By Peter Kuitenbrouwer
A state-owned French mining company is not competent to take part in two big uranium mines planned for northern Saskatchewan, a federal-provincial review panel says.
The panel notes that acceptance of its report by the federal and Saskatchewan governments would mean a long delay in the start of operations at the Cigar Lake and Midwest Mines.
That's bad news for Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp., which has a 48% interest in Cigar Lake, a project to mine 350 million tons of uranium.
The federal-provincial review panel has spent five years reviewing the mining plan.
In its report issued Thursday, the panel said it has a "lack of confidence in the managerial and scientific competence of the operator, Cogema Resources Inc.
"In addition, the obvious dismissive attitude of this company for the regulators and their concerns suggests that it would not be appropriate for Cogema, as currently managed, to be given responsibility for constructing and managing this very dangerous radioactive waste disposal facility."
Cogema is a Saskatoon-based subsidiary of Cogema France, which is 90 percent owned by the French government.
The company has a 36 percent interest in the Cigar Lake project at which it would mill the ore and dispose of the tailings.
The company has been mining uranium in Saskatchewan since 1980 and has 600 employees at two mines and in administration.
Heather Humphries, manager of the review panel, had harsh words Friday for Cogema's environmental record in Saskatchewan.
"At Cluff Lake, Cogema has a tailings pond which is now full," she said.
"The regulator has asked them for over a year to make alternative arrangements and nothing has been done. The proponent does not show a co-operative attitude."
Humphries also said that in August Cogema poured poison into Sink Lake, near its McClean Lake mining venture -- a government-approved process to ensure fish die instantly before tailings enter the lake.
But Cogema employees accidentally opened a gate to neighboring Vulture Lake, poisoning the fish there, too.
On Friday, Cogema promised it would address the panel's concerns.
"No, we're not incompetent," senior vice-president Tim Gitzel said. "We accept [the panel's] criticisms and we're acting on it.
"We're not perfect and we're putting our house in order and we'll see how the process goes from here."
He said the gate-opening mistake was made by a student employed by Cogema for the summer, and that it killed only "four or five fish."
"It's not a pattern. It was a mistake, an accident."
Cogema intends to hire scientists and has reorganized its operations to satisfy government concerns.
Cameco also said Friday the report won't affect its 2001 target date for beginning production at Cigar Lake.
"Yes, it's serious. It's an unfortunate situation," said spokeswoman Alice Wong.
"Cameco has had a long history of good relations with Cogema and we're confident that they, as an operator, can work to overcome these issues and will not impede the progress of the project."
Reuters Environment News
By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON - A federal court ruled Friday that the Energy Department must take radioactive waste from nuclear power producers, but denied an industry call for a court order to force the government to start removing the deadly waste.
Instead the U.S. Court of Appeals said utilities should use their contracts with the Energy Department to seek compensation or get the government to take the waste.
The court also chided the Energy Department for claiming that "unavoidable delays" had prevented it from building a central storage site for the waste, which originally was to have been opened by January 1998.
"It's very favorable for utilities and ratepayers. It reaffirms that DOE (Department of Energy) has an unconditional obligation to move the fuel beginning Jan. 31. They rejected DOE's attempt to avoid paying damages if it fails," said Steve Unglesbee, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents nuclear power utilities.
"Certain aspects of the court's ruling were clearly in our favor. We are gratified by that decision, and we are exploring how to proceed," an Energy Department spokeswoman said.
The Clinton administration is under the gun by utilities, states and Congress to do something fast to move the high-level radioactive waste from some 70 sites in 41 states.
The administration still is evaluating whether Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be a suitable permanent dump site for the waste. That facility could not be ready to accept waste before 2015.
Meanwhile utilities and a big majority in Congress want the administration to build a temporary dump at the Nevada Test Site, near Yucca Mountain, that would be ready to start taking waste in 2002.
Under a 1982 law, the government was to take control of the waste in January 1998, a deadline the administration has said it cannot meet.
The House last month on a 307-120 vote passed a bill to build the temporary dump, while the Senate passed a similar bill in April on a vote that fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
The Clinton administration has said it would veto the temporary dump bill because it would detract from the effort to build a permanent repository.
Reuters Environment News
TOKYO - Japan will stop operations of its prototype reactor Fugen on the Sea of Japan coast in fiscal 2002/03, two years later than orginally scheduled, a Science and Technology Agency official said on Thursday.
The agency originally planned to close the 18-year-old reactor, with a capacity of 165,000 kilowatts, in fiscal 2000-2001, but has yielded to the local government's request to keep the unit running at least for five years.
An official of the Fukui prefectural government said it takes at least five years to sort out the problems associated with a permanent shutdown, such as loss of employment and disposal of radioactive waste.
The agency decided in 1995 not to build a so-called demonstration reactor based on Fugen after power companies said the type was too costly. A demonstration reactor is the stage between a prototype and a commercial facility.
Fugen, Japan's only reactor using heavy water as moderator, is designed to use both uranium and plutonium as fuel.
The reactor is currently shut down for routine maintenance checks and is expected to resume operations in early December.
It provides electricity to Hokuriku Electric Power Co Inc, Chubu Electric Power Co Inc and Kansai Electric Power Co Inc.
- Tokyo Energy Desk (813) 3432-3708
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Reuters Environment News
LONDON - Holidaymakers who flock to the Mediterranean for relaxation and fun may soon have to look elsewhere for their sun, sand and sangria, said environmental group Greenpeace on Thursday.
Global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions threaten to turn the Med into a region of shrinking beaches, droughts and food shortages, bad news for local people and the more than 100 million tourists who visit the area every year.
The scenario painted by Greenpeace is of beaches becoming swamped by rising sea levels caused by melting ice-caps and the spread northwards of Africa's deserts as rainfall decreases.
Fresh water shortages could worsen with crops suffering, causing widespread risk of malnutrition and hunger - a prospect unlikely to appeal to holidaymakers keen to leave their troubles at home.
So will tomorrow's tourists be packing their sandals and sun hats to board charter flights for the Shetland Islands, Nova Scotia and Murmansk?
No, if the world's nations address the problem of greenhouse gases at the December United Nations environmental summit at Kyoto, Japan, says Greenpeace.
"The U.S. should follow the U.K. and Europe's lead in proposing legally-binding and significant cuts in emissions. Otherwise the future well-being of Mediterranean countries - as well as that of communities elsewhere - is threatened," said climate campaigner Stephanie Tunmore.
Not everyone agrees.
"It does not make sense to cripple the economy to make changes in the environment that may prove unnecessary, premature or don't stand the test of rigorous cost-benefit analysis," Lee Raymond, head of oil giant Exxon Corp said earlier this week.
Oil companies, automobile manufacturers and the coal industry say the environmental models used in forecasting the growth of greenhouse gases are flawed and that fossil fuel burning contributes only a small amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Greenpeace says that without reductions in CO2 emissions, temperatures are projected to rise by up to four degrees Celsius over many inland areas by 2100 and that annual rainfall is set to drop by 10 to 40 percent over much of Africa and south-eastern Spain.
Optimism about agreement being reached at Kyoto varies, but already some countries have been pleading special circumstances to not sign up to stricter emissions controls.
Matthew Jones, London Newsroom +44 171 542 5387
Reuters Environment News
REGINA, Saskatchewan - Canada's federal and provincial energy and environment ministers have agreed to give themselves until 2010 to bring greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels, Canadian media reported on Wednesday.
The ministers were meeting in Regina to prepare a strategy for the Kyoto climate change summit in Japan next month. At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Canada said it would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Wednesday's plan would give Canada an extra 10 years.
The ministers avoided talk of penalties for jurisdictions that exceed emission limits. Instead, the process will be "flexible," focusing first on strengthening voluntary industry compliance and looking at initiatives such as emissions trading, the Canadian Press news agency reported.
The agency reported that Environment Minister Christine Stewart said the success of the plan will require the combined effort of government, business and individuals to do their part, such as developing alternative energy sources and using less energy.
The ministers' stand did not impress environmentalists.
"The target that they've proposed will shift the negotiations internationally to the weakest position on the table," Louise Comeau of the Sierra Club told Canadian Press.
"How (Natural Resources Minister) Ralph Goodale could talk today about Canada playing a positive role in the negotiations is an insult."
Quebec was the only province to take a stronger stand. Its representative, Environment Minister Paul Begin, reaffirmed the province's commitment to return to 1990 emission levels within three years.
Canada produces 2 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The country's energy industry has already voluntarily worked to reduce emissions.
Reuters Environment News
TOKYO - A Japanese report on how to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by around 2010 includes a target to dramatically improve the fuel efficiency of passenger cars, a trade ministry official said on Thursday.
The report, to be submitted to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on Friday, calls for improving fuel efficiency of passengers cars by 20 percent from 1995 levels by 2010, said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) official.
Overall Japan gasoline sales in 1995/1996 (April/March) amounted to 51.6 million kilolitres (13.6 billion gallons), according to MITI statistics.
The proposed fuel efficiency target would therefore imply a 10.3 million kl (2.7 billion gallon) reduction in gasoline sales, if driving levels remain the same.
Sales of automotive diesel would also fall.
The report was put together by relevant Japanese government panels and released some two weeks ahead of the start of a high-profile United Nations sponsored environment conference to be held from December 1-10 in Kyoto, western Japan.
Burning of fossil fuels contributes carbon dioxide to a fragile layer of the earth's atmosphere, resulting in a rise in temperatures.
Japan automakers have unveiled a wide array of fuel-saving car models this year.
Toyota Motor Corp, which introduced a hybrid vehicle combining a 1.5-litre gasoline engine and an electric motor, has sold more than 1,000 of the cars since it started taking orders last month.
- Tokyo energy desk (813) 3432-3708
Reuters Environment News
BONN - Germany's world leadership in the production of wind energy risks being wiped out by a draft law that scraps many of the incentives available to wind farms, opposition parties and environmentalists warned on Wednesday.
There are some 4,300 wind farms in Germany, all benefiting from a 1990 law obliging electricity producers to buy up all wind-generated power in their region.
Draft proposals approved by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, however, remove many of the current obligations on the big producers to "buy in" energy from other sources, as part of a wider liberalisation of the energy sector.
"This will strangle investment and endangers around 10,000 jobs across the country in the wind energy sector," Social Democrat (SPD) deputy Dietmar Schuetz said in a statement.
The draft law is due to be debated in parliament early next month.
German wind farms, many of which are clustered along the windswept northern coast, are currently paid a generous 17 pfennigs (9.9 cents) for every kilowatt-hour they produce -- close to the end-price charged to households.
In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, wind farms account for as much as 11 percent of all electricity produced.
Under the draft law, however, utility firms need only take five percent of their total output from renewable sources if they can show that taking any more makes them uncompetitive.
Moreover, the bill explicitly offers no price guarantee -- at a time when European Union laws opening electricity markets up to competition from 1999 are widely expected to send prices tumbling.
"This is a poor signal to send, just weeks before the world climate conference in Kyoto (Japan)," said a spokesman for the German Federation for the Environment and Protection of Nature.
The Kyoto conference is due to set targets for cutting emissions of gases blamed for global warming. Renewable energy sources such as wind power are seen by some environmentalists as a major way of reducing such emissions.
The Business Federation of Wind Energy Plants has said some 90 percent of German wind farms need the full 17 pfennigs per kilowatt-hour guarantee to be commercially viable.
Under the liberalisation envisaged by the EU, after which all electricity producers across Europe will in theory be able to reach every potential consumer, the open market price could fall to around half of that.
German Economics Minister Guenter Rexrodt said in a statement the new draft law, intended to comply with such liberalisation, was ultimately of benefit to both residential and business consumers of electricity.
He stressed the draft law took account of environmental considerations by including a general clause committing energy suppliers to use more renewable energy sources. ($ = 1.712 German Marks)
Reuters Environment News
LONDON, (Reuters) - Britain's failure to address the problem of nuclear waste is storing up a 30 billion pound clean-up bill for future generations of taxpayers, a report by two scientists on Monday said.
"Unreliable costs estimates and inadequate funding arrangements for U.K. civil nuclear liabilities are likely to mean that our grandchildren are faced with a massive bill for dealing with radioactive waste and decommissioning," said the report by Mike Sadnicki and Gordon MacKerron of the University of Sussex.
The total estimated cost of dealing with the problems of radioactive waste, spent reactor fuel and redundant nuclear plants is put at 42 billion stg, most of which will fall upon the shoulders of future taxpayers because of inadequate provisions, the report from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) said.
"The whole nation will be shocked that we are going to be mugged for 30 billion stg by an industry which should have been put down years ago," said Patrick Green, senior nuclear campaigner at Friends of the Earth, which helped fund the research.
The charge is strenuously denied by the nuclear lobby which disputes the interpretation of the figures.
"The big players like British Energy and BNFL are well on course to fully fund their liabilities from income and not from taxpayers," said David Young at the British Nuclear Industry Forum (BNFI).
The SPRU research found that of the 42 billion stg liability, around 31 billion stg is the responsibility of the two main nuclear generators British Energy and Magnox Electric.
The report said that of the 31 billion stg that Magnox and British Energy need to fund clean up operations, more than 18 billion stg or 60 percent was currently not provided for while of the total 42 billion stg of liabilities as much as 70 percent, 30 billion will have to be met by the taxpayer.
The BNFI's Young said "British Energy has already made provisions of four billion stg from income and BNFL of over one billion for clean-up work. The only area that the taxpayer will have to foot the bill is for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) which carries out research work,".
The authors of the report also say there are serious problems in the nuclear industry's cost estimating process and that the total nuclear liabilities bill could be as high as 70 billion stg.
The nuclear industry counters this, saying there is a reduction in decommissioning costs attributed to improved techniques and industrial processes.
Britain's lack of a cohesive policy to deal with intermediate nuclear waste came under fire from the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC) in September.
The independent body that advises the government said Britain only had a successful policy with regard to low level waste.
-- Matthew Jones, London Newsroom +44 171 542 5387
Reuters Environment News
FULING, China - High on a hill in China's Yangtze River city of Fuling, a big red warning sign announces the coming of an apocalypse: "177 metres -- Three Gorges Water Inundation Line".
It gives ominous notice of the largest peacetime forced migration in history -- the relocation of 1.2 million people to make way for the gargantuan Three Gorges dam.
When the Yangtze is partially blocked on Saturday for construction of the world's mightiest dam, the river will start its climb towards the marker, consigning hundreds of thousands of homes, farms and factories to a watery mass grave.
Some 50,000 people have already abandoned their homes along the river's banks.
A multitude of others will eventually be forced from their ancestral lands by a 600-km (365-mile) long lake to be created by the dam near Yichang in central Hubei province.
The river is expected to rise by 30-40 cm (12-16 inches) initially, and swelling water levels will force another 40,000 people to head to higher ground by the end of this year.
HUMAN RIGHTS OUTRAGE
The forced eviction of families from their ancestral homes has stirred deep unease in China, where respect for one's forebears is an overriding virtue.
Abandoning the ground where ancestors lived, died and were buried amounts to sacrilege.
China's communist rulers fear popular wrath, and are struggling to convey a sense of caring and compassion. State media showed Premier Li Peng smiling and shaking hands with local residents this week.
"It is vital to solve the problem of resettlement," said Ou Huishu, deputy director of the resettlement bureau of Chongqing, China's largest metropolis that embraces Fuling.
Activists opposed to the dam blast the relocation as a violation of human rights on a huge scale.
"It will definitely cause social unrest," said Dai Qing, an outspoken critic of the dam.
Dai's 1989 book "Yangtze! Yangtze!", which argues the project is a monstrous white elephant, has been banned in China.
Officials say the dam will propel China's economy into the 21st century and have pledged the relocation will bring greater prosperity.
Of the project's estimated 240 billion yuan ($29 billion) price tag, some 100 billion yuan ($12 billion) is earmarked to compensate residents for their lost homes and to build new roads, water systems and power lines.
Authorities are pressuring successful companies in China's more prosperous coastal regions to open factories in resettled areas to create jobs.
"We are confident that we have the ability to complete this historic task," said Ou.
Many Yangtze River residents reluctantly agree the dam will be good for China, but grumble about everything from the price of the new concrete houses and apartments to corruption among local officials supervising the scheme.
Officials are offering take-it-or-leave-it compensation deals that pay farmers and city dwellers according to floor space, rather than the market value of their homes.
"The compensation doesn't cover the money I spent fixing up the place," said 42-year-old tour boat captain Li Xingquan.
In Sichuan province's Guihua village, sweet potato farmer Guo Qingmu said she was paid 15,000 yuan ($1,800) for her old 84 square metre (904 sq ft) home, not nearly enough to pay for a spacious new house with electricity and tapwater.
Guo, 31, said she had to borrow more than 40,000 yuan ($4,800) from family and friends to buy her new home, which cost 60,000 yuan ($7,200) and is twice the size of her former abode.
"What alternative do we have? Our homes will be flooded, so we have to come here," said Guo's brother, Guo Qingfu.
LEAVING ANCESTRAL LANDS
Farmers uprooted from fertile plots that grow some of China's best oranges complain about their new holdings on unwelcoming soil.
"The newly-developed land will be a little bit worse," conceded Zhou Jinhua, mayor of Wanxian city, which administers a vast area now home to more than two thirds of all the people doomed to be displaced.
Farmers have each been promised about 0.067 hectares (0.165 acres) of land. But in some areas, the supply of new farmland is inadequate, a problem officials pledge to solve by redistributing land now worked by farmers in other villages.
Other officials concede it will be hard to overcome traditional Chinese attitudes towards ancestral homes.
"The farmers are used to living on their own land and don't really want to move," said Shi Huanyun, an education official in Wanxian county.
"It is not a money problem, it is a matter of feelings."
Reuters Environment News
In the past 12 months, Danish firms have sold land-based turbines capable of producing more than one gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of electricity, but they said the future lies offshore.
"It's more windy out there. You can produce 50 percent more electricity than onshore," Steffen Damborg, spokesman for the Danish wind turbine manufacturers' association, told Reuters.
Of the 1,774 Danish windmills sold in the last year, 1,200 were exported. If operating at their maximum capacity, they would produce 1,021 megawatts, which is equivalent to the output of four medium-sized coal-fire power stations.
The difference, of course, is that the wind does not always blow.
But the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and China are turning increasingly to wind turbines as a clean form of energy and under pressure to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2.
Palle Noergaard, chairman of the association, said offshore turbines were where Denmark had a chance to maintain its technological lead in the next generation of megawatt-class windmills.
"The Danish offshore projects are getting a lot of attention all over the world. It could mean as much for the windmill industry as the Californian 'wind rush' at the start of the 1980s," Noergaard said in a statement.
As well as catching more wind, offshore turbines require different grid connections but offer a viable energy solution in countries where space and planning permission may be problems.
Sixty percent of the world's windmills are produced in Denmark, and wind energy now accounts for seven percent of Danish electricity consumption.
-- Tony Austin, Copenhagen Newsroom (+45 3396 9650)
By Kathryn May
A coalition of environmental groups wants a nuclear policy review following the federal government's $1.5-billion loan to finance the sale of nuclear reactors to Turkey.
The government's decision to forgo a formal environmental assessment on the proposed Turkish project drew sharp criticism yesterday from environmental groups and opposition MPs, who accused the government of circumventing its own environmental laws to clinch a deal.
"No nuclear reactor would ever be allowed in Canada with this meaningless, shallow, shadow assessment. What a double standard,'' said Reform MP Deborah Grey.
"Why does the prime minister pretend to be Mr. Green Thumb at home here in Canada, yet around the world he's know as Mr. Uranium?''
The Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, which includes a string of national environmental groups, re-opened its drive for a policy review after leaked cabinet documents revealed the government intends to waive a full environmental assessment of the Turkish project. Instead, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. will conduct an in-house review or "shadow'' assessment. The "shadow'' would not necessarily include the public hearings required under the Environmental Assessment Act.
"It's shocking to see the lengths the Chrétien government will go -- circumventing its own laws to secure more reactor deals overseas,'' said Kristen Ostling of the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout. "It's time to bring the issue out into the open to see if Canadians want to continue with this industry.''
Ms. Ostling said the sale of reactors abroad without full environmental assessments, coupled with an ongoing safety scandal at Ontario Hydro, shows the government has to wrestle with environmental, safety, health, and economic issues it has been skirting for 20 years. Atomic Energy of Canada is also importing plutonium from old nuclear warheads to test as reactor fuel, "the most serious environmental risk in decades,'' Ms. Ostling said.
Atomic Energy is bidding on a project to build Candu reactors for Turkey on a scale similar to the controversial $4- billion deal with China last fall. The government offered China a $1.5 billion loan and also waived an environmental assessment of the project.
That deal prompted the Sierra Club of Canada to take the government to court for failing to put the project through the rigours of a full-fledged assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That case is still before the courts.
But the cabinet documents show the government decided to bypass the formal review, despite advice from Justice Department lawyers that it might be violating its own environmental laws. The lawyers also warned that it risked losing the court challenge to the Sierra Club, which could force the government to do full assessments on both the Chinese sale and the proposed Turkish deal. And the leaked documents show the government fears a full assessment of export deals would put Canada at a competitive disadvantage with other bidders.
Conservative Leader Jean Charest said it's "difficult to take the government seriously'' when Atomic Energy is doing an in-house environmental review on itself.
"I would like to know from the prime minister, since he is ready to manipulate the courts and also circumvent the law by producing a secret shadow assessment on the Turkish deal, if the secret shadow assessment has been done on the China deal.''
Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale said the Turkish project will be subject to all the "rules and regulations that are applicable to it,'' should Atomic Energy win the contract early next year. He suggested, however, that the government would await the court decision before deciding whether a full-scale formal assessment will be done.
"All the relevant laws need to be respected and honoured and there is one aspect of a particular law over whether it applies or not that is subject to adjudication,'' he said.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien defended the government's push to export nuclear reactors as a clean and safe power source that will help reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by coal-powered plants.
Canada is competing with two other bidders, a French-German group and a Japanese-U.S. consortium.
Canada would provide the $1.5-billion loan through its Export Development Corp., to be repaid at market rates. AECL has said the deal would create 125,000 person-years of work in Canada to build the reactors.
The China deal prompted the Sierra Club of Canada to take the government to court for failing to put the project through the rigours of a full-fledged assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
That case is still before the courts.
Cabinet documents show the government decided to bypass the formal review despite advice from Justice Department lawyers that it may be violating its own environmental laws. The lawyers also warned that it risked losing the court challenge to the Sierra Club over the China deal.
If the Sierra club wins its case, the government could be forced to do full assessments on both the China sale and the proposed Turkey deal.
Cabinet documents show the government fears a full assessment of export deals would put Canada at a competitive disadvantage with other bidders.
By Jennifer Ditchburn
The Canadian Press
The government's sale of nuclear reactors to Turkey blew up Wednesday as opposition MPs demanded to know whether an environmental assessment would be conducted on the deal.
Cabinet documents approving a $1.5-billion loan to finance the project also indicated the federal government would skip a formal environmental review in favour of an in-house evaluation by the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
That prompted environmental groups and all four opposition parties to ask where the checks and balances are in the process, since the AECL is a government agency that does not make its findings public.
"It's difficult for the House to take the government seriously when the minister of natural resources tells us the AECL is doing an environmental assessment on itself," said Tory Leader Jean Charest.
"I'd like to know if a secret shadow assessment was done on the China deal and, if yes, will he take it out of the shadows and allow it to glow in the dark?"
The government is currently in court over its Candu reactor sale to China, which the environmental group the Sierra Club says should have been subject to the Environmental Assessment Act and a formal assessment.
In that case, cabinet also sent the deal directly to the AECL for review, which it says complies with both Canadian and international standards.
"AECL in terms of the technology has a very strong record," Energy Minister Ralph Goodale said outside the Commons.
"It's one of the safeguards and proper practices that AECL has to conduct its own assessment of the situation.... There are the applicable laws and rules the Turkish authorities apply."
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien shrugged off accusations the government has not been up front with Canadians with regard to reactor sales.
"Everything has been made public, and everything has been known by everybody. We respect the law all the time."
But Sierra Club spokeswoman Elizabeth May says her organization has spent the past eight months in court fighting to gain access to the most basic documents on the sale to China.
"Every single significant document is secret ... the government has maintained that all the documents in this case are not to be made public, they won't release them to anybody and that we can't even get them in the course of our court case.
"The notion that this is open and public is absolutely untrue."
Ottawa - The Liberal government is planning to finance a $1.5 billion nuclear reactor sale to Turkey without conducting a public environmental assessment, the CBC National news reported Tuesday.
Confidential cabinet documents obtained by the CBC outline a plan approved before last June's federal election to sell two Candu reactors to Turkey.
The government is required by law to conduct a review of the project to determine if it meets Canadian environmental standards.
But in the documents, cabinet recommends conducting a shadow review, or one which would not be available to the public.
Last November, Canada sold two Candu reactors to China worth $1.5 billion and waived the legal requirement to conduct an assessment.
The Sierra Club, an international environmental organization, launched a lawsuit against the government over the issue.
The cabinet documents suggest the government is not confident it is on the right side of the law. "Justice has advised that its case is not strong, and the federal court may rule in favor of the Sierra Club,'' the document says.
Conservative Leader Jean Charest criticized the government Tuesday for the reactor sale to China, and asked that it table the results of any environmental assessments that were conducted.
"It's quite clear that the Chinese can use electricity generated by atomic energy without burning coal,'' Prime Minister Jean Chrétien responded.
"It doesn't take a genius to understand that it's better to have electricity that doesn't create pollution than electricity that comes from coal.''