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Feb 3/00 - Natural Resources Minister in the dark about plutonium shipments.

CP Wire

by Colin Perkel

TORONTO (CP) -- Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen says he didn't know his ministry was co-operating with provincial police in the secret shipment of plutonium through a ministry aviation centre in northern Ontario.

While the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has filed court charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act over the shipment, Snobelen said today he's heard nothing formal.

"As of this morning, no one has been served with anything in the ministry," he said.

"There also has not been a complaint from the local area employees and there's been no grievance filed."

In its court documents, the union says the Natural Resources Ministry endangered its workers by failing to tell them about the Jan. 14 shipment and how to protect themselves from the hazardous material.

Snobelen said he'd investigate only if there is a formal complaint.

"We take health and safety in the workplace very seriously. The ministry would act any time there's a failing on a health and safety issue."

Snobelen also said the plutonium shipments are a federal issue and it's up to Ottawa to ensure they are safe.

OPSEU has blasted the ministry for negligence and having "a blatant disregard" for the rights of the employees by not warning them beforehand about the plutonium.

The union is also upset that workers arriving at the aviation centre's hanger in Sault Ste. Marie weren't told that 100 police officers and sharpshooters, some in camouflage, would be on hand.

Snobelen said he didn't know about the heavy security, saying only his ministry co-operates regularly with provincial police.

About 35 to 50 flight engineers, mechanics, flood crews, clerical workers and others work at the aviation, flood and fire control centre.

The shipment of mixed oxide fuel from New Mexico was spirited into Sault Ste. Marie before being flown by helicopter for processing at Atomic Energy of Canada labs in Chalk River, northwest of Ottawa.

The intention was to thwart environmentalists and First Nations' groups who had threatened blockades to prevent trucking of the material.

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Jan 25/00 - Pickering area is selected for pilot nuclear-related cancer study.

Toronto Star
page GT01

by Stan Josey

Pickering Mayor lauds choice
to probe cancer rates near nuclear station

Pickering Mayor Wayne Arthurs welcomes the decision to use the area around its nuclear-generating station for a pilot cancer study.

The study of cancer rates among residents of Pickering and Ajax will be used to set up a permanent cancer-monitoring system for nuclear facilities across the country, say officials of the Atomic Energy Control Board.

"This is probably the best location for such a study because the Pickering facility is the longest-operating power-producing nuclear facility in the country," Arthurs said yesterday, after learning of last week's decision.

The Bruce or Pickering nuclear stations were considered the obvious focuses for the study, but the federal nuclear watchdog decided to go with Pickering's.

The study, to be done in co-operation with Health Canada, will be the most comprehensive analysis of available cancer statistics to date, says control board spokesperson Sunni Locatelli.

Despite earlier board-sponsored studies that showed some elevation in cases of childhood leukemia and Down syndrome in the Pickering area, Arthurs said he has always considered the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station a "safe operation."

But the councils of Pickering and Ajax, the Region of Durham and local residents' groups had requested that the area be the site of the pilot study.

Suzana Fraser, an epidemiologist at the control board, said the size of the study area has yet to be determined. She said it is likely to include most of Pickering and Ajax and perhaps some eastern regions of Toronto.

The study will analyze existing health data showing cancer rates in the area around the Pickering nuclear facility. It will be followed by a public consultation process that will give citizens and governments a say in how the national monitoring system will work, Locatelli said.

Irene Kock of the Durham-based Nuclear Awareness Project has criticized the study for not going far enough. She said her group would like to see a cause-and-effect study that might show any direct links between the nuclear facility and local cancer rates.

However, Locatelli said further studies to find a cause-and-effect relationship can be done after the initial study is complete.

Meanwhile, the Community Health Concerns Committee of Port Hope is warning other communities with nuclear installations about potential problems with the study. "They should insist on meaningful community involvement and not just lip service," said committee head Faye More.

The town west of Cobourg has been the site of uranium refining and fabricating for 60 years, with minimal control of radioactive contamination before 1970. The biggest radioactive polluter was a crown corporation, Eldorado Nuclear.

More told The Star's Peter Calamai yesterday that a similar cancer study had recently been carried out for Port Hope but that officials of the control board had excluded the community from most key decisions.

The health committee wanted the cancer data analyzed by outside experts, such as university researchers, More said. Instead, the control board gave the cancer-study task to the federal health department, which had taken no action for decades while Eldorado spread radioactive debris and dust around the town.

"Health Canada has good people, but this is a case where there could be a conflict of interest," More said.

The community group has also been rebuffed in its bid to have the raw data from the study examined by an outside expert. John Waddington, who heads the branch responsible for the survey, said the board wants the communities to accept it as credible, but it also has to ensure the scientific analysis is of a high standard.

In the case of the cancer study, said Waddington, the health department has the top experts in this field. "We have got a bit of a sticking point here," he agreed.

Waddington also said the board isn't able to turn over the raw data from the study to outside experts because of privacy restrictions. But it will supply more generalized data to an independent researcher chosen by the Port Hope committee and also pay that researcher, he said.

"We have to get a balance that people feel comfortable with."

Waddington said the study should be made public within weeks.

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Jan 24/00 - NDP Leader demands public inquiry into plute shipment.

NDP Press Release

SAULT STE. MARIE -- NDP Leader Howard Hampton and MPP Tony Martin are calling for an independent provincial inquiry into the role the Harris government played in the War-Measures-Act style, armed, secret transport of plutonium through Sault Ste. Marie followed by a helicopter flight to Chalk River.

"We know that on January 14, MNR employees arriving for work at 7:30am were confronted by 100 unidentified, armed personnel, in the hangar, on the roof and lining the snow banks in white camouflage suits. Use of the airport was never properly authorised," Hampton said.

Not even the Sault mayor knew about the MOX as local fire and police personnel were ordered by outside forces to escort the material secretly from the Ontario-Michigan border to the Sault Airport. Hampton says it was unacceptable that the police were ordered not to inform civic leaders and he wants to know who gave those orders.

"The public was always led to believe that air transport of MOX was not an option." Hampton said. The Harris government is on record as saying that Ontario had no interest or direct involvement in the MOX shipment plan. But under a cover of darkness and deception, a combined team of federal, atomic energy (AECL) and provincial personnel loaded the dangerous goods on a helicopter in Sault Ste. Marie to fly it to Chalk River, Hampton charged.

Hampton wants an investigation to discover what the Harris government knew about the controversial MOX operation and when. He said Premier Mike Harris, Solicitor General David Tsubouchi and Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen must have known about it in advance, but withheld that information.

An OPP helicopter and MNR facilities were used in the operation, Hampton said. The Government was party to something that shouldn't be able to happen in Canada, added Tony Martin, the MPP for the area. The transport of MOX by air is illegal in the United States because the Class "B" plutonium shipping containers are deemed unable to withstand an air crash. "The Harris government failed to inform and protect the safety of Northern Ontario residents. An inquiry will get to the bottom of this. We must stop future shipments," Martin said.


For more information, please contact
Sheila White at (416) 325-2503 or
Robin Cantin at (416) 325-7324.

Briefing Note

Statement by Howard Hampton
Leader, Ontario NDP

January 20/2000
Sault Ste. Marie

Re: Secret Armed Shipment of Plutonium

What We Know:

What We Don't Know:

What We Are Asking For:

  1. We want an independent provincial inquiry. What was Ontario's role? Who made the decisions, who was in charge, and were any laws broken?

  2. We want the release of all documents pertaining to this secret operation, including the flight plan.

  3. We want a guarantee that the shipment of Russian MOX, expected later this year, will not be allowed into Ontario, or to fly over Ontario, at least until the inquiry is complete and its findings made public.

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    Jan 24/00 - Beijing's spies stole Canadian nuclear secrets with ease.

    Globe and Mail

    by Jeff Sallot and Andrew Mitrovica

    Clone of Toronto's Slowpoke reactor developed
    after Chalk River lab 'picked clean'

    Chinese spies stole Canadian nuclear secrets to build a pirate copy of a research reactor invented at federal laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario, counter-intelligence sources say.

    China is marketing its cheap clone around the world.

    Meanwhile, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the federal Crown corporation that developed the Slowpoke reactor, has shelved its own sales program because it can't make money on exports, AECL officials say.

    "The Chinese pretty well picked the place clean," says a veteran Canadian security officer who investigated the loss of the Chalk River nuclear secrets.

    In many ways, China's elaborate espionage operations to steal Canadian nuclear-power reactor plans parallel Beijing's theft of nuclear-weapons designs from U.S. government facilities at Los Alamos, the sources say.

    The counter-intelligence officers say they were aware of Chinese interest in stealing Canadian nuclear technology going back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service obtained hard evidence of China's success only in 1985. That's when a visiting Canadian scientist from the University of Toronto saw a Slowpoke clone in operation at a Chinese lab about 25 kilometres outside Beijing.

    "I was astounded," says Bob Jervis, the scientist, who was debriefed by CSIS the day after his return from China. "I didn't know how they did it. It remains a mystery."

    Not much of a mystery, though, say counter-intelligence officers. "What they couldn't buy, they stole," one veteran officer says.

    Beijing sent one of its best spies, Bu Chaomin, to Canada posing as a correspondent for a state-controlled newspaper, People's Daily, in the late 1960s, veterans of the spy wars say. "He was a star," says one of the officers. Another says Mr. Bu was an experienced operative with a branch of Chinese intelligence called the United Front, which specializes in recruiting agents from within overseas Chinese communities.

    The RCMP security service, which was responsible for counter-intelligence until CSIS was established in 1984, did its best to keep Mr. Bu in its sights. His phone was tapped and the "watchers" tried to shadow him constantly.

    Nevertheless, he sometimes managed to slip away. "He was a pro," a former Mountie says with grudging admiration.

    Another source said Mr. Bu liked to hold secret meetings with Canadian contacts in wooded areas on the Québec side of the Ottawa River.

    He cultivated contacts among Canadians who worked at Chalk River and at other AECL facilities.

    China sent other spies to help Mr. Bu when Beijing opened its embassy in Ottawa in 1970. "Nuclear technology was No. 1 on their list of targets," a counter-intelligence official says.

    Operating under diplomatic cover, the spies organized Chinese friendship and cultural organizations and cultivated contacts with Canadians of Chinese ancestry.

    Canada's disgraceful history of poor treatment of Chinese immigrants helped Beijing's spies, a CSIS source says. "They would tell people, 'We are your real friends' and make people feel proud of their background."

    China's spies would then suggest there might be things the Canadian contacts could do to help "the poor motherland advance."

    But it wasn't just people of Chinese ancestry who were targeted. Beijing also invited scientists and engineers from a variety of universities and institutes to visit China.

    The guided tours invariably included suggestions about how the treasured Canadian friends might help a poorer, less advanced country such as China.

    China's intelligence services are quite open about this kind of activity, the former Mountie said.

    Another Canadian officer who spent years watching China's spies at work uses this analogy. If the old Soviet KGB felt important intelligence could be found in the sand of a beach, they would surface one of their submarines close to the coast under cover of darkness, send a crew ashore, dig up great gobs of the sand, and then bring it back to the sub. Beijing, by comparison, would send hundreds of people to the beach in broad daylight for picnics, and each would return with a small handful of sand.

    That's how China got its hand on the Slowpoke secrets, one small bit of technology at a time, counterintelligence sources believe.

    Mr. Jervis, who is now retired from the U of T engineering faculty, says the Chinese first invited him to visit in 1966, and they paid all his expenses within the country. In return, he gave six lectures at various Chinese universities and institutes on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    By the early 1980s, Mr. Jervis was working with a Slowpoke research reactor that AECL installed on the U of T campus. The university at that time agreed to a scientific exchange that involved hosting a mid-career engineer from China.

    Mr. Jervis remembers that the man was paid a meagre stipend by his home institute. He was always reporting to Beijing's consulate in Toronto to collect his money.

    Counter-intelligence sources say the man may also have been dropping things off to spymasters at the consulate.

    As a lab assistant, the man had access to the Slowpoke reactor at U of T.

    But the blueprints and other technical plans were kept under lock and key at Chalk River or at AECL offices in Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa, Mr. Jervis said.

    Six months after the man's return to China, Mr. Jervis got an invitation to present a paper to a seminar in Beijing. It was during that 1985 visit that he saw that the Chinese had cloned the U of T Slowpoke right down to the unusually awkward configuration of the control desk, a peculiarity in the initial design that was considered a bad mistake.

    The Chinese hosts boasted of their achievement and even had Mr. Jervis pose for a photo standing beside their clone.

    CSIS was waiting for Mr. Jervis when he got back home. A counter-intelligence officer interviewed him within 24 hours of his return. Mr. Jervis reported what he had seen.

    Mr. Jervis later discovered that the Chinese engineer had made several trips to AECL's Nepean offices, saying he was looking into a possible purchase of a Slowpoke by China. He asked a number of incisive questions about how the reactor worked.

    This is a typical example of how Chinese agents try to squeeze information out without paying for it, a counter-intelligence officer says.

    AECL officials were "completely in the dark" about how their secrets had been pilfered, the officer added.

    Today, AECL officials appear sanguine about what happened with Slowpoke. They are happy enough to be selling $4-billion worth of CANDU reactors to China.

    The loss of Slowpoke technology does not pose a national security threat because the Canadian reactor, unlike the nuclear-weapons technology reportedly stolen from Los Alamos, has no military application, says AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk.

    AECL shelved its own plans for selling the reactors abroad because it is uneconomical, he said. "If the Chinese can make money at it, we wish them luck."

    China's cheaper version has been sold to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria.

    What's particularly annoying, Mr. Jervis said, is that China is even calling its clone the Slowpoke.

    The bottom line, he said, is that China got Canadian nuclear technology it didn't pay for.

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    Jan 21/00 - A health study of native uranium ore carriers will be carried out.

    Broadcast News

    DELINE, Northwest Territories -- Some call it the "Village of Widows."

    Ottawa has announced a study on how years of uranium mining has affected the health of Deline, a remote northern community in the Northwest Territories.

    The village of 650 people is across Great Bear Lake from the Eldorado [uranium] mine, which supplied fuel for the US atomic bomb effort during the Second World War.

    Dene men were recruited to transport the ore, carrying sacks of it on their backs.

    Often covered with uranium ore dust, they slept or sat on the sacks during long barge trips across the lake and down the Bear and Mackenzie Rivers.

    The first area miner died of cancer in 1953 and the deaths accelerated in the '70's.

    Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault expects it'll be a year before there are any results.

    Deline band Chief Leroy Andre welcomes the study.

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    Jan 21/00 - National program looks for cancer near nuclear sites.

    Toronto Star
    page NE01

    by Peter Calamai

    Nuclear sites the targets in cancer probe;

    Public fears spark national program
    to be launched soon in Ontario

    OTTAWA -- A new national surveillance program will look for higher rates of cancer among people who live near nuclear power stations, uranium mines, atomic research facilities and fuel-processing plants.

    The program, which the Atomic Energy Control Board says is the first continuing surveillance scheme of nuclear installations in the world, is in response to widespread public fears.

    It is expected to be under way within months in an Ontario pilot project, possibly centred on the Bruce or Pickering nuclear stations, and will be extended nationally by 2002.

    The program will be run by the federal health department and the atomic control board and will use existing data collected by Ontario Cancer Care and similar agencies in other provinces.

    Details of the program were released here yesterday at a regular meeting of the agency, which is Canada's nuclear safety watchdog.

    "We want to make sure there are no surprises for us," staff epidemiologist Suzana Fraser told the five-member governing board. She said science can't always anticipate everything.

    Setting up the surveillance system marks a major shift for the nuclear watchdog, which has said nuclear operations cannot produce cancers or other radiation-linked health problems because government rules keep radiation doses to the public well below problem levels.

    In effect, the surveillance program could provide an early warning in case new scientific research invalidates current assumptions about safe radiation levels.

    In an interview, Fraser said the chief reason for setting up the program was mounting public concern over sporadic reports that link living near nuclear installations with various health problems.

    "Primarily we're doing this because we continue to have public concern -- public fears, really -- which can be detrimental to public health," she said.

    The surveillance program would likely apply to seven locations in Ontario:

    • Nuclear power stations such as

      • Bruce, near Kincardine;

      • Darlington, at Newcastle; and

      • Pickering [near Toronto].

    • Nuclear research facilities

      • at Chalk River, and possibly

      • at McMaster University in Hamilton.

    • Uranium refining and fabricating plants at Port Hope.

    • The now-closed uranium mine at Elliot Lake.

    Exactly how to cast the surveillance net around each community will be determined by the pilot project, said Fraser.

    Two earlier AECB-sponsored studies examined the rates of childhood leukemia within 25 kilometres of the Bruce and Pickering power plants.

    Those studies, carried out in 1990 and 1991, found the leukemia rates in children up to 14 years old living near the two nuclear reactors were 40 per cent higher than the provincial average.

    But consultants hired by the watchdog agency said these higher rates could be simply [due to] chance.

    Another 1991 report counted 24 Down syndrome babies born between 1973 and 1988 to mothers who lived near the Pickering power station. The expected number would have been 13 according to the provincial average.

    More recently, other studies have linked higher breast and prostate cancer rates with living near nuclear power plants. Yet the weight of scientific opinion is that no clear causal connection has been demonstrated.

    "We want to make sure that we're right," Fraser said. "We're applying the precautionary principle."

    Prominent critics of the nuclear industry welcomed news of the program.

    "I'm glad they're starting somewhere," said Dr. Rosalie Bertell with the International Institute of Concern for Public Health in Toronto.

    But Bertell said the surveillance should also be looking at birth defects and any disease with a genetic component, such as diabetes or some heart conditions.

    "Many diseases can be initiated by radiation and then carried on in the family," she said.

    Norm Rubin, nuclear expert with Toronto's Energy Probe, said he was worried that the control board might not rigorously pursue apparent health problems flagged by the surveillance scheme.

    "They've already tried to explain away the 40 per cent leukemia; they've explained away clusters of Down syndrome. That seems to be what they're best at -- explaining away," Rubin said.

    Rubin also said that the control board had a credibility problem since it had always asserted that radiation releases at higher-than- existing levels would not cause cancers or other illness.

    "Nobody is going to get promoted for discovering that AECB-approved releases have led to health problems," he said.

    A national surveillance program has only become feasible recently, according to board officials, because of major improvements in the initial gathering of cancer incidence data and the rapid compilation electronically.

    The program will examine these reports for closely defined areas around each of the nuclear installations, an analysis which is not done now.

    The region studied could be a simple circle but it might also be lined up with measurements of radiation spread by a smokestack plume.

    Another option is to check the cancer data for disease clusters near nuclear facilities.

    Advice on which approach to use will come from the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, a federal health agency handling the data analysis for the control board.

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    Jan 20/00 - Sault airport chief angered by secrecy over plutonium flight.

    Toronto Star
    page NE04

    by Karl Sepkowski

    SAULT STE. MARIE -- Hard on the heels of complaints levelled by Mayor Steve Butland, the president of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp. said yesterday he is angry that no one told him about last Friday's secret shipment of weapons-grade plutonium.

    Jerry Dolcetti said yesterday that he has launched an internal investigation and has asked federal and provincial authorities to explain why airport security personnel were not told of the shipment of the nuclear material.

    Dolcetti joins a chorus of others demanding an explanation for the secret transport of the fuel from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., across the International Bridge and through city streets under escort from city police and OPP to the airport, where it was put aboard a helicopter for the flight to Atomic Energy of Canada facilities in Chalk River, north of Ottawa.

    Dolcetti, Butland and NDP MPP Tony Martin are among a growing number of Sault-area authorities demanding an explanation.

    The fact the shipment would take place was no surprise. Officials in Ottawa had said it would be driven by truck from New Mexico to the border at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and then, once in Canada, along Highway 17 to Chalk River.

    The decision to transport the plutonium by helicopter caught everyone off guard.

    The plutonium crossed the International Bridge at 4 a.m. Friday and was taken to a Ministry of Natural Resources hangar at the airport, where it was put aboard the chopper.

    Dolcetti says the airport corporation, which took over the facility from the federal government in March, 1998, was not told "of the manoeuvring procedures" to transport the fuel from the airport.

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    Jan 18/00 - Watchdog to rule on quality rating for MOX fuel maker.

    Japan Economic Newswire

    LONDON -- The industrial and shipping inspection specialist, Lloyd's Register, is due to decide later this week whether British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. [BNFL], a maker of plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, can keep its quality rating.

    Lloyd's inspectors were sent to the company's MOX pilot plant in Sellafield, northwest England, in September following BNFL's admission that quality control data on batches of MOX fuel, bound for the [Japanese] Takahama nuclear plant's No. 3 reactor in Fukui Prefecture, had been falsified by three workers.

    This [admission] was followed by a statement by BNFL in December that some of the data on MOX already in Japan and awaiting loading into the Takahama No. 4 reactor were 'unusual.'

    A spokeswoman for Lloyd's said, "An investigation is being carried out into BNFL and we hope to report on that at the end of the week."

    The ISO 9002 certificate, seen as essential for securing international exports, is awarded by Lloyd's to ensure that the company's products are manufactured to a high standard. Last week Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) said that it wanted the MOX fuel at Takahama No. 4 returned to Britain. In addition, the Japanese government has suspended any further imports from BNFL until it is happy with the company's working practices.

    Anna Walker, the director general of energy at the [UK] Department of Trade and Industry, and Lawrence Williams, chief inspector of the [UK] Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, are due to go to Japan soon in an effort to restore confidence in BNFL.

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    Jan 18/00 - Flying plutonium too risky for US; Ottawa officials have no credibility.

    Toronto Star
    page ED01

    That U.S. plutonium oxide -- safely locked up in Chalk River until matching Russian material arrives -- started its trip in Los Alamos, birthplace of the bomb.

    This bomb-grade waste fuel made its way to Canada by truck.

    Then, in Sault Ste. Marie, without anyone being told ahead of time, it was transferred to a helicopter and flown to Chalk River.

    If flying plutonium oxide is such a good idea, why didn't they just fly the stuff all the way from New Mexico to Chalk River?

    Because, the U.S. says, it isn't safe. The available air-transport containers, in the view of the U.S. Nuclear Regulation Commission, couldn't contain the radioactive material in the "severe accident conditions which could be encountered with air shipments."

    The U.S. is particularly worried about air accidents involving "low dispersible material, such as mixed oxide fuels."

    Never mind. This is Canada. The Atomic Energy Control Board said the existing land containers are fine for air transport -- in Transport Canada's paraphrase, the "distinction between an air accident and a highway accident is one of location and access rather than type or severity of accident."

    This isn't reassuring. Nor is Transport Canada's bold assertion that "the integrity of the package/container would not be affected in a 30 mph collision involving the transport vehicle."

    Of course, the stuff got to Chalk River safely, didn't it? And wasn't it a hoot that nobody even knew plutonium oxide was flying around over their heads?

    Of course, now they've got to get the Russian stuff to Chalk River, too. They're telling everyone that when it comes it will be in an " inter-modal container" on a ship from St. Petersburg past 30 protesting Quebec towns and cities to Cornwall. Then it goes "by road' to Chalk River.

    That's what they say.

    But, of course, after this outrageous betrayal of public trust, nobody connected with transporting plutonium has a shred of credibility left. Nor should they.

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    Jan 18/00 - Atomic regulator approved helicopter transfer of plutonium.

    Globe and Mail
    page A2

    by Martin Mittelstaedt
    Environment Reporter

    AECB ruled helicopter safe for small shipment

    The Atomic Energy Control Board approved the unusual transfer by helicopter of plutonium across Northern Ontario last week because of the small amount involved.

    Air movement of plutonium, viewed as more dangerous than road transportation, almost never occurs in the nuclear industry because air crashes increase the risk of an accidental release of the substance, which can cause cancer in minute amounts. Board spokeswoman Sunni Locatelli said the small quantity -- 119 grams -- meant it could legally be shipped by air without invoking far more strenuous regulations required for transportation of more than 1 kilogram.

    The plutonium, from surplus U.S. nuclear bombs, was taken from Sault Ste. Marie, at the eastern end of Lake Superior, to Chalk River, about 185 kilometres north of Ottawa, on Friday, in a steel drum.

    Environmentalists said regulators left Canadians vulnerable to unnecessary safety risks.

    "The government was playing Russian roulette with the Canadian public, and it was the Atomic Energy Control Board that seems to have supplied the pistol," said Steve Shallhorn of Greenpeace.

    The container used to ship the plutonium was required to pass tests showing it could withstand a nine-metre drop off a ledge, a one-metre drop onto a bar 15 centimetres in diameter, and 30 minutes in an 800-degree fire.

    Far higher drops and longer fires are involved in air crashes. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based global nuclear watchdog, requires more rigorous standards for air shipments of more than one kilogram.

    The plutonium was shipped by road from the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos nuclear facility in New Mexico to Sault Ste. Marie. It was moved to Canada to test its suitability as fuel in Canadian-designed reactors.

    Prime Minister Jean Chretien has been a big booster of the plutonium project, saying it would help the cause of world peace by making Canadian reactors available to burn surplus atomic weapons from the arms race.

    The ability to burn plutonium, called mixed-oxide fuel in the industry, will make Candu reactors more marketable internationally by allowing them to compete with foreign-designed reactors capable of running on plutonium.

    Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the federal company performing the test burn, had planned to truck the plutonium across Northern Ontario along Highway 17 to its Chalk River research reactor.

    An AECL spokesman said the last-minute decision to switch from truck to air was made because the government was responding to requests from people living along the proposed road route.

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    Jan 18/00 - Plutonium move radiates contempt and breeds distrust.

    Edmonton Journal
    page A 10

    Even at a distance of more than 3,000 kilometres, Albertans can almost see the smirk on the faces of Canada's nuclear officials.

    While protesters were asleep last Friday morning, they hustled a test shipment containing U.S. bomb plutonium across the American border at Sault Ste. Marie, onto a helicopter and off over unpopulated Northern Ontario to research facilities at Chalk River, Ont.

    At this distance, it's even tempting to be grateful.

    The country has been spared interminable new rounds of hearings and protests from people who would object no matter what was being proposed. The way has been cleared for tests that could give Canada a valuable role in neutralizing the active ingredient in nuclear weapons. And the risks associated with nuclear cleanup are being undertaken in the province whose miners and electricity consumers profited most from creating the nuclear mess in the first place.

    But whatever the justification, smirking, sneaking government is not attractive, and it's surely not something to be encouraged, even in Ontario. For one thing, it makes a person wonder what other sneaking officials have done on issues of public safety that no one ever noticed.

    Indeed, one of the reasons nuclear technology is so feared and distrusted is its past record of pooh-poohing public worries and then proving to be horribly wrong after the fact.

    Perhaps the current experiment -- designed to see if U.S. and Russian bomb material can be burned in CANDU reactors -- will not prove a sound solution to the problem. There are lots of reasons to suspect it will not.

    Someday, however, a way of disposing of the material must be found. On that day, a reputation for trickery will not help government sell the idea, and the vital necessity of finding a solution, to a public whose support will always be essential.

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    Jan 17/00- Furtive plutonium airlift angers Sault mayor; he wants answers.

    Whitehorse Star
    page 13

    The mayor [of Sault Ste-Marie] is calling for a post-mortem on the secret airlift last week of weapons-grade plutonium from the city's airport to government laboratories in Chalk River, Ont.

    "I think it's probably appropriate that the mayor of the community know what is happening in his community," Steve Butland said Sunday. "I was in the dark."

    In a surprise move Friday, plutonium was shipped by helicopter from Sault Ste. Marie to Atomic Energy of Canada labs 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa after being brought by truck from New Mexico.

    It was sent to Canada as part of an agreement by the federal government to conduct tests on burning the fuel at Chalk River to help the United States dispose of waste from dismantled nuclear weapons.

    The air shipment pre-empted a plan announced last fall to truck the plutonium east along the Trans-Canada Highway.

    Angry environmental groups, residents and First Nations along the route had promised to protest the shipment by truck because of safety fears.

    But many in the community are equally outraged at the furtive change of plans, which was announced only after the airlift was completed.

    Officials said the trucking plan was scrapped after meetings with residents who were worried that plutonium could be released into the environment if the truck carrying it got into an accident.

    If inhaled, plutonium can cause cancer.

    For the air shipment, the fuel was sealed inside a metal container that met stringent standards, the AECL said.

    It was transported across the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge about 4 a.m. Friday. Accompanied by city and provincial police, it was taken to the airport, loaded on a government helicopter and flown to the Chalk River facility.

    "Somebody told the police," Butland said. "What did they tell the police? 'Don't tell the mayor, don't tell anybody and we'll just get it through'?S It was completely clandestine."

    Airport officials say "it was just sort of dropped on them at the last minute," he said.

    A second plutonium shipment is expected to arrive by ship from Russia and be trucked from Cornwall, Ont. to Chalk River.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Jan 17/00 - AECL flies plutonium into Canada without public notification.

    CTV News


      Atomic Energy Canada is under fire from civic and environmental groups. The outrage comes after the agency accepted its first shipment of nuclear waste from the United States on Friday. There had been public concern for safety. And demonstrations were planned. So, without warning, the agency flew plutonium from the border of Sault Ste. Marie to nuclear research reactors at Chalk River west of Ottawa instead of transporting by land.

      Larry Shewchuk is with Atomic Energy Canada. He joins us on the phone from just outside Winnipeg. And in Ottawa: Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada.

    Good morning, to you both.


      Good morning, Wei Chen.


      Hi, good morning.


      Larry Shewchuk, let me begin with you. When and why did you change plans?


      Well, the why was because of public opinion, quite frankly. We did a public-information tour last fall. And despite the fact that there are anti-nuclear groups and some municipal politicians who protested against the shipment, in fact the vast majority of average Canadians that we met on the public information tour said to us: If this shipment is so safe to be shipped on the road why don't you fly it? And the federal government said to us: Well, is this possible?

      We went to the two regulatory agencies that approve the shipment: the Atomic Energy Control Board for the container and Transport Canada for the transportation plan. They agreed that it was just as safe to fly it as it was to put it on the road. So in the end that's what we did.


      Now, you said that you listened to the public beforehand. So why didn't you inform the public this time around?


      Well, in fact, we said to the people right from Day One, you know, we can't tell you because of security concerns the exact timing and the date of the shipment. And people also said to us it doesn't matter to us how you ship it, just make sure that you take all the necessary security precautions. When we made the change we decided that that would be done in secret because people said to us: However you do it, just make sure you move it safely and don't inconvenience us in any way.


      Elizabeth May, Larry says they consulted the public and this is what the public wants.


      Outrageous. I'd like him to produce a single imaginary Canadian who said it was a good idea to bring this stuff through by air when the US government's own assessment less than a month ago specifically rejected air transport for this very shipment on the grounds that it was more hazardous to do it that way.

      Atomic Energy of Canada Limited's documents to the Department of Transport in this instance said that highway transport was the only method that they examined.

      The Canadians and the first nations who objected to this shipment have every right to be outraged and we have to have a full inquiry into this matter to find out who made this decision and on what basis. They gambled with our health.


      Larry, it is illegal in the United States. So how dangerous was this move?


      Well, it wasn't dangerous at all because the important point is plutonium by itself doesn't explode.

      The point that Ms. May doesn't want to tell Canadians is that what this is about is research and development, about the destruction of 40,000 nuclear warheads. Would you rather have a shipment go through your town -- it can't do anything to you because, again, by itself plutonium can't explode -- in the effort of trying to get rid of nuclear weapons? Ms. May would simply, I would assume, just rather have the nuclear weapons sit there for our children and our grandchildren to worry about for the next number of decades.


      Elizabeth, what about that argument? They said that they've taken safety precautions and they're getting rid of dangerous nuclear weapons.


      I have to make a couple of points to refute the nonsense you just heard from Mr. Shewchuk.

      First of all, plutonium can't explode by itself but it can very readily kill many people by itself. It's the most cancer-causing substance known in extremely small doses.

      Number two, the nuclear warheads could be more safely and more economically efficiently disposed of by taking the plutonium in them and vitrifying them. This is a process that essentially puts it in glass so the plutonium is not recoverable for nuclear weapons. This should be done on site, near where the warheads are to avoid the risks that they are creating by helping to create a regular shipment of plutonium to Canada from Russia and the United States. This is a lot of nonsense. We want the nuclear warheads disabled, we want the plutonium put in an irretrievable state.

      The real reason that Mr. Shewchuk doesn't want to discuss why the Canadian government is pushing this is to prop up a dying nuclear industry that can't sell nuclear reactors in Canada and is desperately hoping to get somebody to pay it, to take this plutonium from spent warheads and run it through our reactors where Canadians will be responsible for the nuclear waste that results for the next quarter of a million years.


      Alright, well, we'll get you to end there. Elizabeth May in Ottawa and Larry Shewchuk from the AECL, thank you both for joining us.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Jan 17/00 - Government departments urged shipment of plutonium by air.

    CP Wire

    by Sue Bailey

    OTTAWA (CP) -- Federal government departments urged that a controversial shipment of U.S. plutonium be quietly shipped to a research reactor near Ottawa by air, not by road as first planned.

    The surprise flight Friday from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s site at Chalk River, Ont., took protesters off guard. It was to have been moved by highway despite promises from environmental activists and First Nations to block its path.

    "We, quite frankly, weren't thinking of air," said AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk. "That wasn't our choice to go to air."

    The change, approved Jan. 10 by Transport Canada, was made "because the government asked us to based on the feedback they got from the public," Shewchuk said.

    Flying plutonium is outlawed in the United States.

    But Friday's flight broke no Canadian regulations, said John Read, director general of the Transport Dangerous Goods section of Transport Canada.

    At public information sessions held last fall by AECL, Natural Resources, Transport Canada and Foreign Affairs, people sold on the safety of moving the weapons-grade plutonium wondered why it couldn't be flown, Shewchuk said.

    The fuel, along with another shipment expected from Russia in the spring, is to be used in tests to recycle bombs into reactor fuel.

    The information sessions demonstrated the container for transporting the fuel, and how the plutonium would be packaged to thwart disaster.

    "When we showed all this stuff to people, the outstanding thing they said to us was: 'If this is so safe to put on the road, why don't you fly it?' " Shewchuk recalled.

    Upon hearing that, ministers for the departments involved suggested AECL consult the Atomic Energy Control Board -- Canada's nuclear regulator -- for approval, confirmed John Embury, spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale.

    "The germ of the idea came from the ministers." Originally, about 119 grams of plutonium taken from nuclear warheads at a lab in Los Alamos, N.M., was to be moved by truck to the Canadian border at Sault Ste. Marie, then on to Chalk River through several towns.

    Instead, the fuel packed in rods in a reinforced steel container was flown from the Soo to Chalk River where it safely arrived at the AECL lab just before noon Friday.

    Canada's nuclear watchdog approved the use of an unsafe container and played "Russian roulette" with public safety, charged campaign director Steve Shallhorn of Greenpeace.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Jan 18/00 - Bloc sounds 'red alert' on Russian plutonium; surprise flight sparks warning.

    Toronto Star
    page NE08

    by Robert McKenzie

    JONQUIÈRE -- The Bloc Québécois says it fears a clandestine plan is afoot to spirit a small quantity of plutonium from Russia down the St. Lawrence River and overland to Chalk River, Ont.

    The party's environment critic pointed to the "deceitful" manner in which Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) used a helicopter last Friday to fly a similar shipment of plutonium from U.S. nuclear warheads from the border at Sault Ste. Marie to the Chalk River research station.

    A similar move could be imminent in Québec, MP Jocelyne Girard- Bujold said in an interview.

    Since last fall, 53 Quebec municipalities on both the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence have voted in favour of resolutions protesting any move to use the river route to transport the Russian nuclear plutonium to its Ontario destination.

    Girard-Bujold, who presented a 13-page report to Transport Canada last October arguing against the importation of MOX, the mixed oxide combination of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, said the Sault Ste. Marie helicopter manoeuvre is a "red alert" for Québec opponents to the plan.

    "There are even rumours that the Russian shipment is on its way," she said.

    "Prime Minister Jean Chretien should come clean -- he's responsible for his ministers and for agencies such as Atomic Energy [of Canada Ltd]. The public has a right to know if this shipment is imminent."

    Original plans called for the Russian plutonium -- a small 132-gram sample, similar to the 119-gram U.S. shipment -- to be transported by ship from St. Petersburg, up the St. Lawrence and the Seaway to Cornwall, then overland to Chalk River.

    The shutdown of the Seaway because of winter ice had reassured Québec opponents of the shipment but that assumption no longer stands, Girard-Bujold said.

    "There have been reports of a Canadian emissary having been sent to St. Petersburg to work out an agreement on how the transportation would be made.

    "How do we know they're not planning to bring it by ship to Québec city, for example, and then by air to Chalk River?

    "Nobody was alerted about the new route they used from Sault Ste. Marie. I am very concerned."

    Federal government departments had planned to move the U.S. plutonium by road and last Friday's surprise flight took protesters off guard, Canadian Press reports.

    The change, approved Jan. 10 by Transport Canada, was made "because the government asked us to based on the feedback they got from the public," AECL spokesperson Larry Shewchuk said.

    The fuel, along with the Russian shipment, is to be used in tests to recycle bombs into reactor fuel.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Feb 06/00 - Idaho considers options for long-term radioactive waste management.

    Post Register
    Idaho Falls

    by Jennifer Langston

    This year, the INEEL [Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory] must decide how to dispose of highly radioactive waste buried in tanks above the state's water supply.

    This week, the public gets its chance to shape decisions that will dictate what kinds of treatment plants are built and what risks they'll be asked to live with for at least 35 years.

    Treating the waste from 50 years of reprocessing nuclear fuel, which is so radioactive it could give a person a lethal dose within hours, will also be one of the biggest cleanup jobs at the INEEL during this century.

    "These are some of the higher-risk materials out there," said Kathleen Trever, director of Idaho's INEEL oversight program. "In terms of having to make a difficult decision with no clear answer, we have to balance risk to everybody."

    At least half of the treatment options would give off radioactive air pollution. Because of concerns from Wyoming citizens about a proposed incinerator that would burn less dangerous waste, public hearings will be held there for the first time.

    The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory must also decide how to dismantle those highly contaminated facilities after the waste has been treated.

    For instance, the 11 underground tanks that have stored the liquid waste might be dug up and completely removed, along with other structures. That "clean closure" option would result in radiation levels no higher than what's found in nature.

    On the other hand, that poses the highest risk to workers. The DOE estimates the exposure from digging them up would cause three cancer fatalities over 60 years.

    Other options would fill the tanks up with radioactive grout and leave them buried above the aquifer, which southern Idaho depends upon for drinking and irrigation water.

    Although none of the agencies has picked a preferred plan, putting waste back in the tanks isn't acceptable to the state of Idaho. It contends that under a settlement agreement reached with the DOE in 1995, all of the waste must be shipped somewhere else.

    "The intent there is to move it out of Idaho, not put parts of the treated waste back and dispose of it here," Trever said.

    How the tanks are closed will affect decisions on cleaning up contaminated soils around them. Over the years, high-level waste has leaked from the pipes and valves connecting the tanks.

    Radioactive elements like strontium-90, cesium-137 and iodine-191 have already reached the aquifer, making that water unsafe to drink.

    Right now the site doesn't have a very good handle on how widespread the contamination is. It is in the process of mapping out work to answer those questions, said Tally Jenkins, the DOE's project manager.

    "We needed to know whether the structures like the tanks will be removed," he said. "If you took (the tanks) out, you might look more closely at excavating and removing the soils."

    Jenkins said even if the tanks are left in place, it would still be possible to remove hot spots in the radioactive soils, or stabilize the contaminants by injecting grout into the ground. That would happen if studies show those procedures are necessary to protect the aquifer.

    The Department of Energy has outlined nine separate options for treating the high-level waste, which contains carcinogenic chemicals as well as radionuclides that are either highly radioactive or long-lived.

    About 1.4 million gallons of liquid waste remain in underground tanks. There is also 147,000 cubic feet of calcined waste stored in steel bins. That waste has been converted into a dry powder.

    Nearly all of the treatment options would require building new plants to convert the waste into glass, ceramic or concrete forms so it might be shipped to a permanent dump one day.

    Under the settlement agreement with the state of Idaho, all of the waste must be ready to hit the road by 2035, although it remains to be seen whether an underground repository will be open by then.


    Here are the alternatives the DOE is considering to treat the INEEL's high-level waste:

    The first two options would leave highly radioactive waste in Idaho indefinitely.

    1. No Action

      • Leave liquid waste stored in underground tanks above the aquifer indefinitely.

      • Store the calcined waste in Idaho indefinitely.

    2. Continued current operations

      • Upgrade the calciner and continue to treat the existing liquid waste there.

      • Store the calcined waste in Idaho indefinitely.

      • Treat newly generated liquid wastes and sludges in the bottom of the empty tanks, sending the more radioactive parts to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

      • Mix the less-radioactive parts with grout and dispose of it at the INEEL.

    The next three options would save money by separating the waste into highly radioactive and less-radioactive parts. Less waste would have to go to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the government's permanent storage site for high-level waste, currently being studied at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where storage space is expensive.

    Under some options, the less-radioactive waste could remain in Idaho.

      3. Full Separations Alternative

      • Dissolve the dry calcine back into liquid using acids.

      • Treat all the liquids together in a new separations facility that pulls out the most radioactive and long-lived radionuclides.

      • In a new plant, convert the most radioactive part into glass and send to Yucca Mountain, or wherever the DOE chooses to send its high-level waste permanently.

      • Mix the less-radioactive part with grout, putting it back in the tanks and the steel bins, a landfill at the INEEL or an off-site landfill.

    1. Planning basis option

      • Upgrade the calciner and continue to treat the liquid waste there.

      • Dissolve the calcine and separate the waste into two parts using the same process as above.

      • Dispose of the less-radioactive waste at an off-site landfill.

      • Flush contaminated sludges from the bottom of the empty tanks, dry the sludges out and send them to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    2. Transuranic separations option

        (This option would require the DOE to re-classify the waste as transuranic, and it's uncertain whether it could meet that regulatory definition.)

      • Dissolve the calcine back into a liquid and mix it with the existing liquid waste.

      • In a new separations plant, pull out the long-lived radioactive material, solidify it and send it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

      • Dispose of the less-radioactive waste by mixing it with grout and putting it in the empty tanks and bins, an on-site landfill or an off-site landfill.

      • The next three options would be more expensive, because all of the waste would go to Yucca Mountain or the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. None of the radioactive waste would be left in Idaho.

    3. Hot Isostatic Pressed Option

      • Upgrade the calciner and continue to treat the liquid waste there.

      • Press the calcine, under high temperatures and pressures, into a ceramic form for disposal at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

      • Flush contaminated sludges from the bottom of the empty tanks, dry the sludges out and send them to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

    4. Direct Cement Waste Option

      • Upgrade the calciner, and continue to treat the liquid there.

      • Blend the calcine with material to form a solid much like cement. Send to Yucca Mountain.

      • Flush contaminated sludges from the bottom of the empty tanks, dry the sludges out and send them to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    5. Early Vitrification Option

      • Convert the dry calcine into a glass in a new treatment plant. Send to Yucca Mountain.

      • Treat the liquid waste and sludges in the bottom of the empty tanks at the same plant. Send them to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

      • The following option would treat the most radioactive waste at a proposed plant at the Hanford site in Washington. That would increase the number of waste shipments but decrease the amount of processing in Idaho.

    6. Minimum INEEL processing alternative

      • Ship calcine to a treatment plant at the Hanford site in Washington state.

      • Separate the highly radioactive and less-radioactive parts and turn them into glass.

      • Dispose of the highly radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain.

      • Dispose of the less-radioactive waste at the INEEL or at an off-site landfill.

      • Process the liquid wastes and tank sludges in a new facility at the INEEL to remove cesium. Mix the waste with grout and ship it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Feb 08/00 - US and Russia agree on plutonium but not on reactor sale.

    Windsor Star
    page C2

    by Ian Brodie
    The London Times

    Despite their strained relations, Russia and the U.S. have reached an agreement to safeguard nuclear fuel that could be used to make weapons.

    Russia has promised to stop reprocessing spent fuel from its civilian reactors into plutonium. In return, America will give an additional $100 million US to help Russia increase its protection of nuclear materials and to create jobs for nuclear scientists under the budget announced Monday by President Bill Clinton.

    A quarter of the extra money is contingent on Russia agreeing to end new sales and transfers of nuclear technology to Iran. There is a belief hat the Russian know-how is helping Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.

    Yevgeni Adamov, Russia's atomic energy minister, told The New York Times in spite of the agreement Moscow would press ahead with efforts to sell new light-water power reactors to Iran.

    It would be wrong to believe that $100 million in assistance would prompt Russia to forgo revenue from future reactor sales, each of which could be worth up to$1 billion, he said.

    The agreement marks a contrast to the Russo-American squabbles over Chechnya, Iraq and Kosovo.

    The readiness to overlook other problems was made possible by the shared concerns about nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands.

    The deal includes efforts to secure Russia's existing civilian stockpile of plutonium, from which 3,000 nuclear weapons could be made.

    There have been stories from the major site at Mayak in the southern Urals of plutonium stored in canisters the size of milk cans in a shed secured by a padlock. Last December, police found a ton of stolen radioactive steel in a canal outside the plant.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Feb 08/00 - US and Russia agree on plan to control use of civilian plutonium.

    Agence France Presse

    WASHINGTON -- Washington and Moscow have agreed on a US-funded, 100-million-dollar program to prevent plutonium produced by civilian nuclear reactors in Russia from being put to military use, the US Energy Department said.

    While Russia and the United States have already signed several cooperation agreements on military plutonium since the end of the Cold War, this one marks the first major initiative to safeguard 30 tonnes of Russian civilian plutonium that could be used to make 3,000 nuclear warheads, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said in an interview with the New York Times published Sunday.

    The program's main objective, at a cost of 45 million dollars, is to prevent further stockpiling of plutonium separated out of nuclear waste from civilian nuclear reactors.

    This part of the agreement hinges on a US-Russian moratorium on the production of uranium and requires designing and building dry storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel from civilian reactors, the Energy Department said.

    Control of existing stocks of reactor-grade plutonium must be improved, and any future production and stockpiling of plutonium will be decided jointly by both nations.

    The program will also facilitate registering and monitoring dozens of tons of reactor-grade plutonium currently stockpiled at Russia's Mayak site, the Energy Department said.

    For 30 million dollars, the program's second objective will be to ensure the safety of weapons-grade nuclear material in Russia and quickly shut down all nuclear-weapons production facilities.

    These measures are also meant to help efforts by the Russian energy ministry's crisis center to have all former Soviet nations and republics return all Russian-made reactors capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.

    Finally, the US-Russian agreement will use 25 million dollars to develop technological barriers to nuclear proliferation in Russia and the rest of the world.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Jan 17/00 - Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities denounces plutonium transport.

    Timmins Daily Press

    A shipment of toxic chemicals [nuclear fuel incorporating weapons-grade plutonium] that was transported by air over Northern Ontario was a top agenda item over the weekend at a meeting of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM).

    Members expressed their disgust they were not informed that a shipment of MOX fuel flew over Northern Ontario until it had already happened, said Timmins Mayor Vic Power, FONOM chairman.

    Members of FONOM voiced their concerns to Tim Hudak, Northern Development and Mines, at a two-day conference in Sudbury.

    The toxic chemicals, which flew over Northern Ontario early Friday morning, were on their way to be disposed of in Chalk River.

    The Northern municipalities were not made aware that the toxic chemicals from the United States were going to be flown over the province by helicopter.

    Members of FONOM were dismayed by the fact that this had been done, Power said.

    He said countries should take care of their own toxic chemicals. He is even more upset the MOX fuel was in the helicopter since U.S. laws prohibit the substance from being transported by air.

    If (the Americans) can't fly it in their country, how can they fly it in our country? he asked.

    FONOM members will express their anger in letters to the prime minister and Northern Ontario members of parliament.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Jan 17/00 - Plute shipment shows contempt: protesters cannot trust Ottawa.

    Sault Star

    by Linda Richardson

    The secret airlift of nuclear fuel containing plutonium from the Sault Ste. Marie airport has made Kathy Brosemer leery of assurances that the shipment is a one-time exercise. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has compromised Canadians' trust in the nuclear industry by its actions, said the organizer of a demonstration Saturday outside the local Liberal MP's office.

    And several branches of the federal government have shown contempt for Canadian citizens by flying the shipment of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel "over top of us," she said.

    "When people will do this to its citizens, can we believe them?" asked the spokesperson for Northwatch, a regional coalition of environmental groups in Northern Ontario.

    "Can we believe them that there will be no more shipments? Frankly, I don't believe them."

    The MOX fuel -- containing about 119 grams of plutonium from dismantled U.S. nuclear weapons -- was transported by truck from New Mexico to the Sault, across the International Bridge and to the airport in the Canadian Sault.

    In the early morning hours Friday, it was shipped by helicopter to AECL Chalk River labs near Ottawa.

    The move scrapped an earlier plan to truck the test fuel shipment east along the Trans-Canada Highway, thereby avoiding a maelstrom of protests from environmental groups, residents and First Nations along the route.

    About 25 protesters demonstrated outside MP Carmen Provenzano's office Saturday morning looking for answers.

    "He was as much in the dark as the rest of us, but it's his level of government," Brosemer said.

    "I think they feel they've been duped about how the shipment was to be transported," said Provenzano, who spoke with the demonstrators and promised he would try to get responses to any written questions they provided him.

    The substance was safe and could be transported, he said. "That's what was important to me that it could be done safely," the MP said.

    Northwatch also questioned whether airlifting the shipment contravened federal regulations.

    "It's their understanding it's against the law to transport it by law," said Provenzano, who indicated that as far as he is aware no laws were violated.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Steve Butland says he's going to call for a post-mortem of how the shipment was moved through the Sault.

    "I think it's probably appropriate that the mayor of the community know what is happening in his community or her community," he said Sunday in an interview. "I was in the dark."

    The MOX was transported across the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge about 4 a.m.

    Accompanied by city and Ontario Provincial Police, it was then taken to the airport, loaded on a government helicopter and flown to the Chalk River facility.

    "Somebody told the police," Butland said. " What did they tell the police: don't tell the mayor, don't tell anybody and we'll just get it through?"

    It may just be protocol, but he worries "if you can do something like this with MOX fuel can you do it with other initiatives you're kept in the dark about."

    Butland said he plans to talk to Police Chief Bob Davies about what occurred, to find out the circumstances and what was said.

    Airport officials say "it was just sort of dropped on them at the last minute," he said.

    "Everybody's just saying it happened, but what happened? We need some explanations."

    The mayor admitted he doesn't know if he'll get any answers from federal natural resources minister Ralph Goodale or AECL and other officials.

    "It was clandestine in the beginning. We said tell us about it and in the very end it continued in the same vein, it was completely clandestine."

    Butland said he really believes "this is the end" and no more shipments will be moved through here.

    "The people have spoken and they (the officials) just don't want to go through this any more."

    . . . back to List of News Stories


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