extracted from Russian nuclear warheads
is scheduled to enter Canada via the St. Lawrence
and off-load at Cornwall, Ontario, in the coming months.
MONTREAL -- A Bermuda-registered cargo ship ran aground about noon Saturday, blocking shipping in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Montreal.
The Canmar Triumph, loaded with truck and rail cargo containers, got stuck in the river near Varennes, Que., soon after leaving the port of Montreal.
Coast Guard official Francois Miville-Deschenes said the ship's engines failed and the rudder got caught in a rockbed on the river bottom.
He said two coast guard vessels and a Transport Canada inspector were on the scene, working on towing the 177-metre vessel.
Deschenes could not say how long before the ship would be freed.
"Each time this happens, we can't be sure how long it will take," he said."Each situation is different."
The captain of the ship reported no damage and there was no dangerous cargo on board, Deschenes said. The ship's crew has not asked for an evacuation.
This is the second ship to run aground in the St. Lawrence seaway this month. Last week, the Alcor, a Maltese ship, ran onto a sandbar near Quebec City and cracked in the middle.
The ship, with 25 crew aboard, had to be evacuated.
Cape Breton Post
The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) heard evidence about New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear power plant during hearings in Ottawa.
As part of its hearings the AECB received feedback from Lepreau officials on its suggestion that nuclear power plant operators should take a competency test every five years. Given the potential safety risks if something really serious goes wrong, it is an excellent idea.
Lepreau control room operators, however, don't think so. One actually said it would be counter-productive and that forcing a plant operator to take time out to keep abreast of new developments in the industry would actually weaken the operator's competency. How ludicrous! Only those who think they will fail have reason to fear a test.
Since when did training and staying on top of one's field make people less competent? The very fact the AECB has such serious concerns about Lepreau in the first place is undeniable evidence that doing things the same old way should not be an option.
A system to ensure nuclear plant operators maintain their competency is neither onerous nor silly. It ought to be mandatory.
Globe and Mail
by Martin Mittlestadt
Canada should reveal the size of its plutonium stockpile, says a prominent U.S. nuclear non-proliferation expert who estimates that this country may have enough fissile material to make five nuclear weapons.
Tom Clements, head of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, said Canada has conducted extensive studies on the use of plutonium in nuclear reactors and has sent spent reactor fuel that contains plutonium abroad for processing, but that it provides fewer details on these activities than other major countries.
Mr. Clements said Canada could have about 40 kilograms of plutonium. He based that estimate on the amount of spent fuel shipped out of the country and said the location and ownership of the plutonium remaining is not known.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said eight kilograms of plutonium separated, or removed, from spent fuel is a critical amount for bomb-making purposes.
"To have separated plutonium means you're a de facto nuclear-weapons state," Mr. Clements said. "The mere possession of separated plutonium has nuclear weapons implications with it."
Canada's stocks of material that could be made into nuclear weapons have come under scrutiny after a revelation earlier this month in the British House of Commons that spent Canadian reactor fuel has been sent to England for reprocessing.
Little is known about the size of Canada's stockpile of fissile material because it is kept secret under security regulations. Other plutonium holders -- including the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Switzerland -- have agreed to comply with the international agency's extensive disclosure and security guidelines on plutonium, but Canada has not.
"I don't see how Canada can claim leadership in disarmament and non-proliferation when they won't even declare their own plutonium stocks," Mr. Clements said in an interview. "Most people think Canada doesn't have any plutonium," he said, adding that this view is not correct.
Sunni Locatelli, spokeswoman at the Atomic Energy Control Board, the federal nuclear watchdog, said she can't reveal how much fissile material Canada has because of regulations designed to foil potential adversaries. "We aren't able to give out that information under our security regulations," she said.
Ms. Locatelli said Canada believes it shouldn't come under the IAEA guidelines because it doesn't operate its own reprocessing facilities. Mr. Clements called the Canadian position a "lame excuse" for not reporting. Switzerland, Belgium and Germany report this information, even though they do not operate such facilities.
He said openness about stocks of fissile material leads to better monitoring. There are an estimated 1,350 tonnes of plutonium in the world, enough for about 170,000 warheads. More than 80 per cent of the plutonium was created as an unwanted byproduct in civilian nuclear power plants.
Canada has the world's third-largest holding of power-plant plutonium, 97 tonnes, according to figures compiled by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. The United States, with 304 tonnes, holds the most, followed by Japan, with 120 tonnes.
Reactor plutonium isn't a big worry for nuclear-proliferation purposes because it is contained in spent fuel, where it is protected from terrorists or rogue governments by deadly radiation. But when it is reprocessed, spent nuclear fuel yields fissile plutonium.
Earlier this month, a written answer to a question raised in the British Commons indicated Canada has a long-term contract with British Nuclear Fuels PLC for reprocessing spent reactor fuel.
"BNFL concluded a contract to reprocess a quantity of Canadian spent fuel in 1970 and that fuel covered by this contract has been delivered to Sellafield," the site of the country's reprocessing facility, said Helen Liddell, Britain's minister.
by Sean Durkan
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien went from provider of humanitarian aid to Turkish earthquake victims to salesman for Canadian nuclear reactors in a few hours yesterday.
Chrétien spent the noon hour in the city of Adapazari, 140 km east of Istanbul, viewing damage from the Aug. 17 killer earthquake and announcing Canada will build a $125,000 school in the area.
But last night in Istanbul it was all business as Chrétien used a bilateral meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to push a joint Canada-Italy bid to build two Candu reactors in his country.
The project is worth $2.4 billion US and Canada is up against two other bids from U.S.-Japanese and German-French consortiums. The competition has waged for several years and a decision may finally come next year, officials said last night.
Although Turkey has enough on its plate hosting this week's summit of government leaders from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and coping with the aftermath of earthquakes that have claimed more than 17,500 lives and left 600,000 homeless, Canadian officials said Ecevit is anxious to open up his country to trade and investment.
The earthquakes have reinforced anti-nuclear groups' protests against efforts to build reactors in Turkey, but Chrétien defended the proposals yesterday during his visit to Adapazari.
"Any country where we go with a nuclear plant we make sure that it is in a safe area," said Chrétien. "Nobody has taken any chance.
"The local governments are very preoccupied about the safety of their own people. Turkey is a very big country, so we have experts looking into that. We always knew that there are more earthquakes here than we have in Canada."
The proposed site for the reactors is at Akkuyu on Turkey's southeastern Mediterranean coast -- far from the northwest corner that has been wracked by quakes.
It has never had earthquakes and is believed by experts to be geologically sound, Canadian officials said last night, but protesters say there is a fault line in the area.
A successful bid by Canada would likely involve favourable commercial loan arrangements by the Export Development Corporation.
PRIME MINISTER Jean Chrétien pauses in front of an earthquake-devastated building in Turkey yesterday.
By Allan Thompson
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien stood amid the devastation caused by this summer's earthquake yesterday and defended Canada's bid to sell nuclear reactors to Turkey.
"Any country where we go with a nuclear plant, we make sure it is in a safe area and nobody has taken any chance. The local governments are very preoccupied about the safety of their own people," Chrétien told reporters.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) is part of a consortium that is considered a leading contender to supply Turkey with the two reactors for the Akkuyu Bay project, on the Mediterranean coast.
But a final decision on the project, which also has bids from two other consortiums, has been delayed until at least Dec. 31 and possibly the new year because of the turmoil caused by two earthquakes since August.
After visiting one of the cities that was hardest hit by the Aug. 17 quake that killed 17,000 people, Chrétien used a bilateral meeting with Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to push Canada's bid to sell two Candu-6 reactors to Turkey.
The project could be worth $3.75 billion to Canada.
"We don't proceed without knowing exactly where (the nuclear plant) will be located in areas where there is no such danger" from earthquakes, Chrétien told reporters who accompanied him to Adapazari.
"At this time, this problem has been studied and they're always looking where they do that, not in areas where there is a great danger of earthquake," he said.
Chrétien said Turkey is a big country and that not every area is threatened by earthquakes.
"The experts are looking into that. We have not signed yet, but it's certainly one of the preoccupations that have been mentioned because we always knew that there are more earthquakes here than we have in Canada," Chrétien said.
Environmental and anti-nuclear groups in Canada have long opposed the export of the Candu technology and are virulently opposed to nuclear power plants in an earthquake zone.
Globe and Mail
by Anne McIlroy
Istanbul -- Prime Minister Jean Chrétien defended his efforts to sell Candu nuclear reactors to Turkey yesterday, saying that not all of the country is earthquake-prone.
"Turkey is a very big country," he told reporters while touring Adapazari, a city about 100 kilometres from Istanbul that was devastated by an earthquake in August. About 17,000 people died, and another earthquake hit the same northwestern region last Friday, killing
550. Mr. Chrétien, who met with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit before today's gathering of 54 world leaders at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, said it would be up to Turkish officials, not Canada, to decide where it would be safe to put the reactors. Canadian officials said there has never been an earthquake at the proposed reactor site in Akkuyu, in the southern part of the country.
Turkey has delayed until the end of this year or early next year a decision on buying a Candu because of the August quake.
The sale is important for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., which needs to complete potential sales to Turkey and South Korea to remain financially viable in an era of declining federal support.
AECL is leading a consortium trying to sell Turkey two reactors, worth an estimated $4-billion. The federal government, through the Export Development Corp., has agreed to provide $1.5-billion in financing for the project. Two other consortiums are competing for the project.
Yesterday, Mr. Chrétien flew by helicopter to the northwestern city of Adapazari, which lost as many as 5,000 residents to the August quake, to visit survivors and accept the thanks of local politicians for Canada's help after the August quake.
A Canadian Forces team has set up a field hospital and water purification centre for the town. Canada is also building a $125,000 school to replace one that was destroyed.
In total, Canada will spend $2.2-million helping the victims of both earthquakes. This includes $250,000 for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for emergency and relief supplies for those hurt in the latest disaster.
Turkish authorities were appreciative, even though it is clear that there hasn't been enough international aid to help everyone.
"This kind of tragedy can happen in anywhere in the world. Any nation can suffer," regional governor Ayham Kirac told the Prime Minister.
"Nowhere is safe in the world, really. This experience has taught us that we are not alone. We feel that we are very happy to have friends like yourself and in other countries."
"We wanted to share in the pain," Mr. Chrétien said when it was his turn to speak.
He stood in the rubble, surrounded by Turkish journalists, and expressed his condolences on behalf of the people of Canada to those who had lost family members during the earthquake, and to those who have had to start their lives again with almost nothing.
It is not known how many people are living in tents in Adapazari, said Dan Maxson of the World Relief organization, but many will be staying outdoors through the winter.
His group is building 500 new homes, which should be ready before winter, but that won't be nearly enough when the snow and sub-zero weather arrives.
"It is going to be cold. It is going to be brutal," he said yesterday.
He said many of homeless residents living in the tents were traumatized by the August quake. He said the roofs of many houses caved in, leaving maybe 60 centimetres of space between the floor and ceiling. Many parents couldn't reach their children, who were sleeping in separate rooms.
"How do you convince people to move back home?" Mr. Maxson said. "It is a choice they have to make."
The Canadian emergency-response team left after a month, but the permanent tent village they helped establish is still here. The luckiest residents live in rows of new yellow houses.
Mr. Maxson, who lives in Saskatoon, says carrying on with the world leaders' conference despite the earthquake is the right decision.
"I think it is a good idea. Everyone realizes the world has to go on."
Agence France Presse
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. (TEPCO) has postponed plans to use recycled plutonium-uranium fuel at one of its plants because of public fears, officials said Thursday.
TEPCO, the world's biggest power company, said it would delay for a year its plan to burn mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel at a plant in Kashiwazaki, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
The decision was taken following a request from local authorities worried about public fears triggered by a major nuclear leak in a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura on September 30, it said.
"Since the Tokaimura accident, there have been increasing fear and distrust among residents toward nuclear operations," a Kashiwazaki government official told AFP.
"Taking such feelings into consideration, we decided it was appropriate to postpone the operation (originally scheduled for February 2000) until 2001," the government official said.
But a spokesman for TEPCO said it would press ahead with plans to use MOX fuel in February 2000 at another plant in Fukushima, on the Pacific Ocean 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
TEPCO's decision to delay its MOX fuel plans for Kashiwazaki was influenced by the fact that none of the fuel had yet been delivered to the plant there, he said.
"We were asked by local authorities to put off the operation using MOX (mixed plutonium-uranium oxide) fuel until 2001 and we told them we would act upon their request," the TEPCO spokesman said.
"We like to cooperate with the local authorities and we were able to postpone the plan since we have yet to receive MOX fuel for the Kashiwazaki plant," he said.
But "as we already have the MOX fuel at the Fukushima plant, we will go ahead with the original plan there."
MOX fuel curbs the need for natural uranium by combining uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.
A British-flagged vessel unloaded 210 kilograms (462 pounds) of MOX fuel at the Fukushima plant in September amid protests from Greenpeace. It was the first shipment to Japan of MOX fuel.
On September 30, three workers at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Tokyo, set off the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
They illegally used steel buckets to pour 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of uranium into a precipitation tank, setting off a critical reaction that exposed at least 69 people to radiation and forced more than 320,000 to shelter at home for more than a day.
The plant was run by JCO Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd.
Aside from TEPCO, the only other company planning to use MOX in Japan is Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc., which received a shipment of the fuel on October 1.
A company spokeswoman said it would start using MOX fuel at its Takahama plant on the Sea of Japan 440 kilometers (272 miles) west of Tokyo, within this year, as planned.
"Currently we are preparing for the operation and there is no change in the plan whatsoever," she said.
Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
TOKYO (Nikkei) -- Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Thursday will officially inform local authorities of its intention to suspend a plutonium-thermal project in Niigata Prefecture for one year until 2001, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun publication reported in its Thursday morning edition, citing company sources.
This is in response to calls from the prefectural and municipal governments to put off the project following the nuclear accident in September at the Tokaimura fuel-processing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The company had planned to start power generation using mixed-oxide fuel [MOX] of plutonium and uranium at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant beginning in 2000.
Tepco now plans to start a pluthermal [plutonium-thermal = MOX] project at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February.
Previously, the utility was expected to launch pluthermal projects in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures by the end of 2000, and Kansai Electric Power Co. (J.KEP or 9503) would start a similar project in Fukui Prefecture the same year.
Japan's five other electric power companies, including Chubu Electric Power Co. (J.CEP or 9502) and Kyushu Electric Power Co. (J.KYL or 9508), planned to start projects at a total of nine plants in 2000-2005, industry sources were quoted as saying.
by Neil Sinclair
(Letter to the Editor)
Elaine Kergoat's criticism of Green Party candidate Dave Greenfield's position on uranium mining (Anti-nukes again find themselves forced to create new bogeymen, SP Oct. 27) was misplaced.
Kergoat says, "Canada has not supplied uranium for nuclear weapons for almost three decades." On the surface, this appears true. But our uranium is exported to nuclear weapons states that mix civilian and military enrichment facilities.
The truth is that our uranium has been getting into American, French and even Soviet nuclear weapons over the past three decades.
Now military technology has developed a new use for uranium. Depleted uranium (DU) is the Uranium 238 left over from the civilian nuclear power industry. Huge stockpiles of DU exist in the U.S. and other countries.
The U.S. was the first country to use this new weapon. DU has a mass 2.5 times greater than lead and, therefore, greater penetrating power when used as a projectile. The U.S. military now has bombs, missiles and bullets with DU-tipped warheads.
DU weapons were used extensively in the Gulf War and also in the Yugoslav conflict.
Today, residents of southern Iraq suffer from much higher levels of cancer. Many believe this is a result of continuous exposure to radiation from DU weapons exploded years ago in the region.
In Kosovo today, Canadian troops have been instructed to stay away from destroyed military vehicles because of radioactive contamination from DU weapons. United Nations personnel are now checking Kosovo to determine areas with radioactive contamination.
The terrible truth is that areas where DU weapons have exploded will be contaminated forever with U-238 having a half-life of more than a billion years.
Sadly, Saskatchewan's uranium is still being used to make weapons which have been used in two recent wars, causing untold suffering to the people of Iraq and Yugoslavia.
The Independent (London)
by Imre Karacs
Berlin -- CHANCELLOR GERHARD Schroder was close to a deal last night with his Green coalition partners on the timetable to close all of Germany's 19 nuclear power plants.
The issue has bedevilled the Red-Green government and an agreement would go a long way towards restoring the parties' fortunes. But Mr Schroder can also expect bitter denunciations from the power lobby, who will argue that the Chancellor has performed yet another U-turn, selling out his friends in industry for a semblance of government unity.
Phasing out nuclear power would be a severe blow to the industry worldwide, as it would trigger similar demands in other Western nations. Britain would be faced with the likely loss of Sellafield's pounds 1.2 bn contract to reprocess spent German fuel rods.
Secret discussions have been going on in Berlin for weeks, after the companies running nuclear plants would not yield to the proposals.
The two parties had committed themselves to a gradual phase-out negotiated with industry. With that process faltering, the Greens threatened to walk out of the coalition and scupper Mr Schroder's government.
The deal, according to the newspaper Berliner Zeitung, would see three plants closing in the life-time of the current legislature, with the last one shut soon after 2016.
This formula is a long way from Green ambitions. Jurgen Trittin, the Green Environment Minister, had proclaimed the "end of the nuclear age", only to be forced to retract by Social Democrat colleagues.
Mr Trittin drafted a law in record time, without consulting the Chancellor, and was on the verge of placing an immediate ban on reprocessing before Mr Schroder intervened. Mr Trittin was reined in, though, only with the explicit promise that the utilities would have a year to offer a settlement.
The companies have not done that, and the year will be up in the middle of December. Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister, seen as endowed with more diplomatic skills than Mr Trittin, entered the fray. It is he and Mr Schroder who have been haggling for several weeks, cutting out minions on both sides. Both need a solution in a hurry.
Having given up their dreams for an " ecology tax" and other environmental causes, the Greens could not be seen to be yielding any more ground. The threat to pull out of the government if no plant is shut was not an idle one.
The government's divisions have also hurt the Social Democrat party and Mr Schroder, who is outshone in the popularity stakes by even Helmut Kohl.
With crucial regional elections due in the spring, the government is desperate to gain a common purpose. The proposed deal is not the final word.
Industry claims it would be entitled to tens of billions of marks in compensation. But those who produce nuclear power are more likely to come back to the negotiating table if confronted, for once, with a government that is united in its resolve.
by Andrew Duffy
Transport Canada has given the green light to a plan to import weapons-grade plutonium from Russia and the United States for a test burn in an Ontario nuclear facility.
In a report released Tuesday, dangerous goods experts with Transport Canada concluded there's little to fear from six proposed shipments of reactor fuel drawn from the Cold War stockpile of weapons plutonium.
The test fuel shipments will be so small and so well packaged that a truckload of explosives could detonate beside it without serious incident, the report found. In addition, the Zircaloy metal tubes that will hold the fuel can withstand the kind of fire and heat generated by a collision with a gasoline tanker truck.
The report, which reviewed the safety measures to be put in place by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., found the nuclear agency is "well-trained and well-equipped" to deal with potential emergencies.
Unlikely till spring
The report opens the door to the immediate importation of the test fuel from Russia and the U.S., but it's likely that won't happen until the spring.
"We've just had the green light, so now we have to talk to the countries to see when this can happen," said AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk.
The Liberal government has agreed to test a small amount of the plutonium to determine if the fuel is usable in Canadian reactors.
The U.S. has announced that it intends to dispose of its own plutonium stockpile, but a successful test could eventually lead to a large-scale program aimed at reducing the stockpile of Russian plutonium, now stored in underground vaults.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has billed the test as an important contribution to superpower disarmament. But anti-nuclear groups, native leaders and local politicians who represent cities along the proposed transportation routes have all voiced opposition to the scheme.
In the House of Commons, Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale assured Canadians that "every single law, rule and regulation to protect public health and the environment will be fully and rigorously enforced."
"This matter can be undertaken safely," said Goodale, the minister responsible for AECL.
Transport Canada has ordered AECL to provide a security escort for each shipment of Russian and American fuel. The department ordered the security measures based on its concern that the reactor fuel could be the subject of terrorist activity or demonstrations.
Although there's not enough plutonium in any one shipment to create an explosive device -- a weapon requires at least 4,000 grams of plutonium and each shipment will contain only 120 grams -- there's enough material "to create social discomfort" by threatening to release it in a public place, the report said.
AECL's Shewchuk said the nuclear agency is working with a special unit of the Ontario Provincial Police to escort each shipment.
"I don't think at this point we want to say whether you will notice an escort, if it will be visible in terms of police cars with flashing lights," he said. "I think the worst risk of all will be if protesters block the highways . . . so obviously we want to avoid that."
It means Canadians are unlikely to know exactly when the shipments will be moving along Ontario roadways.
The Transport Canada report notes that the shipments contain such a small amount of plutonium that it cannot produce a "critical" or explosive reaction.
Although the material is radioactive, it is of such a low level that it will travel less than two inches in open air and can be blocked by a piece of paper.
The U.S. government is financing the entire cost of the test burn at AECL's Chalk River nuclear facility, paying between $3 million US and $4 million US.
Winnipeg Free Press
OTTAWA -- EMERGENCY response plans for shipping weapons-grade plutonium from the United States and Russia into Canada have been approved by Transport Canada.
The plans were submitted by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., for the movement of MOX fuel samples to Chalk River, Ont., west of Ottawa.
Burning MOX fuel is being pitched as one way to play a role in reducing surplus stockpiles of dismantled nuclear warheads. Critics argue the transport of radioactive material poses a threat to the environment should there be an accident.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says there are no plans for large shipments of plutonium to be brought in from the U.S.
by Karl Sepkowski
With files from Canadian Press
SAULT STE. MARIE -- Native leaders from across Ontario were gathering today just east of here to plan how to block a planned shipment of plutonium across their territory.
Critics fear U.S. plans to ship the nuclear material, taken from disarmed warheads, to Chalk River, Ont. for a test burn at an experimental reactor poses a potential threat to the environment. They also say the shipments could be vulnerable to attack by terrorists bent on obtaining weapons-grade plutonium.
The shipment is the first phase of a Canadian commitment to import and destroyplutonium from dismantled nuclear warheads in Russia and the United States over the next 20 years.
Today's meeting, to be held at the Garden River First Nation reserve, was to bring together First Nations chiefs, environmental groups and municipal leaders, Bob Goulais, a spokesman for the Union of Ontario Indians, said. Federal ministers have also been invited.
The test shipment plan has also met with opposition across Northern Ontario and in Michigan, where the nuclear material is supposed to cross through on its way to Chalk River, north west of Ottawa.
Globe and Mail
by Martin Mittelstaedt
TORONTO -- The U.S. Department of Energy filed formal notice yesterday that it intends to ship fuel rods containing 119 grams of weapons-grade plutonium to the Chalk River, Ontario, laboratory of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
The filing means that the department can ship the material to Ontario starting December 2 at the earliest. The shipment is part of an experiment in which Russian and U.S. plutonium from nuclear weapons will be fed into a Canadian reactor to check its suitability as fuel.
In a statement filed in the U.S. Federal Register yesterday, the department said transferring the bomb material to Canada will not undermine U.S. security. The plutonium will be trucked from a laboratory in New Mexico and is expected to draw protests from environmental, municipal and native groups.
by Allan Thompson
Istanbul, Turkey -- In a country that has just suffered two devastating earthquakes, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is expected to use a meeting today to peddle CANDU nuclear reactors.
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is the leader of a consortium that is considered a leading contender to supply Turkey with two CANDU 6 reactors for the Akkuyu Bay project.
A decision on the project has been delayed until at least December 31 because of the turmoil caused by the earthquakes.
Canadian officials confirmed last night that after visiting the site of the August 17 quake in which 17,000 people died, Chrétien will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and that the CANDU bid may well come up.
Globe and Mail
by Martin Mittelstaedt
Amid rising controversy, the United States has decided to abandon a scheme to export plutonium taken from U.S. nuclear weapons to Canada. Although the U.S. Department of Energy says it reserves the right to reconsider the action, it says it is no longer actively considering the use of Canadian nuclear reactors to burn the surplus plutonium. The destruction plan had been highly touted by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the federal nuclear company, as a Canadian contribution to removing one of the lingering legacies of the Cold War.
Antinuclear advocates yesterday hailed the U.S. decision, saying the possibility now appears remote that Canada will become the final depository for much of the unneeded plutonium produced by the United States. "It's dead," Steve Shallhorn, campaign director for Greenpeace, said of the proposal to deal with the U.S. material.
However, there is still a possibility -- considered unlikely -- that plutonium from the former Soviet Union could be shipped to Canada.
But the U.S. decision calls into question the need for a test burn of about 200 grams of U.S. and Russian plutonium that AECL plans to undertake at its Chalk River laboratories in Ontario to see whether the bomb material is usable in Canadian-style Candu reactors.
The test, expected to be conducted next year, has prompted opposition from some U.S. areas, such as Michigan, that might be on the transportation routes for the material. Canadian border cities, such as Windsor, have also voiced their opposition. "You really have to wonder why the U.S. is going to send the 132 grams [for the test]," Mr. Shallhorn said.
For the past five years, Canadian federal officials have engaged in furious lobbying of both the Russians and Americans to use Canada to dispose of their plutonium.
But the U.S. Department of Energy isn't interested in the Canadian offer, saying that more than enough reactor capacity exists in the United States to immobilize all of the 33 tonnes of plutonium it has earmarked for disposal in commercial reactors.
The U.S. Energy Department "determined that adequate reactor capacity is available in the United States to disposition that portion of the U.S. surplus plutonium suitable for MOX fuel and, therefore, while still reserving the Candu option, DOE is no longer actively pursuing it," the department said in a statement issued Friday.
MOX is the technical name for reactor fuel containing plutonium. The department further intends to encase another 17 tonnes of plutonium in a ceramic material, thereby making it hard to reuse in weapons.
All told, the United States is planning to eliminate enough plutonium to make about 5,000 bombs. The Russians have a similar amount of weapons material surplus to its security needs.
The Canadian proposal now is entirely dependent on Russian support, but one analyst said yesterday that it will proceed only if subsidies are made available to help facilitate Russian participation.
Franklyn Griffiths, a University of Toronto political scientist, said the Russian plutonium would require major funding through the Group of Seven or some other body in order to occur.
The Canadian proposal has been battling long odds almost since it was first put forward in 1994, mainly because the U.S. Department of Energy found it to be more costly than plutonium disposal at competing U.S. civilian reactors.
Prof. Griffiths said Canadian authorities "have known the U.S. wasn't interested for quite some time. This is a blow in that now the [Canadian] public knows it."
AECL and federal officials could not be reached yesterday for comment on the U.S. decision, which was released in the Department of Energy's final environmental impact statement on surplus plutonium disposition.
Under the Canadian plan, the federal government proposed that plutonium be burned at reactors owned by Ontario Power Generation Inc. However, the provincially owned utility indicated earlier this year that it wasn't interested in participating.
The U.S. Department of Energy says Canada could still take plutonium based on a bilateral agreement between Russia and Canada, a deal in which the United States wouldn't be involved.
"If Russia and Canada agree to disposition Russian surplus plutonium in Candu reactors in order to augment Russia's disposition capability, shipments of the Russian MOX fuel would take place directly between Russia and Canada," the department said.
When plutonium is used in reactors, not all of it is destroyed. But the plutonium left over is harder to extract for nuclear weapons production because it is contained in highly dangerous radioactive fuel bundles.
Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Russian missiles could pierce the limited defence President Bill Clinton may approve next June, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Wednesday.
The system, already being tested, is designed to protect against North Korea and other potential attackers whose arsenals are less potent than Russia's, said the prepared text of her speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
"A Russian defence official recently proclaimed that his nation has the ability to overwhelm the missile-defence system we are planning," Albright said.
"That is true -- and part of our point."
"The missile system we are planning is not designed to defend against Russia and could not do so," she said.
Albright urged Russia to approve changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which outlaws a national defence against missiles and said those who will not make changes are dangerous extremists.
"The strategic environment has changed greatly in the 27 years since the ABM treaty was signed," she said.
Albright also labelled as dangerous the view the treaty should be cast aside. That risks reviving old threats to U.S. security, she said.
Spurgeon Keeny, president of the private Arms Control Association, challenged Albright, both for implying Clinton already has reached a decision to go ahead and for calling opponents of changes in the treaty as dangerous extremists.
Her statements "are strongly at odds with the president's statement that his decision will depend on an assessment of flight tests, cost estimates, evaluation of the uncertain threat and progress in achieving arms control objectives," Keeny said.
Besides, Clinton said he would first pursue amending the treaty and this and the other conditions "almost certainly will not be met by June," Keeny said.
The treaty, a landmark in arms control, is based on the theory a defenceless potential attacker would hold back, rather than risk devastating retaliation.
Repeated U.S. attempts to persuade Russia to change the treaty have been rejected.
Last week, a top Pentagon official declared the United States would go ahead with an anti-missile defence, even if it means withdrawing from the treaty.
Agence France Presse
CAPE TOWN, Nov 10 (AFP) -- Greenpeace on Wednesday called on the South African government to garner Commonwealth opposition to European nuclear waste shipments to Japan at the 54-nation body's upcoming meeting in Durban.
"South Africa and other Commonwealth countries have nothing to gain and everything to lose if these deadly nuclear transports are allowed to continue," Greenpeace spokesman Mike Townsley told journalists aboard one of the group's patrol vessels in Cape Town.
"The heads of government meeting ... offers an invaluable opportunity to take a united stand in defense of the environment and the health of millions of people."
Townsley said the three countries involved in the shipments -- Britain, France and Japan -- have repeatedly breached international law by refusing to conduct a study on their environmental impact.
Greenpeace believed Britain was preparing to step up its shipments of nuclear waste, he added.
A British ship carrying nuclear waste from France to Japan will round South Africa's Cape of Good Hope in December, while two shipments of plutonium fuel are expected to leave Britain in mid-2000, according to a Greenpeace statement.
Two British ships carrying reprocessed uranium and plutonium fuel to Japan, the Pacific Teal and the Pacific Pintail, rounded the southern tip of Africa in August.
Townsley said it would it be wrong for Britain to join in expected criticism of India's and Pakistan's nuclear programmes at the Commonwealth summit, which starts in Durban on Friday, while it too was threatening the environment.
Globe and Mail
by Martin Mittelstaedt
High levels of radioactive tritium are being found throughout Pembroke, the site of a plant that recycles the waste material to make glow-in-the-dark signs. Tritium has been discovered in the ice of a local hockey rink, in cucumbers and in the urine of one of the residents of the Ottawa River Valley city.
Although the tritium levels that were found were up to 1,500 times higher than the concentrations in rainwater, the Atomic Energy Control Board says they pose negligible risk of causing cancer.
Despite the assurances of the country's nuclear watchdog agency, Kelly O'Grady, whose garden contained the radioactive cucumber, says she no longer wants to eat the food from her garden or feed it to her children.
"I don't think it's safe to be eating vegetables from our garden any more. We feel that our rights have been violated, that we should be able to plant a tritium-free garden," Ms. O'Grady said.
The urine and cucumber samples were tested by Pembroke residents worried about emissions from the sign factory, owned by SRB Technologies (Canada) Inc., but it was the AECB that tested tritium levels in the ice rink, swimming pool water, and soil and vegetation throughout the community, including the local tourist bureau.
Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen and is an unwanted waste product of Canadian nuclear reactors. It has commercial applications for use in signs that glow in the dark without electricity, such as exit signs, but it is also a key component of thermonuclear weapons.
Tritium is considered by scientists to be the least dangerous reactor waste, but there is controversy over what constitutes safe levels, with some experts advising tighter standards, particularly for pregnant women.
SRB Technologies has said in a written statement that it operates "well within" the guidelines and regulations set up by the AECB and has processes in place to ensure that staff and the public are not at risk.
The woman who had her urine analyzed asked not to be identified.
In response to concerns about tritium releases, which made headlines earlier this year when radioactive rhubarb was found in the city, the control board conducted extensive sampling of soil and vegetation in Pembroke last month and in early November. Results of the testing were presented to residents and politicians on Monday evening.
The testing by both the board and local residents indicates tritium well above normal background levels in many parts of Pembroke, with the highest readings close to the factory. The ice, for instance, was tested at an arena a few hundred metres from the sign plant.
Patsy Thompson, head of the AECB's radiological-protection section, said the readings around the sign plant are in line with the radioactivity levels the board would expect for the area, based on the amount of tritium the facility emits during normal operations.
Many residents want the plant to eliminate these discharges, but Ms. Thompson said the board doesn't try to force nuclear operators to eliminate all radioactive emissions.
"The AECB does not regulate facilities such as SRB and others on the basis of zero discharge," she said, but added that it tries to ensure that fugitive radioactive emissions are kept at low enough levels to ensure the number of cancer cases stays within the normal range.
She said the radioactivity that Pembroke residents receive from the plant shouldn't be a cancer worry because the amounts are at low levels.
stands at 7,000 becquerels per liter, a provincial advisory group
suggested levels should be no higher than 100 becquerels per litre.
A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity;
|SOURCE OF CONTAMINATION||BECQUERELS PER LITRE|
|Pembroke urine sample||590|
|Ice from Pembroke arena||3,000|
|Pembroke resident's |
|Average in plants around |
Pickering nuclear station
|Average in plants around |
Bruce nuclear station
|Average in plants around |
Darlington nuclear station
by Andrew Seymour
Anti-nuclear activists are warning the battle isn't over to keep a shipment of plutonium off eastern Ontario highways despite reports the federal government will green light the plan Monday.
Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, said yesterday the feds are blindly pushing ahead with plans to allow a test shipment of MOX -- a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides used as fuel in nuclear power plants -- to pass through the region on its way to the Chalk River experimental reactor.
"I don't understand why the government is being so stubborn on this," he said. "I'm disappointed the government of Canada hasn't listened to the deep-seated concerns of the people who elected them."
Nepean council, one of several communities along the shipment's route, is staunchly opposed to the plan. In September, it passed a resolution prohibiting MOX from being transported through the city.
"It's a total disregard for the community. There's absolutely no purpose in consulting with us if they're not going to abide by our feelings on it," Coun. Wayne Phillips said.
Transport Canada officials are expected to approve an emergency response plan Monday, required when transporting dangerous goods.