of mixed oxide -- or MOX -- fuel pellets will be test-burned at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited's Chalk River facility.
The fuel is from dismantled U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and contains about three per cent plutonium and 97 per cent uranium oxide, which can be used in reactors to generate electricity.
Towns and cities along the expected route, incljding North Bay, Mattawa, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie won't be told when the shipments pass through.
In presentations Monday, representatives of environmental coalition Northwatch and the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) urged city council to join the growing ranks of communities and groups that have adopted resolutions against the plan.
Dwayne Nashkawa of th UOI, which represents 43 First Nations stretching from Thunder Bay to Sarnia, said the 10 aboriginal communities along the route have expressed their disgust.
The chiefs have unanimously agreed that the trucking radioactive material through their traditional territories is "offensive," Nashkawa said, urging the city to join the UOI in passing its own resolution.
Northwatch spokeswoman Brennain Lloyd took her plea another step, presenting a top 10 list of reasons to "just say no to weapons plutonium fuel" and a two-page draft resolution.
Lloyd says she has three key concerns:
Lloyd said she combined key points from resolutions from Sudbury and the mayors of Great Lakes communities.
Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Steve Butland has refused to meet privately with the delegation [of federal representatives], demanding a public meeting be held in the border city, she pointed out.
Later, Burrows said he supports the idea of an open forum.
"We want an open forum. There's no doubt that the people should have the opportunity to question these people from the different branches of the federal government," he said.
"I think it's an important enough issue ... and unless you have an opportunity to talk to these people, how are you really going to know."
But council is not yet willing to take an official stand.
"I think it's just a matter of trying to find out what it's all about," said Burrows. "I don't think you can make an intelligent decision without knowing all the facts."
The Northwatch and UOI presentations and documents were referred to the engineering and works committee, which will discuss the issue later this week.
The city also hasn't heard enough about some crucial details, including the benefits of using weapons-grade fuel in nuclear reactors, what safeguards are in place for shipping the material and protocols for informing police and fire chiefs, Burrows said.
Lloyd said she wants councillors to take the same tough stance as the Soo and eschew the private meeting.
- Nanoose expropriation is an act of reckless aggression, say federal Tories.
by Gilles Bernier, M.P.,
Tobique-Mactaquac (New Brunswick)
Calgary -- PC Public Works and Government Services Critic, Gilles Bernier, called the Liberal government's decision yesterday to expropriate the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges at Nanoose Bay a reckless act of political aggression against the citizens of British Columbia.
"In public hearings and in a report submitted by Michael Goldie, over 3,000 British Columbians [and others] filed objections to the Nanoose expropriation," noted Bernier, "yet the Liberal government ignored this advice and decided to expropriate anyway. This act of defiance, combined with the fact that they never allowed a fair chance for a negotiated settlement, shows that the Liberals are up to their old tricks of arrogance and insensitivity to the West. The government should stop this hostile takeover and negotiate an end to this political buffoonery."
Tory Defence Critic David Price added, "This is like using an atom bomb to kill a mosquito. This all started because Glen Clark was playing silly political games and the Liberals got sucked in.
Well, in case the government hasn't noticed, Glen Clark is gone, and I am sure that this dispute could be resolved quite easily if the government were to go back to the negotiating table. To proceed with this expropriation now would severely test the good will of the people of British Columbia or worse, put unnecessary strains on our national unity."
In an article he wrote on May 25th of this year, Progressive Conservative Leader, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, said that there is no public evidence that Ottawa needed expropriation to resolve this dispute and that Nanoose would offer and easy precedent for future federal expropriation, if it were allowed to proceed.
Mr. Michael Goldie, a former Justice of the B.C. Court of Appeal was appointed on July 5th to conduct public hearings and file a report with the Minister of Public Works. His report, submitted on September 3rd, contained 3085 objections to the expropriation.
More than 220 objectors appeared before the public hearings. Yesterday, the federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services rejected the report and confirmed the Liberal government's intention to expropriate the Nanoose Bay torpedo-testing facility.
For further information:
Gilles Bernier, M.P. (613) 947-4431
David Price, M.P. (613) 995-2024
- Nuclear cargo route shocks Ottawa region: Municipalities had no warning.
by Tim Naumetz
Regional officials said they were shocked to learn yesterday the federal government was planning to ship weapons-grade plutonium from Russia to a Northern Ontario research lab via Nepean and Kanata.
An aide to Ottawa-Carleton Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli said the municipality knew nothing about the proposal until the news broke in the media.
City officials for Cornwall and Sault Ste. Marie -- also on the shipping route -- said they had not been informed by federal planners either. Canada has agreed to accept test samples of a mixture including the plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons to see whether it can be developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. for use in CANDU nuclear reactors, the government said.
John Embury, press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale, said the government could not inform the communities until after AECL had presented its proposal to the Transport Department yesterday.
The shipment of mixed oxide fuel from Russia will contain about 120 grams of weapons-grade plutonium. It will arrive by ship at Cornwall, then be trucked on major highways through the cities of Nepean and Kanata to AECL's Chalk River research laboratories in Northern Ontario.
Another shipment, with the same amount of plutonium, will be trucked from New Mexico, via Sault Ste. Marie. Members of the public and the cities involved in the proposal have only 28 days to respond while the plan is under review for final approval by the federal Transport Department. The government expects the first shipments to arrive later this year.
Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Steve Butland said he insisted the government send officials to the city to inform citizens after he learned about the plan through the media.
"As a mayor of a community, I have to say, 'Why us? ... Is it because our population density is not that great?' "
"Obviously there is cause for alarm because basically right now all we've got is this press release," said Cornwall Councillor Claude Poirier, who added the port has no emergency response facilities. "There hasn't been a community consultation done at all. We'll be obviously contacting our local member of Parliament (Liberal Bob Kilger)."
AECL documents suggest the routes were chosen over several alternatives because of their generally lower population density.
But AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk said the plutonium will pose no risk. The radioactivity levels of the plutonium are so low "you could hold it in your hands," he said.
The plutonium containers are designed to withstand fires, collisions and explosions, he added.
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments are proposing detailed responses to a potential emergency, including satellite tracking of the plutonium-loaded trucks as they pass through the U.S.
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