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Dec 22/99 - Japanese uranium worker dies after exposure to radiation.

page NE20

by Scott Stoddard

Death follows string of
recent nuclear accidents in Japan

TOKYO -- A worker who was severely injured in Japan's worst nuclear accident died last night, more than two months after being hit with a massive dose of [neutron] radiation.

He was Japan's first fatality from radiation exposure caused by an accident at a nuclear facility.

Hisashi Ouchi, 35, had been in critical condition since the Sept. 30 accident at a uranium-reprocessing plant. He died after suffering various symptoms of radiation sickness, Tokyo University Hospital spokesperson Hisao Yanagisawa said.

The accident in Tokaimura, 125 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, severely undermined the public's faith in Japan's aggressive nuclear power program. It followed a string of smaller accidents at nuclear plants here.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi offered condolences to Ouchi's family and promised efforts to prevent the recurrence of nuclear accidents.

"The government has been working so that such an accident will never be repeated," Obuchi told the Kyodo News agency.

Two other workers were severely injured in the accident, which happened when Ouchi and another worker mixed uranium with nitric acid to make fuel and accidentally put too much uranium in the tank. That set off an atomic reaction.

The accident also exposed at least 66 other people to less serious doses of radiation. Thousands of people living near the plant were forced indoors or evacuated.

Ouchi's body was devastated by the exposure, which Kyodo said was about 17,000 times the maximum amount Japanese standards consider safe for an entire year. After the accident, Ouchi's white blood cell count reportedly plummeted to nearly zero, effectively depriving him of an immune system.

Another injured worker is still hospitalized. The least seriously injured man, Yutaka Yokokawa, 55, was released from the hospital Monday. He is still receiving treatment. He was in an adjacent room during the accident.

An investigation found that workers at the plant, operated by JCO Co. , routinely violated safety procedures, including mixing uranium in buckets to get the job done quickly.

The company is under investigation for possible criminal violations. Police raided parent-company Sumitomo Metal Mining offices last week to gather evidence.

Japan's parliament recently passed legislation calling for periodic inspection of nuclear-fuel processing facilities. The legislation allows the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in case of a nuclear accident.

JCO's president apologized for Ouchi's death yesterday.

"I was praying for his recovery but this is the worst situation. When you lose a precious life you can't mourn enough," Hiroharu Kitani was quoted as saying by Kyodo.


Had been in a critical condition since
Sept. 30 accident at uranium plant.

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Dec 20/99 - US legislator proposes bill outlawing future plutonium shipments.

CBC News

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Transporting nuclear material across Great Lakes bridges would be illegal under a proposal by a state legislator.

Representative Andy Neumann (D - Alpena) said he will introduce a bill when the legislature returns in January. It would ban shipments such as the plutonium transport scheduled to cross Michigan headed for Chalk River, Ont.

The bill calls for a $1 million US fine and a year prison sentence for anyone who violates the ban.

It is unlikely the legislation could pass in time to affect the controversial plutonium shipment cleared last week by a federal judge in Kalamazoo.

The U.S. Department of Energy will not say exactly when the shipment will take place. But in federal court last week, a department official said the shipment would have to be made before Christmas or be delayed until late January because of an agency policy restricting high-security transports in the first three weeks of 2000.

The agency plans to send the shipment across Interstates 94, 69, 75 and the Mackinac Bridge before continuing to Canada across another bridge at Sault Ste. Marie.

From there, the shipment will proceed across Northern Ontario along Highway 17, past such centres as Sudbury and North Bay, before reaching Chalk River, about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

Neumann said although he realizes his bill probably won't stop this shipment, he hopes it will keep it from ever happening again.

"If something happens on land, that's one thing," he said. "But for something to happen over the Great Lakes, now you've contaminated our whole Great Lakes basin."

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Dec 12/99 - Serious failures in radiation protection keeps hospital labs shut.

Toronto Star

by Peter Calamai
Science Reporter

Nuclear officials expect
most research facilities
to re-open by end of February

OTTAWA -- Most research labs at three leading Toronto hospitals will stay shut until February because of serious radiation protection problems and repeated failures to correct them.

The lab problems are the worst breach of Canada's occupational radiation safety laws in recent years, according to officials of the federal nuclear safety watchdog, the Atomic Energy Control Board.

Board officials say they expect to quickly approve the re-opening of only one-fifth of 100 labs which they shut last month at Princess Margaret, Toronto Western and Toronto General, merged into the University Health Network.

"We should have been more vigilant. . . . We're going to be less patient. We'll be able to see sooner if a licensee is slipping down the ramp," said Ron Thomas, a senior official with the Atomic Energy Control Board

Most of the labs should be given the green light by the end of February -- after a three-month blackout -- but closure for a few could stretch into March or beyond, says Richard Cawthorn, the agency official in charge.

The re-opening of some labs is being further delayed because a few senior researchers at the hospitals are refusing to take compulsory radiation safety training sessions, according to hospital officials.

And the incident is raising concerns about the effectiveness of the federal nuclear safety watchdog and also about the occupational health impact from Ontario's forced hospital mergers and continued downsizing.

"We should have been more vigilant," concedes Ron Thomas, a senior official with the Atomic Energy Control Board.

The Toronto problems are also sending aftershocks across Canada. The control board is doubling inspections of similar laboratories after revelations that it failed to crack down on the potential radiation dangers in Toronto for much of the year.

About 100 laboratories at the three hospitals that use radioisotopes and other nuclear medicines were finally ordered closed Nov. 29 by the nuclear safety watchdog. Hardest hit are the research labs of the Ontario Cancer Institute located at Princess Margaret on University Avenue.

The agency found that radiation protection was sloppy or non-existent for the roughly 750 researchers and other staff in the labs, despite continued assurances from top hospital bosses that corrective action had been taken.

Belated checks by federal inspectors revealed that many of the supposed changes weren't actually made and that the hospitals didn't have anyone managing radiation safety for most of the time since July.

The hospitals were guilty of "repeated breaches" of federal atomic safety regulations and "had no effective control of the radioactive materials" used in the labs, said the formal notice shutting the labs.

Dr. Michael Guerriere, chief operating officer for the University Health Network, blames the problems on dislocations after the hospital merger two years ago and low morale because of continued job losses and inadequate provincial funding. He also says some officials directly in charge of radiation safety didn't come clean about the extent of the problems.

"Initially we had a significant difference in perception between what my internal staff was telling me and what the AECB staff was finding on inspections," Guerriere told a control board hearing here last week.

Orders to improve radiation safety were sometimes not implemented because nearly half the vice-presidents and division directors of the hospitals have changed over the past three years. "We've suffered a loss of institutional memory," said Guerriere.

Long delays by federal inspectors in dealing with the Toronto lab problems have also prompted some pointed questions from the five-member board which oversees the agency.

Board member Chris Barnes, an oceanographer from the University of Victoria, wanted to know why regulators sent four notices to the hospitals beginning in February but didn't make an inspection until August.

"It's quite amazing. This is a major installation. It's not some small facility tucked away in the corner of the country," said Barnes at Thursday's hearing.

Ron Thomas, director of the materials regulation division, said the safety watchdog will now carry out four inspections at such sites every year, rather than the previous one or two.

"We're going to be less patient," he vowed. "We'll be able to see sooner if a licensee is slipping down the ramp."

Sloppy handing of nuclear medicines, incomplete records, poorly maintained safety equipment and the lack of an functioning overall radiation protection program prompted the suspension of licences at the Toronto labs. The health, safety and security of workers and researchers at the hospitals were considered to be at risk.

Patient care and particularly cancer treatment at the hospitals is supposedly unaffected by the lab closure. There is no evidence that members of the public were exposed to unplanned radiation.

The impact of the lab closures is difficult to measure, since the research is aimed at basic questions about the causes and treatment of illnesses. "What's the price of a discovery that gets delayed for another eight or ten weeks?" asked Guerriere.

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Dec 20/99 - British Energy to offer $1 billion for Ontario's largest nuclear plant.

National Post

by David Akin and Mary Fagan
Financial Post, The Sunday Telegraph

A joint venture of British Energy PLC of Edinburgh and Peco Energy Co. of Philadelphia is poised to make a $1-billion (US) bid early in the new year for Canada's largest nuclear power plant, sources say.

AmerGen, whose chief executive is based in Toronto, is expected to proceed with its offer to buy the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the shores of Lake Huron near Kincardine, Ont., from Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) of Toronto.

Entergy Corp. of New Orleans, Dominion Resources Inc. of Richmond, Va., and Duke Energy Corp. of Charlotte, N.C. are also said to be interested in the Bruce plant.

British Energy's interest in a Canadian nuclear power facility - and in the Bruce plant specifically - has never been a secret. It opened a Toronto office in 1998 and has been aggressively lobbying the Ontario government.

In Canada, the working name of the Peco/British Energy joint venture is CanaGen.

Robin Jeffrey, British Energy's Toronto-based deputy chairman and chief executive of AmerGen, could not be reached yesterday.

A spokesman for British Energy, reached yesterday in Edinburgh, said the company had no comment on the matter. A Peco spokesman also declined comment.

Only four of Bruce's eight reactors are currently operational, but when all eight are running, the plant can produce 6,216 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the city of Toronto.

The Bruce plant employs about 4,000 people and has an annual payroll of $225-million.

"We have asked for some expressions of interest. Some interest has been expressed so far but we can't get into any details as to who has expressed that interest. We have some confidentiality agreements with those parties," said Jerry Crown, an OPG spokesman.

If the deal proceeds, it would be the first sale of a nuclear facility in Canada, something that watchdogs and activists applaud. They believe it may bring some private-sector discipline to the cost-accounting for the entire nuclear generation process, including waste treatment and disposal.

"Public ownership has been an excuse for irresponsibility," said Norman Rubin, director of nuclear research for independent watchdog group Energy Probe. "Regulation will automatically improve if some of this fog of confusion that's caused by public ownership dissipates."

Any sale of a nuclear facility would be subject to review by the Atomic Energy Control Board.

One of the key issues the board would have to address with the sale of the Bruce plant would be responsibility and liability for the radioactive waste now stored on-site in rapidly filling facilities.

Also, federal law limits the liability of the owner or operator of a nuclear plant to $75-million in the event of damages due to the release of radioactive material. That liability could be extended to a new owner.

Liability protection is seen by nuclear power competitors as an unfair subsidy and by watchdogs as a disincentive to safety.

For its part, British Energy has been criticized in a regulatory report for cutting corners on safety at its nuclear facilities in Britain.

"Resource levels have been reduced too far in a variety of areas and this cannot be good for nuclear safety," Britain's regulator wrote in the report, leaked to the media in August.

"In fairness, they turned unreliable plants that had made the nuclear safety regulator unhappy into high-output plants that seemed to be making the regulator comfortable. They were making what sounded like a wonderful pitch that good economics and good safety culture are not in conflict," said Mr. Rubin. "Still, there are things in that report that are disturbing, if true."

OPG has an interest in selling some of its assets in order to meet the Ontario government's mandate of reducing its market share from current levels of 85 percent to 35 percent within 10 years. It also has a mandate to make a profit.

Ontario's operating reactors at the Bruce and Darlington plants generate 9,000 megawatts or 34 percent of the province's electrical output.

The province's only other nuclear plant, at Pickering, east of Toronto, has been offline for more than two years after serious safety problems were discovered.

OPG intends to bring parts of the Pickering facility back online in 2001 with a view toward producing 2,000 megawatts of power. It's not clear if OPG would use the proceeds from a sale of the Bruce plant to help defray the capital costs required.

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Dec 17/99 - Port Hope licence renewed; residents to be tested for radiation damage.

Toronto Star
page NE12

by Peter Calamai

OTTAWA - After 30 years of pleading, residents of Port Hope are finally going to be tested for radiation damage from the uranium refinery in their midst.

The price they have to pay is continued pollution from the Cameco Corp. plant, which yesterday received official approval for two more years' operation from the Atomic Energy Control Board, the federal nuclear safety watchdog.

Board experts told a public hearing here that uranium contamination of the soil in the Lake Ontario community continues to rise as the refinery's smokestack daily rains down radioactive dust.

Yet the increase is so slow, said board environmental scientist Patsy Thompson, that it would take another two or three decades for the soil contamination over-all to reach levels of potential concern.

But board member Chris Barnes, an oceanographer from the University of Victoria, said board officials should investigate what was happening in known "hot spots" where the soil was already heavily contaminated.

"It may well be less than several decades to create an unacceptable impact there," Barnes said.

The board's tentative health studies include the first-ever attempt to directly measure the effects of radiation on Port Hope residents, by looking at kidney function.

Other studies will examine over-all mortality rates and attempt to track down 150 residents from the 1950s.

Local residents complained once again that the control board was not properly probing the long-term effects of this radioactive contamination on human health. The board has repeatedly turned down a request from a local activist group to fund a $250,000 epidemiological study that would survey residents about their health.

So instead the Community Health Concerns Committee has gone to federal Health Minister Alan Rock for financial help, committee head Fay More told the hearing.

More also said that the board and the community group remained far apart on how other promised health studies would be carried out.

The residents object to any involvement by Health Canada, arguing that federal agency has failed for decades to protect them from radiation hazards.

Suzana Fraser, a staff epidemiologist with the board, defended the use of government health expertise, citing the "solid reputation" of the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control.

But that same federal centre came under fire for poor performance this week from the auditor-general, with particular reference to foot-dragging in investigating cancer risks from various environmental hazards, such as radiation.

At a hearing in October, residents claimed that the refinery's radioactive emissions and waste have left the community with abnormally high rates of cancer and genetic illnesses.

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Dec 14/99 - Ottawa agrees with communities to clean up radioactive waste.

NRCan Press Statement

Natural Resources Canada 99/111


The following documents are also available:

OTTAWA -- Low-level radioactive waste sites in Port Hope, Hope Township and Clarington are now a step closer to being cleaned up, says Christine Stewart, MP for Northumberland, on behalf of Ralph Goodale, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. The Government of Canada and municipal councils are ready to negotiate legal agreements for the local long-term management of these wastes.

"We have gone through a long and painstaking process to bring us to this point," said Ms. Stewart. "I am confident that with the cooperation and continuing good will of the communities, we will complete a remediation and storage process that will benefit the long-term health and security for all three communities."

"The local proposals are innovative and realistic," said Minister Goodale. "They will allow the municipalities to develop remediated sites, thereby increasing neighbouring property values and enriching the lives of residents. I am optimistic that we can continue to cooperate in resolving this longstanding environmental problem."

"These communities are to be commended for taking concrete action to not just pass on but to solve this environmental challenge," said Alex Shepherd, MP for Durham. "This kind of civic responsibility is a tribute to the people of our region."

Port Hope, Hope Township and Clarington have each developed storage proposals for their own low-level radioactive wastes. The Government will negotiate separate legal agreements to carry out the projects with each of the municipalities.

"It is in the interests of all citizens of Port Hope to finally resolve our low level radioactive waste remediation and storage issues in a way which secures the health and well being of our community," said Ron Smith, Mayor of Port Hope.

"The storage proposal has been developed by representatives of our community, and as a result I believe it is acceptable to our community. Nonetheless, we will continue to obtain public input in order to ensure that as we implement this proposal, our residents understand and support what we believe to be a workable resolution to a difficult problem," said Reeve Ian Angus of Hope Township.

"The residents of our community have put in hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours working with the federal and local government to try to have this long standing problem resolved," said Diane Hamre, Mayor of Clarington. "As a community, we are committed to working with the Government of Canada to complete the process to the satisfaction of all."

Following negotiations with each of the local municipalities, Minister Goodale will take the initial results back to the federal Cabinet to review the proposed terms of the agreements prior to signature, and to obtain Cabinet approval for the next phase of the project, detailed technical and scientific studies and regulatory review. Consultation will be ongoing. The projects must also be reviewed under appropriate regulations, including those under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Atomic Energy Control Act.


Roughly 1 million cubic metres of low-level radioactive wastes are located in the three Ontario communities of Clarington, Hope Township and the Town of Port Hope.

They were produced by the former federal Crown Corporation Eldorado Nuclear Limited at its Port Hope refinery beginning in the 1930s.

They were disposed of initially at various sites in the Town of Port Hope, then in the Welcome waste disposal facility in Hope Township, and subsequently, the Port Granby facility in the Municipality of Clarington.

The Welcome and Port Granby waste management facilities are licensed by the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), and are owned and operated by Cameco Corporation.

While the wastes are being managed safely in their current locations, the present situation is not considered appropriate for the long term by the AECB, the Government of Canada or the communities themselves.

The Government of Canada initiated a siting exercise in 1988 to locate a disposal facility for these wastes. Despite efforts to identify a solution, ultimately none resulted. In 1997, the municipalities passed resolutions supporting a local solution. Specially appointed municipal committees with public representation met with federal officials and consultants, and then reported back to their respective councils on options for addressing the long-term management of the wastes within their own communities.

The preferred option is a locally developed solution to clean up and store the wastes in three long-term storage facilities, one in each of the municipalities. The facilities would be engineered to last for at least 500 years, with minimal maintenance costs.

The conceptual designs vary somewhat in each community. In Port Hope and Hope Township, the proposals involve complete encapsulation of the low-level radioactive wastes in engineered facilities that would fit into the existing contours of the sites. The facilities would be constructed with a liner beneath them to isolate the buried material from underlying soils and groundwater. They would be protected on the surface by seven-layer cover systems and landscaped. After the clean up, the sites would be monitored on an ongoing basis, but could be safely used for recreational purposes.

Clarington has opted for in situ management of the wastes, constructing a groundwater interceptor trench around the Port Granby waste facility, then capping the wastes with a multi-layer low-permeability cover. The Clarington proposal also involves stabilizing the facility to counteract erosion of the bluffs and shoreline at the location, which borders Lake Ontario. Like the other two facilities, the Clarington facility would undergo long-term monitoring and would be developed for recreational purposes.

The three community facilities are estimated to cost $230 million. This estimate includes costs associated with environmental assessment, regulatory review, site clean ups, remediation, waste transportation, facility construction, waste emplacement, facility closure and ongoing monitoring.

The full project cycle is expected to take up to 10 years. The initial step is to negotiate the legal agreements with the communities. Once these agreements are finalized, the Minister of Natural Resources will return to Cabinet to review the terms prior to signature. The preconstruction and regulatory phases can then commence, and are expected to take five years. The project will be subject to a full environmental assessment, with public input. After regulatory review, the clean-up implementation phase will last another five years. Implementation will be managed by Natural Resources Canada, through the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office.

    For more information, media may contact:

      Peter Brown, Director,
      Uranium and Radioactive Division
      Natural Resources Canada
      (613) 996-2395

      David McCauley, Advisor,
      Radioactive Waste
      Natural Resources Canada
      (613) 996-4697



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Dec 21/99 - Industry says take-over of Bruce nuclear plant could give jobs.

London Free Press

by Norman de Bono

A takeover of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station will see an infusion of cash and marketing expertise now missing from the utility - and will most likely mean the return of jobs, industry observers said yesterday.

In a joint venture, British Energy PLC and U.S.-based Peco Energy Co. will bid more than $1 billion for Canada's largest nuclear plant in the new year, media reports said yesterday.

If that happens, the first privatized nuclear plant in Canada will see a global energy player land on the shores of Lake Huron near Kincardine, said Murray Stewart, president and chief executive of the Canadian Nuclear Association.

"The larger impact in the nuclear industry is that they are a major player that can bring added resources. Most in the industry will see this as a good thing," Stewart said.

Due to ongoing management problems, debt and fiscal belt tightening at Ontario Hydro in the early and mid-1990s, the utility - now the Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) which runs nuclear plants - does not have the resources to grow the operations.

In fact, Hydro has laid off about 10,000 workers since the early 1990s and shut down units across Ontario.

With an investment in the plant, the four units shut down at the Bruce plant in 1997 - there are another four at the plant in Pickering - may fire up again.

That means there will be plenty of power to export to the U.S., growing the business, he added.

"They can get the benefits of those reactors sooner. They will produce more power than Ontario needs. British is willing to make the investment, but OPG cannot," Stewart said.

When those units are reopened the plant will have to "staff up," Stewart said.

"I'm sure you'll see some additional jobs. If all the units are running, we may have a good business exporting to the U.S."

Alan Peretz, energy sector analyst with Arthur Andersen in Vancouver, believes the more nuclear operations the Ontario government can offload, the better.

"Nuclear facilities in Ontario are prohibitively costly to operate. It will take a lot of cash to bring them up to standards required today. Having a third party do that is a good thing for the whole energy sector," Peretz said.

If a takeover occurs early in the new year, the joint venture - forming a company called AmerGen which opened a Toronto office in 1998 - will be buying into an industry still heavily regulated.

But by the end of 2000, the energy industry in Ontario will be deregulated and competition and the marketplace will set rates.

"If there is fear over them buying into an open market, it will not be a factor. It will be well-run, low-cost power," Stewart said.

Plants will still be under safety regulations of the Atomic Energy Board of Canada, to become the Canadian Nuclear Safety and Control Commission.

The rationalization of the nuclear industry is becoming "normal business" with 20 per cent of plants in Britain changing hands, Stewart said.

Brian Moore, director of nuclear energy for Natural Resources Canada, believes there will be little difference in how the utility operates after a takeover.

"The same safety measurements apply that are in place now. We can have the same level of confidence in the new ownership. They are experienced operators, there is no question about their ability," he said.

"I don't see this as a dramatic change. This speaks well that nuclear power can be a good investment."

Atomic Energy Control Board spokesperson Sunni Locatelli believes areas such as safety and rates charged to customers will remain much the same.

The new owners will have to be licensed to operate the plant and must undergo an extensive review process before that happens.

"More or less, it would be the same system. I cannot see major changes from our perspective," Locatelli said.

The Ontario government has a mandate to reduce its market share in nuclear energy from about 90 per cent to 35 per cent within 10 years.

"They have to divest themselves. It is now government policy," Stewart said.

The plant currently employs about 4,000 people.

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Dec 20/99 - British/U.S. bids to buy Bruce nuclear power plant are expected.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
page A1

A joint venture of British Energy and U.S.-based Peco Energy are poised to make a $1 billion US bid early in the new year for Canada's biggest nuclear power plant, the National Post reported today quoting sources.

A number of companies are also expected to offer to buy the Bruce nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Huron near Kincardine, Ont., from the Ontario Power Generation company, the paper said.

British Energy, which is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, set up an office in Toronto in 1998 and has been lobbying the Ontario government which has split up Ontario Hydro into a number of companies.

No officials from Peco or British Energy were available for comment.

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Dec 18/99 - Plutonium given green light to cross Michigan into Canada.

Windsor Star
Associated Press

Hours after a U.S. federal judge in Kalamazoo removed the last legal hurdle, the U.S. Department of Energy indicated Friday that it will ship a small quantity of plutonium to Canada through Michigan.

In a 26-page opinion, Chief Judge Richard Enslen rejected a request by environmentalists for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the transport.

The judge ruled that although the plaintiffs' contentions that the government violated the law appeared to have merit, the DOE's assertions that an injunction would hurt nuclear disarmament talks were more important.

"We are pleased by the judge's decision to allow S this important, non-proliferation initiative," a DOE spokeswoman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "We are currently working with our Canadian government counterparts to finalize the shipment details."

'Moral obligation'

Lawyers for the plaintiffs sent a letter to DOE requesting the agency voluntarily stop the shipment out of "moral obligation" to the American people. There was no immediate response to the letter, but the lawyers said the decision is not a complete loss.

"The judge indicated that he is going to rule that environmental projects that have potential effects on United States, even if they take place outside our boundaries, have to be considered as having environmental impacts here," said Terry Lodge, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Verna Lawrence, mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, the last Michigan community the shipment will pass through before entering Canada, was less sanguine.

"I'm mad as hell," said Lawrence, who said she will stop the shipment's passage through her community if she can figure out a way to do it. "It is too risky. The Great Lakes basin will be contaminated for years and years if there's an accident."

She said there are at least eight inches of snow on the ground now and she questions how the agency can guarantee there won't be an accident.

Chief Earl Commanda, chairman of the North Shore Tribal Council in Canada which demonstrated peacefully against the shipment last month, said his tribe and others in the shipment's likely route through Canada are not convinced they will be safe.

"I have no idea if we can stop it, but certainly the feeling of the communities here is that they will not allow it to come through if they can," Commanda said.

The transport is part of the Parallex Project, a joint American-Russian experiment to determine whether commercial nuclear reactors in Canada can use material from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons as fuel.

As part of the experiment, the United States is shipping a sample of radioactive material from New Mexico to Canada. The sample, which contains about 119 grams of plutonium, will be transported on an armoured truck.

The truck's itinerary is not being publicly released. But when it does occur, the transport is expected to pass through Interstates 94, 69, 75 and cross the Mackinac Bridge before continuing to Canada across another bridge at Sault Ste. Marie.

The Energy Department says the test is a key component in its nuclear disarmament efforts with Russia. It is picking up the $20-million US tab for the entire experiment.

But the six individuals and environmental group that sued the government had argued the law required the agency to conduct an environmental impact statement, instead of the less-exhaustive assessment the DOE did.

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Dec 20/99 - Michigan legislator seeks to ban plute shipment from bridges.

Broadcast News

LANSING, Michigan - A Michigan legislator wants to ban plutonium shipments through the state into Canada.

Andy Neumann plans to introduce a bill that would outlaw the shipment of nuclear material across Great Lakes bridges.

But it's unlikely the bill can be dealt with in time to stop a shipment that got the green light last week from a Michigan judge.

Neumann hopes he can prevent further shipments.

The U-S Energy Department is shipping the weapons plutonium through Michigan for burning at the nuclear plant in Chalk River, Ontario - west of Ottawa.

That plan has generated intense opposition from environmentalists and residents on both sides of the border.

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Dec 21/99 - Right to secrecy denied in sale of nuclear reactors to China.

Ottawa Citizen
page C15

by Andrew Duffy

A Federal Court judge has refused a request from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to keep secret a series of Chinese government documents related to that country's purchase of Candu nuclear reactors.

Judge Denis Pelletier rejected the request for secrecy after weighing the public interest in disclosure against the harm done to the nuclear agency's commercial interests.

"I am not satisfied that the need for confidentiality exceeds the public interest in open justice," Judge Pelletier concluded in a recent ruling that could expand public-interest rights.

"The issue of Canada's role as a vendor of nuclear technology is one of significant public interest with animated positions being taken on both sides of the question. The burden of justifying a confidentiality order in such circumstances is very onerous."

Earlier this year, Judge Pelletier rejected AECL's request to keep its application for a confidentiality order secret.

AECL has appealed the latest decision, arguing that it cannot provide the court with a full picture of the sale of two Candu reactors to China in 1996 without reference to the documents. The documents belong to the Chinese government, which has approved their use by the court only if they remain confidential.

AECL wants to use the material as part of a potentially explosive court case launched two years ago by the Sierra Club of Canada.

The environmental group has challenged the federal government's decision not to conduct a full-scale environmental assessment of the Candu sale to China.

Sierra Club lawyers contend the Liberal cabinet improperly changed federal regulations to absolve the government of any obligation to conduct environmental reviews on overseas projects less than a month before the Chinese nuclear sale was finalized.

The Sierra Club wants the Federal Court to set aside Canada's $1.5-billion loan to China, which is part of the sales agreement, and force a wholesale review of the power plant now under construction.

The federal ministers of finance, international trade, foreign affairs and the attorney general have been named respondents in the case, launched in January 1997.

AECL, the Crown corporation responsible for selling Candu nuclear reactors, gained status as an intervenor in the case in May 1998. Sierra Club lawyer Timothy Howard said yesterday that since joining the case, AECL has tried to bog it down in motions and document filings.

The case remains in the pretrial stage and will likely not go to trial until the late summer or fall of 2000.

It means, Mr. Howard said, that even if the Sierra Club wins, it may be too late to suspend loan payments or to halt construction of the project. "As every month passes, the risk of that increases."

Since joining the case, AECL lawyers have challenged the Sierra Club's legal standing and brought motions to strike out affidavits and introduce voluminous Chinese-language records.

Larry Shewchuk, a spokesman for AECL, said yesterday that the delays are part of the legal process in a complicated case. "We're not dragging out the matter, but at the same time, there's a lot of legal mileage that has to be done here."

At AECL's appeal of Judge Pelletier's ruling, the Sierra Club will argue that the Chinese documents should be rejected as irrelevant to the case.

In his initial ruling, Judge Pelletier said the documents could be relevant if AECL decides to argue that the Chinese regulators performed the "functional equivalent" of an environmental assessment, satisfying the spirit of the Canadian legislation.

Lawyers for the Sierra Club contend the $1.5-billion loan to China, guaranteed by Canadian taxpayers, should have triggered a review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which requires a screening of projects financed by the federal government or promoted by federal departments.

Crown corporations, like AECL, are exempt from provisions of that law.

Federal lawyers are arguing the government did nothing wrong because AECL and another Crown corporation, the Export Development Corporation, arranged the $4-billion Candu sale and the loan.

They contend the government's limited role is the reason it did not have to do a full environmental review.

The Sierra Club will try to show that a handful of cabinet ministers -- including Prime Minister Jean Chretien -- were actively involved in the deal. Sierra Club lawyers intend to argue that their involvement should have brought the environmental law to bear.

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Dec 21/99- Export Development Corp. ~ who's keeping tabs on its projects?

Times Colonist
page A13

by Aaron Freeman

Victoria -- A massive hydro-electric project in Colombia virtually destroys the local food source of an indigenous community, and causes an outbreak of diseases including malaria. According to Amnesty International, local paramilitary forces have killed six people who protested against the project, and several others have been abducted.

Another hydro project, the Three Gorges Dam in China, leads to the forced relocation of nearly two million people.

A burst tailings dam at a Guyanese mine owned by a Canadian company releases 3.2 billion litres of cyanide and heavy metal-laced effluent into the country's main waterway. The spill forms a crimson plume that decimates Guyana's fishing and tourism industries. Enraged Guyanese publicly tell the company to "Take your poison back home to Canada."

Mercury pollution from a Canadian-owned mine in the Philippines causes service health problems in nearby communities. According to a 1996 United Nations investigation, the company failed to exercise good environmental management at the mine.

CANDU nuclear reactor sales to China, South Korea, Romania, Argentina, and Turkey. Food irradiation sales to Algeria.

What's the common thread linking these embarrassing and harmful projects? All received financing by a Canadian taxpayer-supported agency known as the Export Development Corporation (EDC).

EDC provides financing to Canadian companies operating abroad. This financing has an enormous impact. While government has been cutting back development assistance for the past decade, EDC-supported trade has multiplied. In 1998, EDC worked with 4,183 customers in 200 countries, helping Canadian companies generate nearly $35 billion in sales and foreign investments.

As a Crown corporation, EDC pays no taxes, enjoys limited liability, and its credit is backed by the Canadian government. Its capital base is derived from taxpayer dollars. Yet it operates largely in secret. Unlike other government agencies, it is not subject to the Access to Information Act, and it generally keeps the projects it funds a secret.

Because of this lack of transparency, EDC has little incentive to loan responsibly. In fact, many of the bad loans it made to the world's poorest countries will be reimbursed by taxpayers, following a government announcement last spring.

EDC has no binding standards requiring its projects to adhere to well-accepted social, environmental, labour or human rights standards. Its voluntary "Environmental Review Framework" emphasizes environmental risk rather than the impact of EDC financing on the environment, and largely ignores stronger policies and practices of international agencies such as the World Bank, as well as U.S. export financing agencies.

For instance, the Framework does not mention impacts on indigenous people, and fails to address the issue of forced resettlement, a frequent problem with large-scale mega-projects.

Worse still, when other export financing agencies meet to discuss adopting World Bank policies as the international standard, Canada has reportedly been trying to head off these calls by promoting its own far weaker standards.

Parliament is now considering amendments to EDC's governing statute. As they do, MPs should implement the following measures to make EDC more accountable, and more consistent with Canadian policies and values:

EDC should be brought within the purview of the Access to Information Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Auditor General of Canada Act. It should also be required to publish a list of the projects it finances, and other key information about these projects.

EDC financing should be contingent on a human rights assessment of each project and the context in which it operates. For example, financing should be decided if a project violates one of the four widely recognized "core" labour rights (freedom of association, and a prohibition on child labour, forced labour and discrimination in the workplace), or if a project would bolster the repressive capacity of human rights-abusing country.

EDC should ensure that environmental and human rights groups, as well as those from the communities in which its projects operate, have a meaningful say in the policies and decisions of the corporation.

EDC should be mandated to promote sustainable development in all its operations. It should require an environmental assessment before approving any project, and should use the social and environmental standards of the World Bank, which are less vague, more transparent and more consistent with internationally accepted views on human rights and sustainable development. Many EDC clients already employ these standards as part of their terms with other financing agencies, including U.S. export financing bodies.

New EDC loans should not be made with the expectation that the Canadian government will reimburse EDC if these loans become uncollectable.

As a publicly supported agency, EDC should be accountable to those affected most by its decisions. These changes would help ensure that the social and environmental disasters of EDC's past will not be repeated in the future.

Aaron Freeman is a board member of Democracy Watch,
which is a member organization of the EDC Working Group.

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Dec 14/99 - Nuclear waste discharged into a stream feeding the Thames.

The Independent

by Charles Arthur
Technology Editor

Britain's nuclear weapons facility was fined 17,500 yesterday after admitting that for almost two years until February this year it illegally discharged radioactive waste into a stream feeding the Thames.

The discharge of water contained tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. It might have remained secret had an employee at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston in Berkshire not tipped off the Environment Agency, West Berkshire magistrates were told.

The successful prosecution was the first by the agency under the 1993 Radioactive Substances Act. The AWE was also ordered to pay 4,200 costs.

Garrett Burne, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said Hunting BRAE -- the company that has operated AWE since 1993 -- began discharging groundwater contaminated with tritium into the stream without the regulator's knowledge. "It started as a minor thing but soon became a major source of discharge of tritium liquid waste -- and the company knew it was unlawful," said Mr Burne. The discharges began in April 1997, he said.

Eventually the illegal discharges accounted for 70 per cent of all waste tritium emitted from the Aldermaston site.

Tritium is a byproduct of the production of nuclear weapons, and from the operation of some nuclear reactors. Its radiation is too weak to pose any hazard unless "tritiated" water is inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Mr Burne said natural levels of tritium were between five and 20 becquerels per litre of water, but the company had been pumping in about 100 becquerels of tritium per litre, a figure which he said "the company seems to have set itself", but which has "no scientific basis as far as the Environmental Agency is concerned." However, two-thirds of the time the discharges exceeded the 100 becquerels figure.

John Croft, AWEs director of environment, health and safety, last night insisted that the discharges had posed no threat to health. "Under European guidelines you could sell bottled water with 100 becquerels per litre of tritium," he said. The problem arose because AWE had tried to store groundwater emerging from contaminated ground to prevent flooding, he said.

"It was a technical breach," he said. "The fines are quite low. But it is the damage to the company's reputation that is more important."

Hunting BRAE, which took over the running of AWE Aldermaston in 1993, admitted one charge of illegally discharging ground water laced with tritium into the Aldermaston Stream between April 1997 and January 1999. It also admitted a further charge of failing to report the discharge, and a third of making false or misleading statements about the rates of tritium discharge.

The magistrates heard that the company was fined 8,000 in August this year, after two of its workers were contaminated with plutonium.

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Nov 27/99 - BNFL says Kansai rejects nuclear fuel; more data problems found.


London (Bloomberg) -- British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., the U.K.'s state-owned nuclear fuel-servicing company, said Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. has rejected a shipment of its nuclear fuel after falsified safety data was detected.

The company said in September it had found "some falsification" of safety data on mixed uranium and plutonium oxide (MOX) pellets used in the nuclear fuel rods it makes. More problems were found yesterday, it said.

"Another lot of fuel, other than those previously identified, contained irregularities in the quality assurance data," BNFL said, adding that it immediately notified regulators and supports Kansai's rejection of the fuel. "BNFL wishes to apologize to both Kansai and the Japanese regulators for all the inconvenience caused by this unfortunate incident."

BNFL, in which Britain plans to sell as much as a 49 percent stake in an initial public offering that could be worth 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion), issued the statement in response to reports in the Japanese media. The British Nuclear Installations Inspectorate warned the Japanese Embassy in London this week that certification of the size of nuclear fuel pellets produced by BNFL for Kansai's Takahama No. 4 power plant in Japan's Fukui prefecture were falsified, the reports said.

"We will work with our customer to plan a way forward for the eight fuel assemblies which were delivered in October," BNFL said today. The company had earlier said that only data for pellets produced for the plant's No. 3 unit were falsified.

The company said in September that the falsification of "secondary recheck data" was detected at its Sellafield facility in Cumbria, northern England. It said at the time that no safety problems were expected from the falsification.

Worst Accident

On Sept. 30, Japan experienced the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster when workers at a uranium processing facility northeast of Tokyo started a chain reaction that exposed at least 69 people to radiation.

Britain is keeping a majority stake in BNFL as part of the government's attempt to sell state assets while dampening criticism that it should retain services considered vital to national security. It's also selling 51 percent of National Air Traffic Services and intends to sell a part of London's underground rail system.

Analysts expect the stake sale to take place in 2001.

In March, the company and Morrison Knudsen Corp. of the U.S. purchased CBS Corp.'s nuclear power operations for about $1.1 billion. The operations were formerly operated by Westinghouse Electric Corp. BNFL also has contracts to "clean" nuclear waste in Europe.

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Dec 15/99 - Port Hope citizens ask Ottawa to protect them from radioactivity.

Media Advisory


Port Hope Environmental Advisory Committee
P.O. Box 476, Port Hope, Ontario, L1A 3Z3,
Tel: 905-885-0873 Fax: 905-885-0477

Port Hope Community Health Concerns
Tel: 416-325-9782/ 905-885-5396

The Port Hope Community has experienced extensive documented nuclear contamination for 68 years from the operation of a radium/uranium refinery in its midst. Citizen groups have repeatedly asked for independent environmental and health studies. They now ask the federal government to withhold the licence for the facility (Cameco) until this work is done.

The Environmental Advisory Committee and the Port Hope Community Health Concerns committee are hopeful that at long last the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) will fulfill its mandate to protect the well being of the people of Port Hope.

Press Conference

Citizens issue challenge to federal government
to fulfill its mandate to protect people of Port Hope

Wednesday, December 15, 1999
1:00 to 1:30 p.m.

Charles Lynch
Press Conference Room 130S
Centre Block, House of Commons, Ottawa


      Faye More, Chair,
        Port Hope Health Concerns committee

      Chris Conti, Chair,
        Port Hope Environmental Advisory Committee

      Pat Lawson, Vice Chair,
        Port Hope Environmental Advisory Committee

      Dr. Rosalie Bertell MD,
        International Institute of Concern for Public Health

      Dr. Trevor Hancock, MD,
        Health Promotion Consultant & Professor, York University

      Norman Rubin, Director, Nuclear Research,
        Energy Probe

      Tom Adams, Executive Director,
        Energy Probe

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    Dec 16/99 - NATO to review nuclear policy -- Canada wants to reduce reliance.

    Globe and Mail

    by Jeff Sallott
    Parliamentary Bureau

    Ottawa -- At Canada's urging, NATO has agreed to review the alliance's policy on nuclear weapons with an eye to reducing their importance in defence strategy.

    Canada's long-term objective is to "get rid of nuclear weapons" and this review will be an important step in that direction, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said yesterday after his counterparts in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed to the Canadian initiative.

    NATO's Cold War-era policy -- still in place 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall -- says nuclear weapons are important to deter attacks on member countries. The policy leaves open the possibility that the alliance would be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

    The fact that the Allies agreed to the review at all sends a positive message at an important moment when most of the recent news on the arms control front has been dismal, Mr. Axworthy said in a conference call from Brussels.

    Agreement to launch the review may indicate a shift in thinking on the part of NATO's nuclear powers, the United States, Britain and France.

    The three nuclear powers strongly resisted efforts last year by Canada and Germany to get the issue on the NATO agenda.

    But more recently the nuclear trio has found itself in a minority within the 19-nation alliance. Most of the other NATO countries abstained rather than vote with the nuclear powers in an effort to defeat several non-binding nuclear arms control resolutions this fall at the United Nations.

    The nuclear policy review is to be completed by the end of next year. Mr. Axworthy said it is still too early for Canada to stake out its own position on what role, if any, nuclear weapons should continue to play in NATO strategy.

    Government sources have hinted that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is not as enthusiastic as Mr. Axworthy about pushing the envelope on nuclear disarmament.

    Mr. Axworthy acknowledged that yesterday's agreement is "not a grand declaration" on disarmament.

    Nevertheless, it is an important signal that the alliance is willing to move forward on the issue.

    The timing is significant, he said, because the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is up for renewal next year, and its future has been called into doubt because of a number of disturbing events, including the refusal of the U.S. Senate this fall to ratify a nuclear-test-ban agreement.

    The most pressing question at the moment is not how quickly the nuclear powers can rid themselves of their weapons, but how the world can halt the spread of nuclear weapons, he said.

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    Dec 15/99 - US plute shipments' safety and consequences are debated in court.

    Whitehorse Star
    page 15

    by Lisa Singhania
    Associated Press

    A proposal to transport 113 grams   [ sic: it should read 119 grams ]   of plutonium to Chalk River, Ont., through Michigan, has more serious consequences than the U.S. Department of Energy admits, opponents argued Tuesday at a federal court hearing.

    Environmental activists suing the government contend the shipment, which was temporarily blocked last week by a federal court, cannot legally proceed without a more exhaustive environmental study. The Department of Energy says enough study has been done, and warned the court that delaying the one-time shipment could jeopardize nuclear disarmament efforts.

    Chief Judge Richard Enslen is expected to rule on the plaintiffs' request by Friday, the same day his temporary restraining order against the shipment expires. The preliminary injunction hearing is expected to finish today.

    At issue is the Parallex Project, a test of Canadian reactors' ability to process U.S. and Russian mixed oxide fuel, a radioactive hybrid of plutonium and uranium.

    The DOE says the U.S. mixed oxide fuel will be transported from New Mexico to Canada in a heavily guarded, armoured truck and no other shipments are planned, so there is no need for more risk assessment. The Russian mixed oxide fuel will likely take a route that includes the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which runs between the United States and Canada.

    The agency contends the project is a one-time experiment that will help convince the Russians that the United States is committed to disposing of its surplus plutonium. Building the trust is key because of plutonium's role in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dodge also said the government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize projects including Parallex that explore possible ways to dispose of plutonium.

    But the six individuals and group suing the U.S. agency contend the Parallex shipment will open the gates for the transport of more Russian plutonium to Canadian reactors, which could pose an environmental and health risk to Americans.

    They said the government violated federal regulations by preparing a 100-page environmental assessment, rather than a much more extensive environmental impact statement, which would consider the Parallex Project in a much broader context and span several volumes. Many of the Canadian reactors that could potentially process Russian plutonium are near the U.S. border.

    In court Tuesday, Edwin Lyman, director of the Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based nuclear watchdog group, testified that the federal government has an obligation to evaluate Parallex in the context of any future testing for which it might establish the groundwork.

    "Whatever the U.S. does will have implications in the Russian program," said Lyman, one of two witnesses called Tuesday by the plaintiffs. "I think the DOE has evaded its responsibility here."

    The other witness, Grand Valley State University professor David Ballard, testified that he believes the DOE does not adequately consider the risk of terrorism or human-initiated accidents in its analysis - a point government lawyers disputed, saying the witness lacked the expertise to draw that conclusion.

    Today, the plaintiffs are expected to call a Canadian expert [Gordon Edwards] to the stand before the government gets a chance to put on its case.

    Several Michigan groups have protested the decision to ship the plutonium through Michigan. The plutonium likely would be transported on Interstates 94, 69 and 75, and across the Mackinac Bridge before continuing to Canada across another bridge at Sault Ste. Marie.

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    Dec 16/99 - KEPCO won't use British plutonium-based fuel with suspicious data.

    Kyodo News Service

    FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) will not use recently imported mixed oxide (MOX) fuel produced by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) for its new power program due to BNFL's unreliable safety checks, KEPCO officials said Thursday.

    The cancellation will lead KEPCO to postpone its "pluthermal" program, for which it had imported BNFL's plutonium-uranium MOX fuel for the No. 4 reactor at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

    Japan's first pluthermal program involves burning pellets of MOX fuel inside light-water reactors to generate heat for producing electricity.

    KEPCO's announcement came just after BNFL told the Osaka-based power company Thursday that it had discovered suspicious data during inspection of a 3,000-pellet unit in a fuel batch intended for the No. 4 reactor.

    KEPCO officials said they have informed the prefectural government of the cancellation of the use of the imported MOX fuel.

    In September it was revealed that BNFL had falsified data on MOX fuel to be used in the No. 3 reactor at Takahama, but KEPCO said at that time it found no problem with data on fuel for the No. 4 reactor.

    KEPCO made a report in November confirming the safety of the MOX fuel for the No. 4 reactor.

    Yoshihide Yamasaki, KEPCO's managing director, said, "We are not contemplating the possibility of withdrawing from the pluthermal program," while admitting KEPCO's checks of BNFL data were not careful enough.

    International Trade and Industry Minister Takashi Fukaya issued a statement saying, "The problem related to the MOX fuel is deplorable.... We have to say we are losing trust in BNFL."

    The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy advised KEPCO not to import BNFL fuel until countermeasures have been compiled.

    The Guardian newspaper in Britain reported Dec. 9 suspicions that BNFL falsified data on safety checks for MOX fuel intended for the No. 4 reactor at Takahama on the Sea of Japan coast.

    The British governmental Nuclear Installations Inspectorate later said it discovered suspicious data on two other 3,000-pellet units separate from the one which BNFL warned KEPCO about.

    Local protesters, who want a plebiscite to be held on the pluthermal program, said they have collected signatures from as many as 20 percent of voters in the town.

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    Dec 16/99 - Japan abandons use of suspect plutonium-based fuel from Britain.

    Agence France Presse

    TOKYO (AFP) -- A major Japanese nuclear power company said Thursday it had abandoned plans to use a shipment of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel from Britain because of suspicions over its quality.

    British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), which supplied the MOX to Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc., had admitted that some test data on the size of fuel pellets was altered, a spokesman for the Japanese company said.

    "We received MOX fuel from BNFL to start the operation, but we decided not to use it since BNFL told us it found alteration of data on the fuel," said the Kansai Electric Power spokesman.

    "Also the fact that NII (Britain's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate) suspected the firm had falsified data prompted our decision," he added.

    Kansai Electric Power had been forced to abandon plans to use the MOX fuel by the end of the year in a pressurised water reactor. Japan plans to have 16-18 reactors using MOX fuel by 2010.

    "We haven't decided anything yet about what we will do, including how we are going to get the MOX fuel, but we are not giving up the operation altogether," said the Kansai Electric Power spokesman.

    The British firm shipped MOX rods to Kansai Electric Power's port in Takahama on the Sea of Japan on October 1 -- the day after a major nuclear accident.

    The 225 kilograms (495 pounds) of MOX fuel was delivered to Takahama by the 5,271-tonne British-flagged Pacific Pintail.

    Britain's Independent newspaper reported in September on allegations that BNFL employees saved time by by-passing quality control checks on MOX at a plant at Sellafield in Cumbria.

    And a statement by Greenpeace and Green Action in October had said quality control was insufficient on the fuel brought to Japan, citing a report they had commissioned into data released by BNFL to Kansai Electric Power.

    Nuclear safety fears have been raised in Japan since a major accident on September 30 at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

    Workers illegally used steel buckets to pour 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of uranium into a precipitation tank, triggering 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.

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    Dec 15/99 - Japanese officials question safety of MOX pellets from Britain.


    by Steve Connor

    Japanese Government officials flew to Britain this week seeking fresh assurances about the safety of nuclear fuel pellets sent to Japan from the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria.

    Senior representatives of Tokyo's Ministry of Technology and Industry (MITI) finished a two-day meeting yesterday with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the government safety watchdog, to discuss the possible falsification of data relating to mixed plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel pellets made by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL).

    Another delegation from Kansai Electric, the Japanese company receiving the shipment, has met BNFL to discuss an "unusual" consignment of pellets sent to Japan that Greenpeace suspects has been subject to data falsification.

    BNFL has already sacked three Sellafield employees for allegedly falsifying data relating to quality-assurance checks on 22 lots of MOX fuel pellets, after a report in The Independent. But the company said none of this fuel had left its Sellafield plant and insisted that all MOX pellets already shipped to Japan were free of falsification.

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