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Mar 24/00 - Export Development Corporation suffers $3 billion in losses.

Vancouver Sun
page A 18

Shroud of secrecy hides big spenders:

The Export Development Corporation,
with more than $3 billion worth of losses
forecast on some questionable loans,
should allow the auditor-general
to look at its books.

In yet another display of Ottawa's continuing profligate and unaccountable spending, the Export Development Corporation has taxpayers on the hook for $1.3 billion in bad debt and another $2.8 billion in future loan losses.

This revelation, on top of the misuse of $1 billion in job-creation grants at Human Resources Development Canada, is disturbing. With taxpayers guaranteeing $13 billion of EDC's lending activities, the auditor-general should have full access to the corporation's books. But he does not.

EDC, a Crown corporation, provides short-term financing to Canadian firms involved in exports. And it also makes low-interest, long-term loans to foreign governments so they can buy Canadian goods. Ottawa argues that taxpayer-funded export financing is necessary to ensure that our firms can compete against companies from countries with similar programs.

Last year, the corporation helped 5,200 firms, mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, conclude $40 billion in export contracts. By most accounts, the agency has been reasonably successful with its short-term export financing deals.

But many of the corporation's long-term projects, including the $1.5-billion loan to China to build two nuclear reactors using Canadian technology, are questionable. And the $170-million loan for China's Three Gorges Dam, an environmentally and economically unsound mega-project, calls into question EDC's competence to assess the viability of these projects.

As well, after the U.S. Congress refused to provide additional subsidies to the U.S. rail carrier Amtrak, EDC provided a billion-dollar, low-interest loan so that it could buy high-speed trains from Montreal-based Bombardier. Vancouver Sun business columnist Michael Campbell wrote that, when asked about the Amtrak loan, EDC would only say it was "unable to identify the entity, the purpose of the loan, the Canadian suppliers, or the status of the loan.'' This is what passes for public accountability in Ottawa.

Theoretically, EDC is responsible to Parliament through the minister for international trade. But in reality, EDC refuses to answer any questions about its long-term lending practices for fear of divulging sensitive commercial information. And it is also exempt from access to information requests, making a mockery of political accountability.

Whether long-term financing of Amtrak or the Three Gorges dam makes any economic sense is the $64,000 question. Unfortunately, Canadians will not get an answer because EDC is hiding under the shroud of commercial secrecy. While protecting commercial secrets related to short-term loans, EDC could still provide information on long-term loans to the auditor-general so that he could evaluate and if necessary make recommendations to the House of Commons to stop non-viable, politically motivated projects.

Taxpayers, who pay the freight, deserve nothing less.

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Mar 23/00 - Clinton offers India help and urges cooling of nuclear standoff.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
page A 07

Clinton offers India help with environment;

U.S. president also urges cooling of
nuclear standoff with Pakistan.

AGRA, INDIA -- U.S. President Bill Clinton marvelled at the wonders of the Taj Mahal on Wednesday but lamented that pollution has blemished the gleaming white marble walls of India's treasured monument in a way that wars, invasions and natural disasters could not.

He urged India, one of the world's poorest countries, not to sacrifice the environment for the sake of economic growth. "Give us a chance to work with your scientists to prove you can achieve even greater economic growth and make the environment cleaner," the president said.

Clinton toured the Taj Mahal after addressing the Parliament in New Delhi, urging India to forgo nuclear weapons and resume a dialogue with Pakistan despite bitter tensions.

"You don't make peace with your friends," Clinton said. "Engagement with adversaries is not the same thing as endorsement." Legislators slapped their desks in applause at much of the president's speech but listened in silence as he urged nuclear restraint and contact with Islamabad.

"In a nuclear standoff, there is nothing more dangerous than believing there is no danger," Clinton said. He said the United States and former Soviet Union, despite safeguards and regular communication, "came far too close to nuclear war."

But even before the president spoke, India's government had rejected his call to sign a nuclear test ban treaty and otherwise restrain its nuclear program.

The address to members of Parliament concluded Clinton's two days of official business in New Delhi. He was to spend today and Friday searching on safari for a Bengal tiger and visiting a village to discuss the role of women. He also will stop in India's banking and computer capitals before going to Pakistan on Saturday.

A sweltering sun beat down on Clinton and his daughter Chelsea as they turned tourist and strolled arm in arm amid the gardens and fountains of the Taj Mahal -- the majestic, domed mausoleum that Emperor Shah Jahan built for his wife when she died giving birth to their 14th child.

"It's amazing, isn't it," Clinton exclaimed.

Although the Taj Mahal's walls are brilliantly white, on closer inspection they show signs of deterioration and spotty repair.

Agra is one of the most polluted cities in India because of its more than 150 iron foundries, oil refineries and gas emissions from trucks and cars. The Supreme Court last year ordered some plants closed.

With the Taj Mahal in the background, Clinton said, "Pollution has managed to do what 350 years of wars, invasions and natural disasters have failed to do. It has begun to mar the magnificent walls of the Taj Mahal."

He announced $300 million US in aid for clean energy programs and said U.S. agencies would resume technical assistance to clean up the air and water; the aid was cut off in 1998 when the United States imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan for conducting nuclear tests.


U.S. President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea
tour the storied grounds of India's Taj Mahal on Wednesday.

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Mar 23/00 - Switzerland suspends shipments of nuclear waste to Britain.

Agence France Presse

WUERENLINGEN, Switzerland -- Swiss authorities imposed a ban Thursday on shipments of nuclear waste to Britain's Sellafield reprocessing centre because of safety concerns.

The [Swiss] federal nuclear installation inspectorate (DSN) informed the country's nuclear centres that no transport licences for spent fuel destined for Sellafield would be issued for the moment, a statement said.

It added the suspension would remain in effect until there had been a significant improvement in safety conditions at Sellafield.

According to the DSN, the British Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII) has issued a list of security measures which need to be improved.

Sellafield has been given two months to put the improvement package into action.

The NII issued a highly critical report recently on the running of Sellafield in northeast England, accusing the British Nuclear Fuels management company of "systematic management failures".

The DSN has asked the NII to outline measures taken to address "deliberate deteriorations" which have recently been reported at the plant, but the Swiss agency is also planning to make its own site inspection.

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Mar 23/00 - France will continue to process Australian n-waste: minister.

Agence France Presse

PARIS -- Australia is determined to continue shipping nuclear waste to France for reprocessing [plutonium recovery] despite protests by environmentalists in both countries, Australian Industry and Resources Minister Nick Minchin said Thursday.

"It is very important not to be deterred by a few protestors," he told a business luncheon in Paris.

"We will continue these shipments as required." Minchin, who was visiting France and Germany to promote investment in Australia, earlier held talks with the French nuclear treatment company COGEMA, which is reprocessing spent fuel rods from the Lucas Heights experimental reactor, the only atomic plant in Australia.

The first shipment of rods prompted demonstrations by the ecological pressure group Greenpeace, both in Sydney, when it left in November last year, and in the French port of Cherbourg, when it arrived January 19.

Under a contract signed a year ago, a total of 1,300 spent rods are to be reprocessed from the reactor, and three more shipments are due over the next three years.

Greenpeace has condemned the contract, saying it presents serious environmental dangers.

But Minchin told the diplomats, businessmen and journalists at the lunch that he was impressed by France's handling of nuclear material and pointed out that France derives 75 percent of its energy from atomic power.

He added that the Australian government was about to build two facilities on its territory to store 40 years' worth of nuclear waste that up to now, he said, has been stocked in hospitals and universities. One of the facilities would be built in the central north of the state of South Australia, he said.

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Mar 24/00 - Greenpeace slams Australian minister's "hypocrisy" on nuclear.

Agence France Presse

SYDNEY, Australia -- Environmental group Greenpeace Australia on Friday attacked industry and resources minister Nick Minchin for what it described as his "hypocritical mission to Europe to promote nuclear trade."

Minchin told a business lunch in Paris on Thursday that Australia would continue shipments of nuclear waste to France for reprocessing despite protests in both countries.

Under the terms of the waste contract, some 1,300 spent fuel rods from Australia's sole reactor at Lucas Heights are to be reprocessed in France before being returned to Australia.

The first shipment of rods arrived in France in January and a further three shipments are due over the next three years.

Greenpeace Australia nuclear campaigner Stephen Campbell described Minchin's attitude as "hypocritical and thoughtless."

He said the Australian government is sending nuclear waste to France to undergo a process that it has banned in Australia.

"The minister wants French citizens to deal with our dirty washing," he said. "The La Hague plant, where our waste is reprocessed, is one of the most contaminating nuclear facilities on the planet."

Campbell said that Australia should be taking responsibility and looking to halt production of waste on Australian soil, rather than relying on France to take the waste.

"But the Howard government is hell bent on building a new reactor that we do not need," he added.

Greenpeace said that the new reactor planned for Lucas Heights near Sydney, costing around 320 million dollars (195 million US), will lock Australia into a further 40 years of high-level waste production.

The existing nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights has been in operation since 1960 and is due to be decommissioned in 2005.

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Mar 24/00 - Group rejects Ontario Powers's claim of 'clean' nuclear energy.

Toronto Star
by Stan Josey

Ontario Power Generation's ad
was misleading, activists say

A nuclear monitoring group has filed a complaint of misleading advertising against Ontario Power Generation over an advertisement proclaiming that nuclear power is "clean."

Irene Kock of Durham Nuclear Awareness says a large colour advertisement that ran in The Globe and Mail last Friday made a false claim that nuclear-powered generators create "clean electricity."

"Radioactive pollution from Ontario Power Generation's nuclear power plants is known to increase the risk of cancer and birth defects for surrounding communities," she said.

Her organization has filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau and is urging that the company either be charged with false and misleading claims or be ordered to halt this type of advertisement.

Ontario Power spokesperson John Earl said the utility has not seen the details of the complaint, but "we stand behind the advertisement. "

He said the term "clean electricity" is used extensively in North America in relation to nuclear power production.

"As the ad says, we do check things very carefully when it comes to the environment."

Earl said nuclear power protects the environment by avoiding the emission of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse and acid gases that would be produced by fossil fuel generators.

On the matter of cancer and birth defects, he said Ontario Power meets or exceeds all federal regulations for radiation emissions.

Ontario Power has said it would like to restart the Pickering 'A' station, closed for upgrading in 1997, in 2001.

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Mar 24/00 - NB Power to study the cost of refurbishing the Lepreau reactor.

The Guardian
page A5

FREDERICTON (CP) -- NB Power is going to spend as much as $40 million to figure out whether it's worth spending hundreds of millions more to keep the aging Point Lepreau nuclear power plant in operation.

The board of directors of NB Power, a provincially owned utility, has approved the expenditure of up to $40 million over the next two years to study the pros and cons of refurbishing the CANDU reactor on the shores of the Bay of Fundy.

The plan was contained in a notice released by the Atomic Energy Control Board in Ottawa.

The study is designed to determine how much it would cost to extend the life of the nuclear power plant beyond 2008, when it's scheduled to go out of service.

Critics of the nuclear plant said it's ridiculous to spend so much money on another study when there already have been reports and expert opinions on refurbishing Lepreau.

"NB Power has to make a decision,'' said David Coon of the New Brunswick Conservation Council, which advocates mothballing the plant.

"If they crunch the numbers, it's just too darn expensive to rebuild the guts of the reactor.''

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Mar 23/00 - Green taxes are urged by Canada's Environment Minister.

Windsor Star
page C 10

by Andrew Duffy

Environment Minister David Anderson has opened a national debate on the traditionally taboo subject of green taxes, saying it's high time Canada linked pollution and penalties.

"We can and must get on with the business of redesigning our tax base to reflect environmental costs early,"Anderson told a Vancouver audience Wednesday in a prepared speech obtained by Southam News.

The minister announced that over the next year he intends to lead a federal-provincial debate on how to restructure Canada's tax system to better reflect environmental costs.

To begin with, he said, governments must end regulations and subsidies that lead to poorer water and air quality -- or the abuse of fish stocks and forests.

"These can range from local regulations that encourage cabs to drive back empty rather than picking up passengers in different municipality to ending loans for making environmentally harmful capital investments, such as buying bigger and more powerful offshore fishing vessels," he said.

In Canada, green taxes have met stern opposition from the industries and consumers targeted. The Liberal government has consistently shied away from them even though they have become a common feature of European tax regimes.

Last October, for instance anderson raised the possibility that gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles could have a tax added to their sticker price to reflect their high emission levels.

But the minister quickly downplayed the idea after it was greeted with a chorus of angry responses from SUV owners, family groups and car manufacturers.

Anderson, however, insisted Wednesday that "it is time to get serious about aligning economic signals and financial rewards with environmental goals."

New green taxes, he said, could be revenue neutral and offset by cuts to other kinds of taxation, like payroll taxes.

Anderson's comments reflect an emerging view within Environment Canada that revenue neutral taxation measures -- tax shifting -- must be introduced if the country is to meet significant environmental goals.

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Mar 24/00 - Environment Minister wants to ''go green'' with our taxes.

Times Colonist
page A10

Victoria -- None of us likes paying taxes, especially when we see the way our tax dollars are frittered away on bogus job-creation schemes and dodgy foreign ventures by the bureaucrats in Ottawa and on fast ferries that aren't.

But why is it that we are taxed for working, corporations are taxed for making the goods we want, and stores are taxed for selling them to us? Don't our governments want us to work? Don't they want businessmen to do business and hire people?

Federal Environment Minister David Anderson has a better idea: We should tax pollution that everyone agrees is bad, and reduce taxes on the good things like jobs and business.

Levies to reflect the environmental costs of polluting operations (like dumping toxins) and practices (like driving to the mailbox) are called green taxes. The federal government has talked about them before, but quickly switched to other subjects because of the unfavourable reaction of industries and consumers because, as we've noted, none of us likes paying taxes.

But none of us likes foul air, murky water and filthy urban sprawl either. And we should all listen to what Anderson has to say. He'll talk to provincial governments about restructuring Canada's tax system to reflect environmental costs better.

But beware! Governments will use this process to increase overall tax revenue at their peril. Tax swapping has worked in Europe, notably in Britain where payroll taxes have been reduced to match tax increases on landfills and in Spain where gasoline tax increases have been matched by payroll tax deductions. In Sweden, Denmark and Holland, income and payroll taxes have been shifted to carbon emissions, electricity sales, waste incineration and pesticide use.

Europe has also shown how effective taxing polluters can be: In Germany a tax on toxic waste reduced toxic disposal by 15 per cent over three years. A Dutch tax on heavy metal emissions reduced them by 90 per cent over 20 years.

While, as Anderson acknowledges, there will always be a need for anti-pollution regulations, green taxes provide incentive for businesses and industries to go beyond mere compliance.

The reason we have things like income and sales taxes is that they're easy to collect. Any system of green taxation that emerges from Anderson's initiative must also be easy to administer. It shouldn't require legions of public servants, mounds of forms, delays or confusion. Bureaucratic and regulatory pollution is almost as bad as the environmental kind.

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Mar 24/00 - Calgary wind energy project permits ''emission trading''.

Calgary Herald
page E2

by Charles Frank

Calgary's Enmax Corp. has become the first company to register an emissions trade for a wind energy project.

Officials of the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Trading (GERT) pilot project announced the trade between the city-owned utility and two federal government departments Thursday.

Enmax had previously purchased wind power and emissions reductions generated by Vision Quest Windelectric Inc. at the company's Belly River and Castle River sites in southern Alberta.

The wind power and emissions reductions (which are credits gained because wind power, which replaces power generated by thermal power plants, reduces greenhouse gases) were then resold to Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

Both government ministries have 10-year agreements with Enmax.

"Participating in the GERT pilot (project) will help raise awareness with other organizations that green power is a viable and measurable way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,'' said Enmax vice-president Sean Durfy.

The pilot is a collaborative effort between a number of provincial and federal government agencies, industry associations, environmental organizations and other non-governmental agencies.

"This is a landmark step in affirming there is a developing market for trading in emissions reductions, particularly ones that are transparent, tangible, well documented and result in actual emissions reductions,'' said Vision Quest managing director Fred Gallagher.

Photo courtesy Vision Quest Windelectric Inc.
Wind turbines have been hailed as pollution-free energy sources.

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Mar 24/00 - US nuclear policies are alarmingly incoherent and destabilizing.

The Guardian

The India-Pakistan conflict:
special report

President Bill Clinton flunked a rare opportunity in India this week to advance efforts to curb global proliferation of nuclear weapons. His mild strictures about the dangers inherent in India's military nuclear programme were politely but firmly rejected.

Pakistan's leaders are likely to give him similarly short shrift when he visits Islamabad tomorrow. Even though he calls Kashmir, where India, Pakistan and their proxies are locked in confrontation, the world's most dangerous place, and even though his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, considers the two countries' nuclear rivalry a "number one security concern" for the US, Mr Clinton was overly anxious not to upset his prickly hosts with unwelcome mediation offers or some serious arms control arm-twisting.

India and Pakistan learned this week that nuclear capability ensures a kind of respect from the big kid on the block. That is a seriously destabilising global signal.

Mr Clinton's diffidence reflects a broader problem: America's deepening confusion about its overall nuclear strategy. The president could not convincingly preach the virtues of self-denial to Delhi while the US refuses to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

Although it observes a voluntary moratorium [on nuclear testing], it is free to resume testing at any time. And despite the scrapping of more than half of its cold war weapons stockpile, it retains at least 10,000 nuclear warheads and state-of-the-art offensive delivery systems.

Ms Albright piously reaffirmed recently America's "ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons". But even if a Start III arms reduction accord is eventually agreed with Russia, for instance, the US will keep as many as 2,500 "city-buster" warheads.

The problem of US double standards has worldwide impact. In the Middle East, for example, Washington tolerates Israel's nuclear capability which Arab states consider a major threat to their security. But it continues to press all sides for a "final" peace settlement as if this fundamental imbalance did not exist.

Its fears that Iran or Iraq may acquire the bomb meanwhile lead it to adopt policies, particularly economic sanctions, which undermine the chances of long-term regional peace and prosperity.

Mr Clinton's weak south Asian performance also provides an unpropitious backdrop for next month's nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference in New York. Here, another basic confusion in US policy will come under scrutiny.

The [UK] foreign office minister Peter Hain voiced hopes this week that the US intention to build a national missile defence (NMD) "will be compatible with the preservation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty". But he acknowledged a possible "conflict of interests".

This is very diplomatic of him. NMD has the potential to destroy ABM, the 1972 keystone of non-proliferation efforts, wreck the review conference, and provoke a post-cold war global strategic arms race -- for the obvious response of a country like China is to build more and bigger nukes.

The NMD presents particular problems for Britain. Under the Pentagon's madcap scheme, interceptors would (if they work, and that is a big "if") be alerted by forward stations such as Fylingdales to meet incoming nuclear missiles fired by "rogue states".

This affords Yorkshire a proud place in the national defence. Of America, that is. For NMD is not intended, initially at least, to protect European NATO allies.

Because it threatens NATO's cohesion, because it encourages nuclear proliferation, and because it is just plain dangerous, Britain must actively and urgently oppose it. Meanwhile, the US needs to sort out its nuclear ideas.

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Mar 09/00- France's nuclear waste management is a mess: parliamentarians.

Agence France Presse

PARIS -- The management of France's nuclear waste is disorganised and operators of the state-run plants put profits before safety, according to a scathing report handed to the French parliament Thursday.

The report said a huge stockpile of waste was building up at French plants, but there was no coherent approach for dealing with it.

"We need a national plan for managing radioactive waste," the report's author, MP Michele Rivasi, told a press conference.

"So far, the solutions have been on a case-by-case basis, devised by plant operators whose prime concern is not that of radioactive protection."

France uses nuclear power to generate 75 percent of its electricity, the highest proportion in the world, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The biggest waste producer is the state-run Électricité de France. Nuclear plants are also operated for military and civilian research and for recycling.

The report said 16,000 containers were stockpiled at the COGEMA recycling plant at La Hague on Normandy coast.

These contain waste left over from the reprocessing of fuel rods that had been sent to the plant from abroad.

But countries were dragging their feet about accepting this waste back, it said. In the case of Germany, the authorities were pleading that they could not accept the containers as they had no storage site for them.

The report outlined a series of recommendations, including a ban on accepting any more foreign recycling contracts unless the deal specifies the date at which the waste has to be shipped back to its country of origin.

In addition, nuclear research should be stepped up with the goal of reducing radioactivity in emissions from nuclear plants, such as water from its cooling system, to "close to zero" by 2020.

There should also be a single entity in charge of administering waste, rather than leaving the problem in the hands of the companies that produce it, the report suggested.

There are only a few facilities in the world that have the capacity to recycle nuclear waste and whose governments will authorise it.

One of these is the Sellafield plant in northwestern England, whose operators, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., have been plunged into crisis by disclosures about lax safety standards and the quality of fuel reprocessed for customers in Germany and Japan.

A parallel issue in France, also unresolved, is where to put a long-term storage site for highly radioactive waste.

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Mar 10/00 - Turkish nuclear scandals break; choice of reactor delayed again.

Nuclear Awareness Project
Press Release

Late on the evening of March 1st, the Turkish government said the long awaited selection of a nuclear vendor to build the Akkuyu nuclear plant would be made at the end of a ten day period.

However, on March 10th, Turkey announced that the selection of a vendor for construction of the Akkuyu nuclear plant would be delayed yet again, this time until April 7th.

The decision has been delayed for almost two years in an embarrassing series of postponements. The three nuclear vendors from Canada, the United States and Europe will tell the state utility TEAS by March 21st if they are willing to let their bid prices stand. The bids were originally made in 1997.

Meanwhile, two major scandals have broken recently in Turkey, making the proposed nuclear plant even more controversial.

One of Turkey's most prominent earthquake experts and author of an earlier study for the government on earthquake safety at the site, has said that the nuclear plant should not proceed without much more research. His submission to the government late last year was suppressed.

The second scandal relates to the possibility that Turkey's acquisition of nuclear power technology could lead to a nuclear weapons program. A member of the government cabinet has defended nuclear weapons development, stating that it would provide security and deterrence.

"We now have a smoking gun. The Akkuyu area has not been proven safe from earthquakes and a government minister is defending the development of nuclear weapons. It is time for AECL and the other nuclear vendors to withdraw their bids." said David Martin, Research Director of Nuclear Awareness Project, a Canadian environmental group that has fought the Akkuyu nuclear plant since 1996.

There are three contenders bidding to build Akkuyu.

Canada's state-owned nuclear company, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is competing against Nuclear Power International (NPI -- a consortium of the German company Siemens and the French company Framatome), and a third bidder, a partnership of Westinghouse (USA) and Mitsubishi (Japan).

The proposed Akkuyu reactor, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast directly north of Cyprus, would be the first nuclear plant to be built directly on the Mediterranean Sea, using sea water for cooling.

Earthquake Scandal

Prof. Mustafa Erdik sent a report to the state utility in November 1999, saying that a 1990 report that he had prepared on earthquake safety at Akkuyu is outdated: "Due to rapid developments in the discipline of seismic engineering, the methodology used in the 1990 report has become outdated." An active fault line known as the Ecemis Fault runs close to the nuclear site.

Prof. Erdik's letter to TEAS, stating the need for further earthquake research, was suppressed and was not made available to the government prior to or during its March 1st announcement on Akkuyu.

Prof. Erdik is the head of Seismic Engineering at Turkey's most prominent earthquake research centre, the Kandilli Observatory, and at the Seismic Research Institute of Bogazici University.

Nuclear Weapons Scandal

As reported on March 9th, Turkish Minister of Transport Enis Oksuz has attacked environmental opponents of nuclear power in Turkey and defended nuclear power as a first step in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Oksuz stated in a major daily newspaper, "When you mention the atomic bomb, they are scared that it kills people. It has not been used since the second world war. Having such a bomb in Turkey's hand is security. It provides deterrence."

Oksuz is a member of the extreme right wing nationalist party Milliyetci Hareket Partisi (MHP -- National Movement Party), which is the number two party in the country, and a partner in the three-party government coalition.

The proposed Akkuyu nuclear plant has heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region.

On March 2nd, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Ioannis Cassoulides, protested the Akkuyu plant, stressing the risk of accident from earthquake damage. On March 7th, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou urged Turkey to reconsider its plans for the Akkuyu nuclear plant, stressing the potential impacts on the environment and on tourism in the region.

For more information please contact:

David H. Martin, Research Director
Nuclear Awareness Project (Canada)
tel/fax: +905-852-0571

References to the following articles (in English) are available on request:

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Mar 08/00 - Germany suspends shipments of plutonium fuel from Britain.

Agence France Presse

BERLIN -- Germany said Wednesday it was suspending shipments of MOX [plutonium] nuclear fuel from Britain's Sellafield reprocessing center because of safety concerns.

The environment ministry said in a news release that the suspension would remain in effect "until all necessary security standards are met."

Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said doubts had to be completely removed about the reliability of the British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) company.

He invited BNFL representatives to meet with him next week in Berlin.

In London, a spokesman for BNFL, which runs the Sellafield plant, said the the suspension was "a bit academic."

"It does not mean much at this stage. We are not actually producing any Mox fuel at this moment," he said.

BNFL said that because of internal problems, Sellafield "has not been operating for two or three months."

"We have to retrain people in that plant and to meet Nuclear Installations Inspectorate requirements before shipments can resume," he said.

Sellafield has been at the centre of a global nuclear power scandal in recent weeks because of the alleged falsification of records at the plant.

BNFL's chief resigned last week after the company admitted employees by-passed quality control checks on MOX (mixed uranium plutonium oxide) rods at the Sellafield plant in northwest England.

Some test data on the size of fuel pellets in a shipment BNFL sent to Japan's Kansai Electric Power last October was falsified.

The German electricity generating company PreussenElektra said February 24 that it was shutting down its Unterweser nuclear power plant in order to remove fuel rods that came from Sellafield and were supplied with falsified documentation.

It said the four suspect rods had not posed any security risk at the power station.

Its announcement came the day after Trittin, of the Greens party, recommended closure of the plant when details of the falsified documents emerged.

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Mar 04/00 - Cleaning up radioactive pollution in Deloro to cost $20 million.

Windsor Star
page A13

Canadian Press

A radioactive, chemically hazardous mine site on this village's borders will cost up to $20 million of provincial money to clean up, say [Ontario] Ministry of Environment officials.

As much as $14 million has already been spent on the site, assumed by the province in the early 1980s after almost two centuries of mining.

The village and its 160 residents are adjacent to the now closed Deloro Mine site -- a 200-hectare site that, over the past century, has seen gold extracted from its mines, smelting and even nuclear waste treatment on its grounds.

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Mar 06/00 - Cold War mentality, threat of nuclear annihilation still lingers.

Red Deer Advocate
page A4

by David Suzuki

The Cold War is over, but don't tell that to some of the American presidential candidates, or members of the U.S. Senate who are dedicated to "rebuilding" that country's defence -- even if it means ignoring scientists and once again raising the spectre of nuclear conflict.

Politicians have a responsibility to rely on the best scientific advice when making policy decisions about science-based issues. Unfortunately, paranoia, dogma and nationalism often overrule common sense. Two such cases involving nuclear weapons typify this problem.

Last fall, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a promise by 150 nations to end forever all nuclear explosions. The Senate decided a test ban would be unenforceable because some countries might carry out nuclear tests in secret, and because confidence in the U.S. nuclear arsenal could diminish if the U.S. didn't carry out underground nuclear explosions.

Both arguments are nonsense. First, provisions of the CTBT included creating a comprehensive monitoring system (much of which already exists) that would have been able to detect even small nuclear explosions anywhere on the planet.

Physicists and seismologists the world over agreed that the system would work. A group of 32 Nobel laureates even petitioned the Senate to ratify the treaty, as did the prestigious American Geophysical Union and the Seismological Society of America.

Second, from a purely technical perspective, there are more efficient and safer ways to test nuclear weapons than blowing them up. The vast majority of nuclear detonations were done during the weapons' development stages, not in subsequent years to make sure they will still explode.

The United States still has thousands of warheads. In order to obtain a statistically, relevant "confidence" figure, the U.S. would need to detonate a great number of these weapons -- at tremendous financial expense and environmental damage.

Further, as Kurt Gottfried of the Laboratory of Nuclear Studies notes in the Jan. 13 Nature, only one per cent of all potential defects discovered in warheads examined between 1958 and 1992 were found during underground explosions. The vast majority were discovered during standard lab tests.

The American rejection of the test ban means that it is now less likely that two of the most volatile nuclear nations, Pakistan and India, will sign on. In fact, they may now continue to develop and test nuclear weapons, which could prompt other countries in the region, such as China, to do the same.

The test ban rejection isn't the only case of American politicians ignoring good science in the name of "national security." Plans to develop a missile defence system are still in the works, (they have been since 1968) and are supported by some current U.S. presidential candidates, in spite of the problems that have plagued such systems for three decades.

Creating a way to protect the U.S. against ballistic missiles from so-called "rogue" nations may seem like a good idea at first, but a reliable defence has proven elusive.

Just three of 17 tests since 1984 have actually been successful. And experts such as George Lewis of MIT say that missile defence systems will probably never work because it's too easy to develop countermeasures against them.

In fact, rather than increasing safety and world security, the very existence of a missile defence system could provoke other nations into stepping up their arms development. It's a dangerous situation, especially in light of the U.S. failure to support the nuclear test ban.

So while the Cold War is over, the threat posed by nuclear weapons remains, for even a minor nuclear conflict would be absolutely devastating. Actions that serve to legitimize nuclear weapons and their testing make little sense except to bolster a nation's military ego and engage in senseless and dangerous sabre-rattling.

David Suzuki is a geneticist,
environmentalist and broadcaster.

. . . back to List of News Stories

Mar 07/00 - Faulty equipment zapped mine workers with gamma-radiation.

page A1

by Tera Camus

Glace Bay, Nova Scotia -- The Cape Breton Development Corp. has pleaded guilty to seven charges of exposing miners to dangerous levels of radiation.

The federal Crown agency was originally charged with 11 offences under the Atomic Energy Control Act but four counts were withdrawn Monday in Glace Bay provincial court.

Sentencing is set for May 5.

The charges stem from an inspection by Atomic Energy Control Board officials last July that uncovered a faulty radiation device known as a fixed gauge at the Phalen mine in New Waterford. The round, bowling ball-sized device uses a beam of radiation to identify obstructions in the coal chute.

Federal inspectors found that a broken latch on the device's protective shutter allowed it to emit gamma rays. It was later discovered that at least 10 maintenance workers and electricians had been exposed to excessive levels of radiation since 1997. Several workers even handled the radiation source after it fell to the floor, not knowing it was dangerous.

The charges carry penalties ranging from fines to jail time or a combination of both.

Tests done by the board revealed that 10 workers received radiation doses over the annual allowable public limit of five milliSieverts (5 mSv).

At least one worker was exposed to levels exceeding the 50-mSv limit the board sets for workers in nuclear power plants and other professionals who may be exposed to radiation.

One Devco worker has since been diagosed with bladder cancer.

Devco, as a licensed handler of radioisotopes, is supposed to ensure safety features are in place and workers are trained to handle such equipment.

Forbes Harding, the electrician who reported the problem to the board last July, said he developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a circulatory problem that has left him with a pain in his hand that feels like "deep burning, like somebody putting a cigar out on you." The pain has persisted ever since he handled the radiation source for 20-25 minutes.

He said his hand received radiation levels the equivalent of 850 chest X-rays during that period.

. . . back to List of News Stories

Mar 20/00 - German greens support the government on nuclear phase-out.


KARLSRUHE -- Germany's Greens party rallied behind the government's nuclear power policy and stopped short of threatening to quit the ruling coalition over arms sales to Turkey.

The party, which has been divided over compromises made by its ministers in the coalition, gave a standing ovation to Environment Minister Juergen Trittin as he defended the government's 30-year nuclear phase-out plan.

The conference voted to back Trittin by an overwhelming majority, finally laying to rest a demand for immediate closure of all reactors that dated back to the party's long years in opposition. The motion also called on the government to force a phase-out on the energy industry if it failed to agree to terms.

Trittin said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats, the senior partners in the 18-month-old coalition, would not accept pushing for speedier closure. The plan has yet to be agreed with the power industry.

"There are no contradictory goals," said Trittin. "Our goal is the end of nuclear power. But to achieve it with seven percent of the vote we have to work to build a majority for our views."

The party conference in southwestern Karlsruhe was due to vote on the plan later on Saturday.

"Don't let our chief negotiator leave the conference with the legs cut from under him," said the meeting's co-chair Antje Radcke, an environmentalist hardliner.

"Twenty years after our founding, the Greens have the chance for the first time to finally get rid of nuclear power."

The party leadership had been pushing initially for a 25-year limit.

A few hecklers, including a group who tore off their clothes in protest, demanded a much faster shutdown.

One senior delegate backed Trittin but called 30 years the "absolute pain barrier" for the Greens, who have their roots in the anti-nuclear protests of the 1970s and are now experiencing their first taste of power.


Delegates were tougher on the government and especially its most senior Green member, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, over planned sales of arms and nuclear plants to countries they said had a poor human rights record.

They voted to block the sale of German tanks to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates but they narrowly defeated a motion calling for Green ministers to resign from the coalition if exports went ahead.

Fischer had insisted on Friday that a possible order from Ankara for up to 1,000 Leopard battle tanks would only win an export licence if Turkey showed progress on human rights.

The German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, part of the Mannesmann AG group, is one of several bidders for the contract from the Turkish armed forces.

The motion approved by the conference said the government should also refuse a permit requested by the defence firm Henschel Wehrtechnik GmbH IWK to deliver 64 Fuchs reconnaissance armoured cars to the United Arab Emirates.

Delegates were incensed by revelations this week that the government was offering export credit help for sales of nuclear plants to China and elsewhere: Lithuania and Argentina.

Fischer admitted errors but insisted compromise with the Social Democrats was inevitable.

He is the most influential figure among the Greens but has little formal power in the diffuse leadership structure.

. . . back to List of News Stories

Jan 26/00 - Plutonium Fuel (MOX) has become a whole load of trouble.

The Guardian

by Paul Brown

A British armed force guarded a cargo of
the world's most frightening substance
on its voyage from Cumbria to Japan

-- and into a nuclear storm.

Europe's most heavily armed police are dressed from head to foot in black, the visors of their riot helmets down, ready for any form of attack. They carry rifles and have grenades and gas masks dangling below their body armour. In self-defence, they can use the 30 mm rapid fire naval cannon or, at close quarters, shotguns.

This is the élite cadre of the UK Atomic Energy Authority security force, Britain's least known police unit. They were trained and armed for a very particular task: to sail round the world in their double-hulled gunboats to deliver nuclear fuel to Japan.

Now they are back on the Cumbrian coast near their base at Sellafield, kicking their heels and awaiting a highly embarrassing order: to return to Japan and collect the fuel they have just delivered -- a round trip of 40,000 miles.

The UK AEA security force is a pawn in a debacle that has brought Britain's nuclear industry to a new low. Last Wednesday, Kansai Electric Power Co Inc -- the first company in the world to accept a shipment of reprocessed mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel from British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) -- announced it was to bar BNFL from supplying it. In a statement, Kansai said that BNFL's falsification of data relating to safety records had seriously damaged public trust. Japan has now demanded that the shipment be taken back.

So the government has ordered a high-level delegation -- including Anna Walker, director general of energy at the DTI, and Lawrence Williams, chief inspector of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate -- to fly to Japan to try to talk the Japanese government round.

The delegation's task is a difficult one and, even if it succeeds, there are serious questions to be answered about how BNFL came to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of public money on a disastrous plan to reprocess the world's plutonium, without consulting the public about what it was doing.

Mixed-oxide fuel was to be the salvation of the spent nuclear fuel industry based at Sellafield. MOX is a mixture of uranium and plutonium. It is not the sort of thing you can put in the post, return to sender: it is easily dissolved in acid and convertible into nuclear weapons, hence the extraordinary security measures demanded to escort it round the world. Nine thousand jobs depend on chopping up hot, used fuel, dissolving it in nitric acid and turning it into plutonium and uranium.

In the midst of the huge Sellafield complex is one of the most hi-tech industrial plants the world has seen. It cost 300 million pounds and is the last word in robotics, with every speck of dust accounted for to make sure no plutonium goes astray. But it has been lying idle for two years while the government decides whether it should be dismantled before it is ever used.

By law, BNFL has to justify the extra nuclear contamination that opening the plant would cause by showing it is economically justifiable. Before the latest debacle, many thought this was unlikely and were willing to challenge any permission in the courts. Now it looks plain impossible.

The plant was built by BNFL with taxpayers' money, but without publicising what they were doing. The idea was to reprocess plutonium and uranium by making MOX fuel to be sold overseas. This would justify the continued existence of giant reprocessing plants for producing plutonium that no one otherwise needs or wants.

The reprocessing system was developed in the dim days at the beginning of the cold war, when Britain urgently needed plutonium to make hydrogen bombs and keep its place as a world power. All that was 50 years and another century ago now, and the few pounds of plutonium that were needed to make the first nuclear weapons has become an embarrassing mountain of 40 tonnes -- enough to obliterate all human life in the world around 100,000 times.

Every day we go on making more and more plutonium. Although the UK does not need it, it is not the sort of thing that can be let out of sight. For a start, it is the world's most toxic substance -- a speck of dust in the lungs can cause cancer.

[Editor's note: This is an overstatement. Plutonium is only ONE of the world's most toxic substances. It is probably the most toxic MAN-MADE substance. - GE]

It is also the substance every terrorist and dictator in the world would like to get his hands on. It is the most desired and most undesirable commodity on the planet.

So BNFL had a problem. What was it going to do with a growing stockpile of plutonium it could not use? It fell back on a technology developed years before but abandoned as too expensive and potentially dangerous. It would mix plutonium with uranium and make a new fuel called MOX, which could be burnt in traditional reactors.

BNFL went ahead and built the Sellafield MOX factory, on the basis that it was sure it would be able to sell the fuel to Germany and Japan. The reason for BNFL's optimism lay in the aftermath of the second world war. The two defeated countries were never to be allowed to become nuclear weapons states. Rather inconveniently, though, they own large quantities of plutonium. This is stored at Sellafield, where both these countries have sent their spent fuel for reprocessing.

Under contracts signed 30 years ago between these two countries and the UK, they have to have their plutonium back, but they cannot have it in a raw metal form from which they could make nuclear bombs. They have to have it as fuel for peaceful purposes.

In the 1970s, the idea was to use the plutonium in a new generation of nuclear reactors called fast breeders, which used large quantities of it and neatly got rid of the stockpile, but this was a technology that could not be made to work. It meant Germany and Japan were left with large quantities of plutonium they had no use for, had to have returned, but were not allowed to receive because of the legacy of the last world war.

In a desperate search for a solution, both sides fixed on MOX as the way out of the dilemma. Even though it was far more expensive than conventional uranium fuel, it was a way of using the plutonium that no one really wanted.

So, without anyone really noticing, MOX fuel became the solution to the plutonium mountain. A so-called demonstration plant was built at Sellafield to prove it would work and the Swiss, who also have a surplus plutonium problem, but are famously neutral so do not need a bomb, were the pioneers in trying it out in their reactors.

The fuss began when the first shipment of demonstration MOX was to go to Japan. The US refused point blank to allow the risk of MOX being flown to Japan. The US has a veto because the uranium from which the Japanese plutonium originates comes under American proliferation safeguards.

In order to avoid the world's most frightening substance falling into the wrong hands, the US demanded that two armed ships were required to carry it round the world. This meant hiring a warship from the British navy, or a gunboat from the Japanese, making MOX even more expensive.

But BNFL hit on another idea. The company would take its two specially built nuclear transports and convert them into gunboats. Three of the latest 30 mm naval guns would be bolted on to each ship and two groups of police would be specially trained to use them and a multitude of other weapons needed to repel any kind of attack. All levels of defence were considered and included -- even water cannon, needed to repel softer targets such as Greenpeace.

After months of preparation and increasing anger from Caribbean and other nations that might be endangered by the passing convoy, the two gunboats set sail from Sellafield. To avoid diplomatic protests and a possible blockade of the Panama canal, the ships went via the Cape of Good Hope, through the Pacific to Japan.

Landfall was not possible in all that time because none of the nations en route would welcome the ships. One of the policemen on board, who took a tumble in rough seas, had to be airlifted to hospital in Australia at the furthest distance the helicopter could fly to avoid the ships coming to port.

There was a sigh of relief from BNFL when the fuel arrived unscathed and, despite protests, the Kansai Nuclear Company decided to load the fuel into its Takahama reactors. A few days later, the scandal of the falsified safety checks broke in Britain. BNFL began an urgent damage limitation exercise, reassuring the Japanese that the fuel sent to them was unaffected by the false documentation, that the fuel concerned was still at Sellafield.

In the wake of Japan's worst ever nuclear accident at the Tokaimura plant, when, in a totally unrelated incident, three workers were badly hurt and thousands evacuated, feelings were running high. When documents from the British nuclear installations inspectorate were uncovered confirming that some of the Japanese consignment was suspect, the dam burst. Kansai rejected the BNFL fuel and said the MOX would never be loaded into its reactors.

Perhaps worst of all for BNFL, the Japanese government said it had lost faith in the company. This leaves a terrible mess. The mothballed plant can't open until it gets firm orders, BNFL is horrified at the PR disaster of having to bring the fuel back, and the whole future of Sellafield is in disarray. If MOX is the only remaining justification for reprocessing spent fuel, what happens now?

Guardian Media Group plc. 2000

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Feb 23/00 - Germany to review permits for reprocessing nuclear fuel at Sellafield.


BERLIN - The German Environment Ministry said on Monday it would review permits already granted for the reprocessing of German nuclear waste at Britain's Sellafield plant after safety concerns there. The move comes after British nuclear safety officials said Sellafield plant owner BNFL had faked data on nuclear fuel sent to Japan and identified a "systematic management failure" at the state-owned company.

"The matter raises a whole range of questions," the German ministry spokesman said. "At issue is probably a systematic neglect of safety standards".

Along with France's La Hague, Sellafield is one of two plants which reprocess German nuclear waste. Germany, which derives around a third of its energy from nuclear fuel, does not have any reprocessing facilities of its own.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to contracts already signed between BNFL and Germany's privately-owned nuclear operators if permits were cancelled, and how much money was at stake. Separately, Veba's PreussenElektra nuclear arm said on Monday it had noticed "deficits in documentation" relating to four fuel rods at its Unterweser plant that had been treated at Sellafield but said the rods themselves were in order.

The state government of Lower Saxony, where the Unterweser plant is located, said it had demanded a written confirmation from PreussenElektra that the documents relating to the fuel rods had not been actively falsified.

The issue of waste reprocessing led to angry exchanges between Britain and Germany last year after it emerged that the German government's long-term plan to pull out of nuclear power could endanger lucrative contracts held by Sellafield.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder finally pledged the policy would not threaten any existing contracts after the British government made it clear it would defend BNFL's interests.

. . . back to List of News Stories


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