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Jan 17/00 - Groups may seek injunction to halt second plutonium shipment.

National Post
page A4

by Richard Foot

Nuclear opponents, outflanked on Friday when the federal government airlifted plutonium into a research facility near Ottawa, are threatening to go to court to prevent further imports of material from U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads.

They say the helicopter airlift would be prohibited under U.S. regulations, and may have contravened Canadian ones.

"You will now find groups coming forward looking for an injunction for testing to be stopped," said Tony Martin, an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature.

Members of the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout and Northwatch, a Northern Ontario environmental group, say a court injunction may be the best way of preventing the government from testing weapons-grade plutonium in research reactors at Chalk River, west of Ottawa.

Canada has agreed to test samples of MOX nuclear fuel -- containing plutonium from decommissioned Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads -- to find out if Candu reactors can burn the surplus plutonium to make electricity.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), the Crown corporation that makes and markets Candus, had planned to move the U.S. fuel sample through Ontario by road. That decision sparked widespread opposition from anti-nuclear groups and residents across Ontario last year.

Protesters had promised to disrupt any trucks taking plutonium through their communities, so on Friday morning, AECL secretly flew the U.S. sample by helicopter from the border city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Chalk River.

The shipment had first been driven to the border from U.S. labs in New Mexico. Federal regulations there prohibit the transport of MOX plutonium fuel by air.

AECL acknowledged last year that "evaluations done for the U.S. Department of Energy eliminated both air transport and rail options for consideration. Accordingly, highway transport was the only mode considered in the current Canadian evaluation."

Critics now say the Canadian government may have broken its own laws by moving plutonium by helicopter on Friday.

"We were told through public meetings that it was against Transport Canada regulations, under the Transport of Dangerous Goods Act, to do this," said Kathleen Brosemer, a member of Northwatch in Sault Ste. Marie.

For four months last year AECL and Transport Canada briefed Ontario communities about their plans to carry the plutonium by road. John Read, director of Transport Canada's dangerous goods section, said plans changed in November, when AECL approached his office about flying the plutonium by helicopter.

To permit that, AECL agreed to escort its cargo with a second helicopter, carrying emergency crews to combat radiation should an accident occur en route.

The Atomic Energy Control Board, the federal nuclear regulator, also sent Transport Canada a letter approving the plutonium packaging as "capable of withstanding most of the severe accident conditions in [air] transport." These revisions were ready by Jan. 7 and approved by Transport Canada. Mr. Read says they meet all the terms of federal regulations governing the movement of plutonium.

"There were no laws that I know of that were broken for transport by air."

A second sample of plutonium, this time from Russia, is expected to arrive by ship via the St. Lawrence seaway in the spring. It is not clear how AECL plans to move it from the St. Lawrence to Chalk River.

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Jan 15/00 - Russian defence doctrine makes it easier to use its nuclear arsenal.

Hamilton Spectator
page D04

by Rupert Cornwell

Russia took a further step away from the West yesterday by publishing a new military doctrine significantly lowering its threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

Under elaboration long before Vladimir Putin took over as acting president on New Year's Eve, the 21-page document nonetheless will reinforce the belief that Putin, assuming he is elected in his own right in March, will make the rebuilding of Russia's military prestige a major objective. Russia, the doctrine asserts, remains an important country on the global stage, but had to cope with the efforts of "a number of states" to weaken and marginalize it. This meant that the "level and scale of the military threat" to the country was growing, forcing it to re-evaluate the role of its huge nuclear arsenal.

Under the previous defence doctrine issued in 1997, Moscow would resort to nuclear weapons only if its very national existence was threatened. Now however, they might be used "to repel armed aggression" once "all other means of resolving the crisis had been exhausted or proved ineffective." Taken at face value, this implies a renunciation of the pledge, dating from Soviet times, of no first use of nuclear weapons, meaning that Russia would never use such weapons against a non-nuclear power. Most analysts however see the new doctrine as reflecting weakness rather than a rediscovered taste for aggression.

So run-down are the country's conventional forces that for the second time in six years they face being sucked into an unwinnable war in tiny Chechnya. Instead, what money has been allocated to defence has mainly gone into its strategic nuclear forces -- not least the new generation of 6,000-mile range Topol-M, or SS-27 missiles, ostentatiously tested in the Russian arctic late last year.

Just like the warning by former President Boris Yeltsin in November that the West should not forget that, for all its problems, Russia was still a massive nuclear power, the 'concept' issued yesterday does no more than acknowledge this reality. Even so, the document will only add to doubts that Russia, still smarting from the eastward expansion of NATO and from how its views were brushed aside during the Kosovo crisis, can be quickly inserted into a new world security order.

Plans to build on a "Partnership for Peace" with NATO are on ice. And while Mr Putin favours speedy ratification by the Duma of the Start-2 nuclear weapons cuts treaty with the U.S., this might yet be blocked by hostility in Moscow to America's mooted national missile defence system -- the mini 'Star Wars' program on which President Clinton will decide next summer and which Russia says would breach the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty between the two countries.

Such a step would further convince Russia that the U.S. will ride roughshod over any existing agreement to boost its own power.

As Yeltsin insisted in his time, Russia favours a multipolar world. But today's other trend was towards a unipolar system in which America reigned supreme.

After widespread criticism of its restrictions on the movement of all Chechen males between the ages of 10 and 60 Russia yesterday said it had dropped its ban on them leaving Chechnya, but is still closely questioning those within the war-torn country.

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Jan 18/00 - Police chief defends failure to inform of plutonium shipment.

Sault Star

CP Wire Story

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. (CP) - The city's police chief is defending his failure to inform city officials until hours after the fact that his officers helped escort a shipment of weapons-grade plutonium through the city.

Police Chief Robert Davies said he was following the Police Services Act last Friday in keeping "matters that could represent problems confidential."

The controversial shipment came in through the U.S. around 4 a.m. and was escorted by city and provincial police from the International Bridge to the city's airport.

From there it was flown to its final destination at the Atomic Energy of Canada test reactor in Chalk River, northwest of Ottawa.

"We were concerned about protesters - anything from sabotaging the bridge to who knows what - so it didn't make sense from an operational point of view to disclose the arrival of the shipment," Davies said.

The secret move scrapped an earlier plan - which had been made public during consultations in the Sault and communities along the proposed route - to truck the five-kilogram test fuel shipment east along the Trans-Canada Highway.

The shipment of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, contained about 120 grams of plutonium from dismantled U.S. nuclear weapons.

Davies, who wouldn't reveal how long in advance he knew the shipment would arrive, said avoiding protesters ensured its safe passage.

"By making that information public, it would represent all sorts of operational problems for our police service. . .

"We were advised that the plan to transport the MOX fuel in Ontario or in Canada was confidential."

Davies said the Police Services Act requires confidentiality be exercised when security problems might arise from public disclosure.

"So my obligation comes first comes under the Police Services Act, and I notified the mayor after the incident was over."

Sault Mayor Steve Butland, who wasn't informed until later Friday morning, said he is "satisfied" Davies had interpreted the Police Services Act correctly.

"But I still feel, and pretty strongly so, that the mayor of the community should be informed by someone that this is transpiring within the boundaries of the community," said Butland.

"The municipality has the right to know and if it's not the police chief's obligation, is it not the federal government's?"

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Jan 19/00 - Secret shipment angers Sault mayor; Feels 'duped,' calls for probe.

Toronto Star
page NE04

by Karl Sepkowski

SAULT STE. MARIE - The mayor of Sault Ste. Marie says he feels "duped" and wants "a post-mortem" to discuss the secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium through the city.

The controversial shipment crossed the border from the United States last Friday at 4 a.m. and was escorted by Sault Ste. Marie police and OPP officers from the International Bridge to the city's airport.

From there, it was flown by helicopter to the Atomic Energy of Canada test reactor in Chalk River, northwest of Ottawa.

Sault Mayor Steve Butland said he felt "duped" to find out about the shipment shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, long after it had left the airport, and wanted to set up a public meeting to discuss who ordered the covert shipment to take place.

"If anything had happened, I as mayor would have been held accountable," he told reporters.

"I should have been told."

Police Chief Robert Davies has defended his decision not to tell the mayor.

Davies said he was following provisions of the Police Act which require such matters to be kept confidential and that he was " concerned about protesters sabotaging the bridge."

In a weekend radio interview, the chief said he knew the shipment would be coming through the Sault, "sometime in the new year, possibly January," but would not disclose who told him or when he got the call to have city police join the OPP to escort the plutonium-bearing truck from the bridge to the airport.

"We received enough advance notice to allow us to participate," Davies said.

The police chief and mayor held a private half-hour meeting yesterday to discuss the transportation of the plutonium through the city.

The mayor would not divulge details of the meeting, and the chief was not available to comment.

"I accept his explanation about the secrecy, but I don't agree with it," Butland said. "We've agreed to disagree."

The mayor, a former NDP member of Parliament, thinks the federal government has a lot of explaining to do.

"They have generated a lot of mistrust in their handling of this whole affair," he said. "Government credibility has suffered."

He was even more outspoken in his criticism of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. "They lied to us. They withheld information," he said. "They told us flying the material to Chalk River was not an alternative."

The mayor of Sault Ste Marie, Mich., Verna Lawrence, said she was also not aware the shipment had passed through her community until told by reporters.

Neil Godby, a spokesman for the International Bridge Authority which operates the 3-km bridge, said it was not given advance warning of the shipment.

Godby said traffic on the bridge was stopped until the truck and its police escort arrived on the Canadian side.

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Jan 19/00 - Plutonium test burn put on hold until Russian plutonium arrives.

Edmonton Sun
page 27

by Stephanie Rubec

The federal government has put a test burn of plutonium fuel on ice until Canada's St. Lawrence waterway thaws.

Larry Shewchuck, spokesman for Atomic Energy Canada, said the Chalk River nuclear power plant won't test burn the 132- gram U.S sample of weapons-grade plutonium until the St. Lawrence River thaws and lets a Russian sample sail into Cornwall, Ont.

"We have to test the Russian and the U.S. fuel side by side," Shewchuck said.

The U.S. fuel arrived at Canada's border last Friday and was secretly flown by helicopter to Chalk River.

Transport Canada gave a last minute approval to the flight, nixing the plan to have it trucked from Sault Ste. Marie.

Shewchuck refused to rule out another request for air transportation of the Russian shipment, but said at the moment the plan is to truck it in.

"The only plan Transport Canada has approved is for ship and truck," he said.

Shewchuck said the plutonium could dock in Cornwall as early as the spring, but kept the exact date of the shipment under wraps to avoid a security breach and environmental protests.

Environmental groups are demanding Canada nix the test burn.

NDP MP Peter Mancini said the government is jeopardizing Canadians' safety by opening its doors to radioactive plutonium.

"The government has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the concerns and safety of Canadians," Mancini said.

Atomic Energy Canada is hoping the test burn will prove that its CANDU reactors can turn the stockpile of plutonium from dismantled U. S. and Russian nuclear warheads into fuel.

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Jan 15/00 - Plutonium secretly flown to Chalk River to avoid threatened blockades.

National Post
page A1

by Richard Foot

For four years, Atomic Energy of Canada laid careful plans to truck a small supply of plutonium from U.S. nuclear warheads into Canada for testing. For the last four months it tried to pacify a growing crowd of critics who worried about the risks and promised to disrupt the overland transfer.

Then yesterday, with hardly a whisper, the nuclear agency went over the heads of its opponents -- literally -- by loading the plutonium on a helicopter and flying it from the border at Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to nuclear research reactors at Chalk River, west of Ottawa.

"There were no surprises and no incidents," said Larry Shewchuk, spokesman for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. [AECL].

"It was a direct flight -- there were no stops at Tim Horton's anywhere."

He added: "People were saying if this shipment is so safe, why not just ship it by air. So, that's what we did."

AECL, the federal Crown corporation that builds and sells CANDU nuclear reactors, wants to know whether it can help the U.S. and Russian governments dispose of plutonium from nuclear weapons dismantled since the end of the Cold War. With the blessing of Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, AECL hopes to test the plutonium to find out if CANDU reactors can burn it as fuel.

The U.S. material is the first of two such samples going to Chalk River for testing. A second supply, from destroyed Russian missiles, is expected to arrive on a ship via the St. Lawrence Seaway some time in the spring.

As publicity grew last year about AECL's plans to move weapons-grade plutonium across Ontario, so did public anxiety.

Some warned that a highway accident might leave local communities under a cloud of deadly radiation; others asked whether armed U.S. guards -- who would accompany the American shipment overland from New Mexico to the Canadian border with orders to use lethal force if necessary to protect their cargo -- might also ride through Ontario brandishing their rifles and threatening protesters.

Dooley Thompson, an Ontario Mohawk chief, warned he would lie down in front of any trucks taking nuclear material through aboriginal lands.

AECL wanted to move the U.S. shipment across Ontario by road from Sault Ste. Marie, past Sudbury and North Bay, and on to Chalk River. But those plans were secretly scrapped before Christmas after controversy mushroomed following public meetings around the province, Mr. Shewchuk said.

The decision to fly the material into Chalk River came from the federal government. Both a December dress rehearsal for the helicopter transfer and yesterday's flight took place under a shroud of secrecy. Only certain officials at AECL, Transport Canada, the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada and a handful of police and firefighting teams knew about the operation.

The plutonium cargo comes mixed with uranium, carried in pellet form inside a cylindrical fuel bundle that would fit inside a large suitcase. The bundle was driven by tractor-trailer from U.S. nuclear laboratories in Los Alamos, N.M., to the Canadian border. There the fuel was transferred to a helicopter in Sault Ste. Marie.

The city's mayor and councillors, who had opposed the movement of plutonium through Sault Ste. Marie, were not informed about yesterday's flight, Mr. Shewchuk said, "although we had municipal police forces in the loop."

He refused to discuss whether U.S. guards stayed with the cargo inside Canada, although no one on this side of the border had instructions "to shoot to kill," he said.

Mr. Shewchuk, who insists the plutonium is completely safe, called Ottawa's decision to fly the material into Chalk River an overreaction.

"It was not AECL's decision to go to air," he said. "I wonder if this was a touch of overkill."

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Jan 15/00 - Weapons-grade plutonium slips across border before daybreak.

Sault Star
page A1

by Dan Bellerose and Frank Dobrovnik

While unwary critics and municipal leaders slept Friday a controversial shipment of weapons-grade plutonium bound for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. laboratories in eastern Ontario entered Canada at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge.

At about daybreak, before opposition forces were alerted of its presence and could mobilize in protest, the five-kilogram shipment of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, containing about 120 grams of plutonium from dismantled U.S. nuclear weapons, began winging its way to the AECL test reactor in Chalk River, 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

Five days earlier, the AECL received final approval from Transport Canada to scrap its original plan of trucking the test fuel shipment east along the Highway 17 corridor to Chalk River. The shipment originated earlier in the week in Los Alamos, N.M.,

From Sault Ste. Marie Airport it was flown aboard one of three government helicopters, two of which had been at the airport for at least a day. The helicopter carrying the goods touched down at the AECL facility at about 11 a.m.

Tony Martin, MPP for the Sault, will seek answers about whether federal law was broken to facilitate the Liberal government's foreign policy initiative to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Martin said he and members of Northwatch, a regional coalition of environmental and peace groups, have "determined that there was probably a breach of law in terms of what's required in the shipment of hazardous substances."

The Sault MPP expects to write Attorney General Jim Flaherty early next week regarding OPP involvement and whether the mode of transport broke federal laws.

The OPP, as well as city police, accompanied the shipment from the International Bridge to the airport then the OPP accompanied the air shipment in its own helicopter.

"We're going to be making some inquiries, and I'm going to be making some specific inquiries of the provincial ministry that participated in this, asking who authorized it and why, and in the end if it turns out that this is a contravention of federal law, why they didn't look into that before they did participate.

"Our view is that . . . they have broken federal law."

He described as undemocratic the earlier public meetings, which outlined plans that turned out to be "completely and totally different."

Carmen Provenzano, the city's Liberal MP, said that no laws were violated as far as he is aware but in this case, safety played a more important issue than whether "some technical violation or breach may have occurred.

"The relevance of any other question has to be viewed in light of the fact that, however this was done, it was done in complete safety and without incident.

"It obviously arrived here safely and left safely. The whole exercise has been a non-event, as we were told it would be. I'm very happy about that; I'm happy it's here and gone."

He said he got assurances Friday from the parliamentary secretary of Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale that "This is it . . . . There are no plans to ship any more than was shipped to Chalk River."

The U.S. Department of Energy, in a press release, announced it had completed its "one-time shipment of a small quantity of mixed oxide nuclear fuel to Canada."

John Read, director-general of Transport Canada's dangerous goods directorate, said the AECL submitted its amended response plan Jan. 7 with "very small change that had a big impact."

The regulator's safety concerns were the same whether the shipment was made by road or air.

AECL responded the same way -- rather than have two back-up trucks in case of accident, there were two backup helicopters.

One helicopter contained the MOX shipment, a second contained OPP security personnel and the third, AECL staff and security.

An air crash would have had the same impact as one on the road, Read said.

"It was the same people, the same equipment, the same training," he said. "Ninety-nine per cent of the plan doesn't change."

Larry Shewchuk, an AECL spokesman, said in an interview that the change in plans was a response to earlier meetings with residents along the proposed land route.

"People said if this shipment is so safe why not ship it by air," he said. "So that's what we did."

In December, the AECL approached the regulator to ask what changes would be needed to the emergency ground response plan if the fuel was transported by air.

Three helicopters, according to Canadian Press, were involved in a rehearsal shipment Dec. 23 and final approval of the modified plan was granted Monday.

"We were confident in the plan to truck the fuel to Chalk River; we have a great track record. It's how we usually ship fresh reactor fuel, but several [federal] government agencies approached us about shipping it by air," said Shewchuk, who estimates transportation time across the province was cut at least in half in going by air.

"Shipping by air is no more dangerous than by road and it's more direct. The Atomic Energy Board was agreeable to an amendment; the container is certified for shipment by land, sea and air."

What surprises the AECL spokesman is opposition to the test burn.

"I am astounded that people would protest the dismantling of nuclear weapons," he said.

"Look back at the pictures of Hiroshima after the Second World War. Do they want to risk it happening again with stolen plutonium being sold to a rogue state or have that threat taken away by disposing of it in a reactor?"

Mayor Steve Butland, whose council pressured federal government officials for an open forum on the MOX shipment in the fall, felt "duped and deceived" about Friday's events.

"Representatives from Atomic Energy Canada as well as other agencies stressed to us there were no worries about sending the material through the community and along the highway," said Butland, who learned it was a done deal only after the shipment had left the city.

"All the information they passed along concerned trucking the shipment. When someone asked about the possibility of flying the shipment to Chalk River we were left with the impression it couldn't be done.

"In the end, flying it out appears to have been the path of least resistance."

Butland's neighbouring counterpart, outspoken Michigan Sault Mayor Verna Lawrence, expressed anger at the lack of consultation.

"We were left out of the loop," she said. "The (U.S.) federal government didn't have the courtesy to give us any advance warning.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised but I'm floored at their arrogance. We had to lobby to get information on the shipment in the first place, when it first became known it would be coming through here, and they forgot about us again."

American authorities, according to Lawrence, don't allow air transport of MOX fuel.

Lyle Sayers, the chief of Garden River First Nation, immediately east of the Sault, whose residents had earlier vowed to stop the shipment, was another caught by surprise.

Garden River, with the support of the Union of Ontario Indians, the political voice of the 43-member Anishinabek Nation, had threatened to barricade the highway should the shipment proceed through their territory and had further plans of disruption had the barricade been dismantled.

"We knew it was coming; it was just a question of when," said Sayers, whose community was the first of four First Nation territories the shipment would have passed through en route to Chalk River.

"We had supporters in New Mexico that were supposed to spread the word once the shipment got on the move but they slipped it past them.

"We never expected air transport. It was never a possibility."

The OPP contacted Sayers about 10 a.m., confirming that the shipment had left the Sault and that "They did not fly over First Nation territory."

About 350 protesters, the majority being Garden River residents but including environmentalists and non-native neighbours, had formed a half-kilometre human chain through the heart of community in late November as a protest against the shipment.

The First Nations are opposed to the test burn because if successful they fear Canada could become an international repository for plutonium waste.

A similar-sized MOX shipment is expected to arrive in Cornwall by ship from Russia and be trucked to Chalk River.

The Cornwall shipment won't arrive until the shipping season resumes, the St. Lawrence Seaway being closed for the winter, so testing won't begin until the spring at the earliest.

Later this year the U.S. and Russian samples will be tested side-by-side in the AECL reactor to determine the feasibility of using MOX fuel in Candu reactors.

Testing and subsequent analysis will take about three years to complete.

With the U.S. and Russia earlier agreeing to dismantle a portion of their nuclear arsenals it will result in each country having about 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium surplus to defence needs.

Burning the MOX blend in reactors to generate electricity is one method of rendering the plutonium inaccessible to future weapon-usage.

Dwayne Nashkawa, executive policy analyst with the UOI [Union of Ontario Indians] in North Bay, felt the the government was responding to mounting opposition by changing its transportation plan.

"Sending it by helicopter tells me they took us seriously about our stopping the shipment," he said.

"The roads are in good shape today, but there have already been several fatal accidents this winter -- the roads are not safe for anyone this time of year."

Kathy Brosemer, local Northwatch spokesperson, was angry at the alternative transportation plan.

"I am horrified that the government apparently violated a number of their own regulations to get it through," she said.

"They didn't adhere to the plan they filed with Transport Canada. If the plan was altered there was no opportunity for public feedback.

"They violated their own laws to prop up the nuclear industry."

I L L U S T R A T I O N S :

Color Photo: TONY MARTIN:
''Our view is that . . . they have broken federal law.''

''The whole exercise has been a non event . . . ''

''We knew it was coming; it was just a question of when.''

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Jan 15/00 - U.S. plutonium secretly flies into province; communities angry.

Toronto Star
page NE11

by Laura Eggertson
With files from Karl Sepkowski

OTTAWA -- Circumventing protesters and planned blockades, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. used a helicopter yesterday to transport a controversial shipment of plutonium to the Chalk River nuclear reactor.

The shipment of five kilograms of mixed oxide nuclear fuel, containing 120 grams of plutonium -- about the size of two penlight batteries -- arrived around noon at the Chalk River facility, AECL spokesperson Larry Shewchuk said.

"Everything went according to plan," he said.

It was intended as part of a test to see if burning the MOX fuel at Chalk River would help the United States dispose of the waste from dismantled nuclear weapons.

The United States has since decided to dispose of its own plutonium, but is still paying to test the way the CANDU reactors burn the fuel, comparing it with waste from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons. The Russian shipment is expected this spring.

Originally, AECL had planned to ship the U.S. fuel by truck from New Mexico to Chalk River, crossing the border at Sault Ste. Marie. The routes through Northern Ontario were discussed at public meetings in the communities along the way.

Several groups, including the Akwesasne and Garden River first nations, had vowed to block the shipments because of safety concerns.

The Akwesasne First Nation and Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Steve Butland were among those upset yesterday with the AECL's changed plans.

"I had no idea," said Butland, adding he felt "duped and deceived" by federal officials.

"The whole thing has been clandestine in nature from the beginning. People have a right to know.

"But the deed is done. It was accomplished without incident, and I guess that's good news."

The mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Verna Lawrence, was also not aware that the shipment had passed through her community until contacted by The Star.

"You gotta be kidding . . . they never notified (us) . . . those bastards," she said.

The 70-year-old mayor had threatened to lie down on the highway to block the shipment when it arrived.

The AECL amended its plan on how to transport the waste last Friday. Transport Canada approved the amendments Monday to have the load travel by helicopter, accompanied by a second helicopter with a radiation assessment crew on board, said John Read, director-general of transport, dangerous goods directorate.

The idea to move the shipment by air instead of by truck came from people who turned out to the open houses AECL held to discuss its transportation plans, said Shewchuk.

Officials in Sault St. Marie -- although evidently not the mayor -- were informed on a "need-to-know" basis, he said.

The MOX fuel will be stored at the Chalk River reactor until the Russian shipment arrives.

Shewchuck emphasized the test is meant to cope with the results of nuclear disarmament and said most people who turned out to public meetings about the shipments support that goal. But one Ottawa Valley group remains opposed.

The test will simply result in more nuclear waste in the environment, said Ole Hendrickson, of Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County.

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Jan 14/00 - Civic and environment groups infuriated over plutonium airlift.

CTV News


ROGER SMITH (Reporter):

STEVE BUTLAND (Sault Ste. Marie Mayor):


LARRY SHEWCHUK (Atomic Energy of Canada):


KRISTEN OSTLING (Anti-Nuclear Activist):





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Jan 18/00 - Police finally search the site of Japan's worst nuclear accident.

Agence France Presse

TOKYO, Jan 18 -- Police finally searched the site of Japan's worst nuclear accident Tuesday as fears about radioactive contamination subsided, a police spokesman said.

"We inspected the building as we believe it is safe to enter it now," said the regional police spokesman, more than three months after the disaster at a uranium processing facility.

Police first raided the office of plant operator JCO Corporation a week after the September 30 accident but refrained from entering the site in Tokaimura, 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Tokyo, because of massive radiation.

Jiji Press news agency said Tuesday's search was aimed at preparing charges of professional negligence and violation of the country's nuclear law against JCO by the end of March.

The police spokesman declined to comment on the report.

JCO, which had admitted using illegal procedures in processing nuclear fuel, said in a statement it would "fully cooperate with police efforts to determine the cause of the accident."

In the accident, three JCO workers bypassed legal procedures, inserting more than the maximum permissible limit of 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) of uranium into a bucket to set off a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

One of the workers, 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi, died late December. He was the first casualty of a Japanese nuclear facility disaster.

In the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, the leak exposed at least 126 people to radiation and forced more than 320,000 to shelter at home for more than a day.

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Jan 18/00 - Radwaste plan draws foes & boosters; AECB to consider Bruce facility.

Toronto Star
page NE04

by Kate Harries

Two radically differing visions of what the future holds for Bruce County will be presented to the Atomic Energy Control Board this week as it considers licensing a proposed high-level nuclear waste storage facility on Lake Huron.

Norm de la Chevrotière, president of the Inverhuron ratepayers' association, fears the facility at the Bruce nuclear plant will become a world destination for nuclear waste disposal and storage.

"The Bruce site is turning into Ontario's de facto nuclear garbage dump," said Chevrotière, who will address the board Thursday to ask that the project be delayed so an independent environmental assessment can be carried out.

Also on hand will be Kincardine Mayor Gordon Jarrell, to urge that construction proceed quickly because the Bruce plant will run out of storage space for its spent fuel in 2002.

"If they run out of space, then they have no alternative but to shut down," Jarrell said.

He hopes the plant will be sold to an investor with deep pockets who will bring the four closed nuclear reactors at Bruce A back into operation.

In late November, Ontario Power Generation asked for expressions of interest in the Bruce plant, which may be sold because of Tory privatization legislation that will require the utility to divest itself of assets.

Jarrell said Ontario Power's heavy debt load means it is unlikely that it can afford to retube and reopen the Bruce A reactors.

Jarrell and other councillors toured the Pickering storage facility -- similar to what is proposed for the Bruce site -- in October and were impressed.

"We handled the containers and then proved that there was no radiation by coming out and being monitored by the equipment they have at each site."

As to the 300-member Inverhuron group's arguments about adverse health and environmental effects, Jarrell said, "Most of the figures they have brought out, if you take them and do a little research on them, they do not stand up."

Jarrell said he is satisfied with the disclosure of Ontario Power and its regulator, the Atomic Energy Control Board.

Chevrotière said the utility's own research supports his contention that what was envisioned as a "relatively inexpensive, trouble-free source of Ontario power" has turned into "a cheap and problem-ridden dump for Ontario's radioactive waste."

One of two radioactive waste sites on the Bruce site has been shown to be leaking contaminants to groundwater.

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Jan 15/00- Air shipment of plutonium may have broken transport laws, MPP says.

Sault Star

by Dan Bellerose

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. (CP) -- A member of Provincial Parliament says federal laws may have been broken when weapons-grade plutonium was air-lifted to a testing facility. Tony Martin, New Democratic Party MPP for the Sault area, said he wants to find out if federal transportation laws were ignored when the plutonium was shipped by helicopter to the Atomic Energy of Canada Chalk River labs near Ottawa on Friday.

He said that he and local environmental group Northwatch determined there was likely a violation of the requirements for shipping hazardous substances.

"I'm going to be making some specific inquiries of the provincial Ministry (of the Attorney General) that participated in this, asking who authorized it and why?" said Martin.

"And in the end, if it turns out that this is a contravention of federal law, why they didn't look into that before they did participate."

He plans to write Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty, and to inquire about the involvement of Provincial police, who fall under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General.

The mixed oxide fuel -- containing about 119 grams of weapons-grade plutonium -- was taken by truck from New Mexico to Sault Ste. Marie, then airlifted to the Chalk River labs.

The move avoided a maelstrom of protests along the route by environmental groups and residents opposed to the shipment.

The original plan was to have the shipment trucked across northern Ontario along Highway 17, past Sudbury and North Bay, to the facility, about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

Officials said the plan was scrapped after meetings with residents, many of whom were concerned that if something went wrong during the transport, plutonium could be released into the environment.

Plutonium, if inhaled, is known as a dangerous carcinogen.

"People said if this shipment is so safe why not ship it by air," Larry Shewchuk, spokesman for the AECL, said Friday. "So that's what we did."

The AECL said the fuel was shipped in a stable, solid, ceramic form inside a sealed metal container that meets stringent standards and is safe for transport by air, land and sea.

Provincial and city police accompanied the shipment from the International Bridge to the airport, when provincial police took over and delivered the shipment in its own helicopter.

Carmen Provenzano, the Liberal MP for the Sault, said no laws were violated as far as he is aware but in this case, safety played a more important issue than whether, "some technical violation or breach may have occurred."

"It obviously arrived here safely and left safely," Provenzano said Friday.

"The whole exercise has been a non-event, as we were told it would be . . . I'm happy it's here and gone."

On Saturday about 25 demonstrators stood outside Provenzano's office in the Sault to protest the shipment.

Kathy Brosemer, who organized the protest, said the AECL and the federal government have compromised Canadians' trust in the nuclear industry.

"When people will do this to its citizens can we believe them?" asked Brosemer, a spokeswoman for Northwatch. "Can we believe them that there will be no more shipments? Frankly, I don't believe them."

A similar-sized shipment is expected to arrive in Cornwall, Ontario, this Spring by ship from Russia via the St. Lawrence Seaway, to be trucked to Chalk River.

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Jan 15/00 - Controversial plutonium flown in by helicopter; airlift irks protesters.

Windsor Star
page A6

Canadian Press

CHALK RIVER, Ont. -- A shipment of weapons-grade plutonium from the United States made the last leg of its Canadian journey Friday by helicopter -- much to the surprise of communities prepared to block highways to stop its movement.

"We feel a little duped and deceived," said Steve Butland, the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., whose council passed a resolution asking for public hearings on the plan to move the fuel through the city.

"I would have liked to have been informed."

The mixed oxide fuel -- containing weapons-grade plutonium -- was taken from New Mexico to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., by truck. It was then transferred to helicopter and flown to the Atomic Energy of Canada labs in Chalk River, northwest of Ottawa.

"The shipment arrived safely by air transport and everything went according to plan," AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk said.

The move avoided a maelstrom of protests promised by those opposed to the shipment, including Steve Shallhorn, campaign director for Greenpeace Canada.

"I feel very uncomfortable that Canada is considering using air transport -- I think it's irresponsible and reckless," Shallhorn said.

"It's dangerous and if there's a crash, the impact is much higher than if the plutonium was sent by truck."

The original plan was to have the shipment containing about 119 grams of plutonium trucked across Northern Ontario to the Chalk River facility.

Plan scrapped

The shipment, originating in New Mexico, was expected to enter Canada at Sault Ste. Marie and proceed along Highway 17, past Sudbury and North Bay before reaching Chalk River, about 150 km northwest of Ottawa.

But Shewchuk said the plan was scrapped after meetings with residents along the proposed route, many of whom were concerned that if something went wrong during the transport, plutonium could be released into the environment. Plutonium, if inhaled, is known as a dangerous carcinogen.

The AECL says the fuel is in a stable, solid, ceramic form inside a sealed metal container that meets stringent international standards.

"People said if this shipment is so safe why not ship it by air," Shewchuk said. "So that's what we did."

The shipment has also drawn fierce objections from officials and residents on the other side of the border. A lawsuit prompted a U.S. judge to put a temporary hold on the shipment's delivery.

Native groups had promised to do everything they could to stop the shipment. Mohawk Chief Dooley Thompson, in Cornwall, Ont. where another shipment is expected from Russia, said he would lie down in front of any trucks used to transport the radioactive material along the highway.

In December, AECL approached the government to ask what changes would be needed to the emergency ground response plan if the fuel was transported by air. Three helicopters were involved in a rehearsal of the shipment from Sault Ste. Marie to Chalk River Dec. 23 and final approval of the modified emergency plan was granted on Monday.

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Jan 15/00 - Plutonium slips into Ontario ~ secretly flown to Chalk River by helicopter.

Toronto Sun
page 2

by Sean Durkan

Plutonium from U.S. nuclear warheads was secretly flown in to Ontario's Chalk River plant yesterday, skirting threatened protests.

The material, which will be tested to see if it can be burned as fuel in CANDU reactors, was originally supposed to be trucked via Sault Ste. Marie after U.S. authorities shipped it there from New Mexico.

But objections from centres along the Highway 17 route to Chalk River, and threats of protests from anti-nuclear groups, prompted a change of plans.

The 119 grams of plutonium arrived before lunchtime yesterday, Atomic Energy Canada spokesman Larry Shewchuk said, and was safely in storage at the Chalk River plant, 150 km northeast of Ottawa.


Another 119 grams of Russian weapons-grade plutonium has still to be shipped.

It is supposed to come by sea from Russia to Cornwall on the St. Lawrence River, then trucked past Ottawa to the nuclear plant, but another airlift now looks more likely.

Cornwall opposes having the material shipped through it. Mohawk Chief Dooley Thompson has threatened to lie down before any trucks that try to transport the material across his band's nearby reserve.

Shewchuk said yesterday the U.S. plutonium was ferried in by helicopter to appease centres along the planned truck route.

"People asked if this shipment is so safe, why not ship it in by air? So that's what we did," Shewchuk said.

Atomic Energy Canada is hoping to prove its CANDUs can burn both Russian and U.S. weapons-grade plutonium, partly as a way to help rid the world of stockpiles of the material created by nuclear disarmament and partly as a selling feature of the CANDUs.

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Nov 19/99 - Transport Canada approves AECL's emergency plans for plute transport.

Eco/Log Week
page 3

Transport Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) directorate has approved emergency response assistance plans submitted by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) relating to the movement of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel samples from the U.S. and Russia to AECL's Chalk River, Ont facility.

Federal TDG inspectors reviewed the plans and confirmed that they addressed the personnel, equipment and emergency response measures that would be needed to deal with possible transportation incidents involving MOX fuel. The inspectors concluded that response planning and capabilities set out in the plans indicate that AECL has a well-trained and well-equipped emergency response organization in place.

They cited a number of technical matters, however, that they felt should be resolved before the plans could be approved, and AECL has responded to these matters to the department's satisfaction.

The technical conditions are as follows. AECL must:

Additionally, the ERAP must provide for

The escort's equipment list --covering personal protection, radiation detection, communications and containment equipment -- must be compiled and submitted to Transport Canada.

Finally, the ship transporting the MOX fuel sample from Russia must carry a certification letter, issued by the ship's national authority, for the ship's on-board emergency plan.

The MOX fuel program involves the evaluation of this material for use as fuel in a CANDU reactor. The fuel is composed of about 97 percent uranium oxide and about 3 percent plutonium oxide, the latter derived from dismantled U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.

The project, called the Parallex test, involves only small test quantities, including about 120 grams of weapons-grade plutonium from U.S. and Russian sources. The fuel is in the form of solid pellets, which are slid into tubes called fuel pins. The fuel pins are placed into a special holder to form MOX fuel bundles.

The project plan currently calls for one shipment of MOX fuel from the U.S. and one from Russia for testing at Chalk River. Two more shipments may be brought from Russia as the international test program proceeds.

The prime risk of concern is that of entry into the body of plutonium dust (nuclear explosion is not a danger due to the small quanties, which even combined would not be enough to cause an explosion).

Transport Canada's review of AECL's ERAP analyzed its capabilities for protection of both human health and the environment (including leak and spill prevention).

More information is available from Robert Greenslade at Transport Canada, 613/990-6055, or on Transport Canada's Web site at\

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Dec 01/99 - Use of radioactive materials banned in Toronto medical research labs.

Globe and Mail

TORONTO (CP) -- The Atomic Energy Control Board has ordered Canada's largest group of research and teaching hospitals to stop using radioactive materials in their downtown labs until they fix a long list of defects in inventory and safety procedures.

Violations include: insecure storage, poor record-keeping, excessive contamination levels, haphazard contamination monitoring, missing warning symbols and people eating in labs.

No one is known to have been hurt, the regulator said.

The order affects 91 labs that are operated by the University Health Network in Toronto. It includes about 1,500 scientists, technicians, students and trainees. About 1,000 are authorized to handle radioactive material.

The order does not affect medical uses of radiation, such as cancer treatment.

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Dec 21/99 - First Nations vow to continue fight to halt plutonium shipment.

Sault Star
page B1

by Elaine Della-Mattia

First Nations territories will be even more vigilant watching for transports carrying plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons now that a Michigan judge has removed the last legal hurdle, paving the way for the shipment to occur.

Michigan Chief Judge Richard Enslen late last week 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 U.S. government violates the law appeared to have merit, the Department of Energy's assertions that an injunction would hurt nuclear-disarmament talks were more important.

Garden River First Nations Chief Lyle Sayers said that means residents and friends on both sides of the International Bridge are going to have to be more vigilant and watch for the shipment of the MOX fuel.

"We have said that we are going to stop the shipment through our First Nation territory and if we know when the shipment is coming through, that's what we still intend to do," Sayers said.

"But I have to thank our American friends for at least attempting to get an injunction so that an environment assessment could be completed. Unfortunately, the U.S. government didn't agree," he said.

Since word of the transportation route of the shipment was released, environmental groups and First Nations along the shipment route have raised concerns about the long-term effects of the shipment.

"The end result is the long-term effects to the land and the people, and our people have told us that they don't want nuclear waste in Canada," Sayers said.

Kathy Brosemer, a spokesperson for Northwatch, a regional coalition of environmental groups in Northern Ontario, said that the ruling doesn't surprise her.

"Basically it leaves us where we were before," Brosemer said.

"People should still be writing to the government, to Lloyd Axworthy, to voice their concern," she said.

Brosemer said that although both the Canadian and American governments have said that they're not going to tell people when the shipment leaves New Mexico and heads towards its final destination, Chalk River, Ont., "if anybody knows when it's going, we'll know."

She said environmental groups and First Nations along the transportation route have banded together to keep watch on the shipment.

Chris McCormick, spokesperson for the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, said it is now time for the Ontario government to make its position and plans about the shipment known to its citizens.

"It's time Mike Harris takes a stand on this and tells us what his plans are," McCormick said. "I don't think the politicians are living up to their responsibility to the citizens of Ontario," he said.

The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians has written letters to Ontario Premier Harris and several of his ministers asking them to make their position on the shipment known and reveal plans to ensure that Ontario citizens are safe.

The transport is part of a joint U.S.-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 U.S. is shipping a 119-gram sample of mixed plutonium and uranium oxides from New Mexico to Chalk River, Ont.

A second sample from Russia is to travel along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Cornwall, Ont. and then to Chalk River. The U.S. government says the shipment is a one-time occurrence to allow for the experiment but citizens in Ontario and Michigan believe that if the experiment is successful, more MOX will be shipped along the route for eventual destruction.

They fear that an accident may occur, causing long-term environmental effects.

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Dec 22/99 - Sale of Bruce nuclear plant could revitalize nearby communities.

London Free Press
page A14

Nuclear power provides half the electric muscle that drives Ontario. It is cheaper than most of the alternatives and has virtually no emissions.

But nuclear has always had a rough ride, although worse of late.

CANDU design is one of the safest and most efficient producers in the world, but nuclear has been wounded by environmental extremism and by the failure of the former Ontario Hydro to maintain upkeep. Half of the Bruce Nuclear Power Development is laid up and in need of repairs, but massive debt makes it impossible to bring it back on line soon.

The potential sale of Bruce Nuclear to private interests -- one joint venture is ready to offer $1 billion -- provides the best hope for more than 4,000 employees, the neighbouring energy park that uses Bruce steam and millions of Ontarians who depend on nuclear energy.

As for safety, the Atomic Energy Board will still regulate the plant.

The only change may be new life for a tired plant that still has lots to offer.

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Dec 23/99 - Paducah uranium enrichment plant secretly tracked workers with cancer.

Associated Press

PADUCAH, Kentucky -- Officials at a federal uranium processing plant covertly tracked suspicious cases of cancer among employees while claiming the workers were safe, according to published reports.

In the early 1980s, managers at the Energy Department's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in western Kentucky counted 13 current and former workers who suffered from leukemia and other cancers in the previous 27 years.

Some names and initials were listed on a confidential DOE document, the Courier Journal of Louisville reported Thursday. All but three had died by 1984, but medical experts apparently didn't learn of the list for nearly a decade. Others never did.

"Workers should have been told the list was being kept and why they were being tracked," said Jim Key, a representative for the workers' union. "I was astounded they had been tracking this and never told us."

The Washington Post reported Thursday that its analysis of plant rosters listing more than 200 employees found that 10 died of blood and lymph system cancers, including six from leukemia. Government mortality rates show that only a single death would be expected in a group of adults that size.

Three plant employees have filed a federal lawsuit alleging workers unwittingly were exposed to plutonium and other highly toxic substances from 1953 to 1976. The suit is sealed.

A recent DOE investigation looking back to 1990 found that worker safety and environmental problems have persisted during federal efforts to clean up the plant.

That report, released in October, said plant workers had not been adequately informed of some risks and that radioactive contamination from the site continues to spread through groundwater toward the Ohio River.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has apologized for the failure to disclose plant hazards and promised compensation for sick workers. Congress has provided a $16 million increase for the plant's cleanup in its fiscal 2000 budget.

At the time the cancer list was put together, in 1984, the federal government and plant officials reportedly were hiding the fact that highly radioactive metals such as plutonium and neptunium had contaminated some of the uranium processed at the plant.

Government medical researchers saw the list when they visited the plant in 1992 and urged the Energy Department to study the incidence of leukemia among workers -- something that was never done, the Courier Journal reported.

It is not known why the plant operator -- either Union Carbide or Martin Marietta, which took over operations in 1984 -- kept the list.

The names of two of the plant's former health physicists, Charles Turok and Bruce McDougal, are on the document, indicating each received a copy. Both said they hadn't seen it.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the Energy Department's office in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, said he showed copies of the list to department officials in Paducah and Oak Ridge, and "no one has a clue as to who kept it or why."

Most of the dead employees worked in the uranium-processing building, in maintenance or in laboratories that could have exposed them to radiation. The other three employees were identified only by initials.

Medical experts say the incidence of 13 cancer cases among the more than 5,000 people who worked at the plant since its 1953 opening may not be excessive. But the number does not include those who died of lung cancer or other radiation-linked cancers.

Other documents show the Energy Department has been collecting its own data on worker deaths at its nuclear plants. By the early 1990s, it had collected 700 death certificates of former Paducah workers and hundreds more of dead workers at other nuclear facilities.

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Dec 22/99 - Three Mile Island nuclear reactor sold to British Energy company.

Newark Star-Ledger
and Financial Post
page C2

by John T. Ward

GPU Inc. has completed the sale of the sole working unit of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa. -- twin to the infamous unit that made "meltdown" a common term.

AmerGen Energy Co., a joint venture between Philadelphia-based Peco Energy Co. and British Energy Co. of Scotland, paid $100 million for the healthy unit. As previously reported, the sale price was about one-sixth of book value.

"There was a ceremonial transfer of the keys" early yesterday, said GPU spokesman Ned Raynolds. The plant has about 700 employees, he said.

The ownership of the plant known as TMI Unit 2 will remain with GPU. In 1979, the plant was the site of the nation's worst nuclear accident, in which nearly half the uranium core quickly melted. Thousands of health-related claims remain unresolved in the aftermath, and the cleanup of the site took 12 years. The site is now in "monitored storage" mode, said Raynolds.

Under the deal's terms, AmerGen paid GPU $23 million for TMI-1's reactor, and will pay GPU $77 million over five years for the plant's nuclear fuel. AmerGen will assume full responsibility for the decommissioning of the plant, which has been pre-funded by GPU for $320 million.

GPU has agreed to purchase the energy from the unit through 2002 at fixed prices. Federal regulators approved the transfer in April.

With New Jersey deregulating its utilities, Morristown-based GPU moved to exit the power-generation business and concentrate on transmission and distribution. The TMI sale is one of the final steps toward completion of that change, company officials said.

AmerGen was formed two years ago, and last week completed its first acquisition -- the Clinton Power Station in Illinois. With the Three Mile Island unit, AmerGen now has two plants with staffs totaling 1,900.

AmerGen has agreements to purchase three other nuclear stations in 2000, including GPU's Oyster Creek nuclear generating plant, for which it has agreed to pay $10 million. That site also had a book value of about $600 million.

LONDON (Financial Post, Dec. 22/99) -- British Energy PLC said its joint venture AmerGen has completed the acquisition of Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island Unit 1 power station, a pressurized water reactor located in Harrisburg, from GPU Inc. The company said it has paid $23-million (US) for the reactor and will pay $77-million (US) in five equal annual instalments for the plant's nuclear fuel.

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