Ottawa's Determination
to Import Weapons-Grade Plutonium



Transport Canada's Sept, 21, 2000, approval of the plutonium airlift
from Russia includes public comments from Canadians and TC's responses.

  • Sep 22/00 - Ottawa OKs weapons plutonium flight from Russia. - Environment News Service
  • Aug 23/00 - Plutonium airlift: why doesn't Ottawa listen to the people? - Chronicle-Herald
  • Aug 17/00 - New wrinkle in plan to burn plutonium: aging of the test reactor. - Toronto Star
  • Aug 10/00 - Plutonium (MOX) reactor fuel is far from harmless. K.-W. Record
  • Aug 03/00 - Groups demand end to plan to fly nuclear fuel to Canada. Globe and Mail
  • Aug 02/00 - Groups accuses government of dishonesty over plutonium airlift. - Broadcast News

  • Aug 2/00 - Activists demand Ottawa call off airlift of Russian plutonium. Various Papers (CP)
  • Aug 01/00 - Flying plutonium fuel from Russia: High Radioactivity, Low IQ.Montreal Gazette
  • July 29/00 - Change of Plans: Russian plutonium to be flown into Canada. - Windsor Star
  • July 28/00 - Nuclear fuel made from weapons plutonium to be flown from Russia. - Gov't of Canada
  • July 15/00 - Ottawa tells Canadians fairy tales about weapons plutonium. - Hamilton Spectator

  • July 12/00 - Britain agrees to take plutonium fuel (MOX) back from Japan. - Reuters
  • July 11/00 - US military ponders cleanup of plutonium-laden soil. - Reuters
  • July 11/00 - Japan, UK to discuss falsification of data on plutonium fuel (MOX). - Reuters
  • June 29/00 - Transport Minister faces lawsuit over plutonium shipment. - Toronto Star
  • June 29/00 - Feds face court date over "illegal" plutonium shipments. - London Free Press

  • June 28/00 - "Burning" plutonium may be Too Hot for Russian Reactors to handle. - ERS
  • June 28/00 - Groups sue Ottawa over illegal flights of plutonium fuel. - Sault Star
  • June 29/00 - Ottawa taken to court over plutonium flights from US, Russia. - Chronicle Herald
  • June 28/00 - Lawsuit seeks to block shipments of plutonium. - CBC Radio News
  • Apr 14/00 - Japanese firm vows to keep pushing to return British MOX fuel. - Agence France Presse

  • Apr 14/00 - Britain refusing to take back MOX fuel it sent to Japan: report. - Agence France Presse
  • Apr 13/00 - Canada will import 5 times more Russian plutonium than expected. - CBC Radio News
  • Apr 08/00 - Kalamazoo federal judge won't stop plutonium shipment. - Associated Press
  • Apr 07/00 - Virginia Power Co. pulls out of plutonium (MOX) fuel program. - Associated Press
  • Apr 03/00 - Greenpeace says OECD study shows public at risk from reprocessing. - Reuters

  • Mar 31/00 - Analysis: Closing UK's plute plant is not a simple option. - Reuters
  • Mar 31/00 - Germany orders checks on plutonium fuel supplied by Cogema. - Reuters
  • Mar 31/00 - Japanese nuclear industry group applies to reopen plute plant. - Reuters
  • Mar 30/00 - Troubled BNFL may rethink its role in plutonium reprocessing. - Agence France Presse
  • Mar 24/00 - Ireland and Denmark seek to halt British nuclear reprocessing. - Agence France Presse

  • Mar 08/00 - Germany suspends shipments of plutonium fuel from Britain. - Agence France Presse
  • Mar 01/00 - British nuclear firm's chief (BNFL) quits over MOX scandal. - Reuters
  • Feb 23/00 - German environment minister says nuclear plant should shut. - Agence France Presse
  • Feb 23/00 - US/Canada lawsuit seeks to block import of Russian plutonium. - North Bay Nugget
  • Feb 23/00 - If the Russian plutonium flies, then so does a lawsuit. - Ottawa Sun

  • Feb 23/00 - Germany to review reprocessing of nuclear fuel at Sellafield. - Reuters
  • Feb 23/00 - Lawsuit looms over ''illegal'' airlift of plutonium fuel. - London Free Press
  • Feb 22/00 - Groups say Ottawa acted illegally by airlifting plute. - Sault Star
  • Feb 20/00 - Plutonium Fuel (MOX) has become a load of trouble. - The Guardian
  • Feb 14/00 - Plutonium container not up to US standards for air transport. - Canadian Press

  • Feb 13/00 - Where is the nuclear bomb that fell on British Columbia in 1950 ? - Ottawa Citizen
  • Feb 11/00 - Britain and Japan struggle over ship-load of plutonium (MOX) fuel. - AFP
  • Feb 08/00 - US and Russia agree on plutonium but not on reactor sale. - Windsor Star
  • Feb 08/00 - US and Russia announce plan to control use of civilian plutonium. - AFP
  • Feb 03/00 - Natural Resources Minister in the dark about plute shipments. - CP Wire

  • Jan 24/00 - NDP Leader demands public inquiry into plute shipment. - NDP Press Release
  • Jan 20/00 - Watchdog to rule on quality rating for MOX fuel maker. - Japan Economic Newswire
  • Jan 18/00 - Sault airport chief angered by secrecy over plutonium flight. - Toronto Star
  • Jan 18/00 - Flying plutonium too risky for US; Ottawa has no credibility. - Toronto Star
  • Jan 18/00 - Atomic regulator approved helicopter transfer of plutonium. - Globe and Mail

  • Jan 18/00 - Plutonium move radiates contempt and breeds distrust. - Edmonton Journal
  • Jan 18/00 - Bloc sounds 'red alert' on Russian plute; surprise flight sparks warning. - Toronto Star
  • Jan 17/00 - Furtive plutonium airlift angers Sault mayor; he wants answers. - Whitehorse Star
  • Jan 17/00 - Government departments urged shipment of plutonium by air. - C.P. Wire
  • Jan 17/00 - AECL flew plutonium into Canada with no public notification. - CTV News

  • Jan 19/00 - Secret shipment angers Sault mayor; Feels 'duped,' calls for probe. - Toronto Star
  • Jan 19/00 - Plutonium test burn put on hold until Russian plutonium arrives. - Edmonton Sun
  • Jan 18/00 - Police chief defends failure to inform of plutonium shipment. - CP Wire Story
  • Jan 17/00 - Fed of N. Ontario Municipalities denounces plute transport. - Timmins Daily Press
  • Jan 17/00 - Plutonium shipment: MOX protesters don't trust Ottawa. - Sault Star

  • Jan 17/00 - Groups may seek injunction to halt second plutonium shipment. - National Post
  • Jan 15/00 - Plutonium secretly flown to Chalk River to avoid threatened blockades. - National Post
  • Jan 15/00 - Weapons-grade plutonium slips across border before daybreak. - Sault Star
  • Jan 15/00 - Air transport of plutonium may have broken laws, MPP says. - Sault Star
  • Jan 15/00 - Plutonium brought in by helicopter ~ airlift irks protesters. - Winnipeg Sun

  • Jan 15/00 - US plutonium secretly flown into province infuriates communities. - Toronto Star
  • Jan 15/00 - Plutonium slips into Ontario and is secretly flown to Chalk River. - Toronto Sun
  • Jan 14/00 - Civic and environmental groups are infuriated over plutonium airlift. - CTV News
  • Dec 21/99 - First Nations vow to continue fight to halt plute shipment. - Sault Star
  • Dec 20/99 - Michigan legislator seeks to ban plutonium from bridges. - Broadcast News

  • Dec 20/99 - US legislator proposes bill outlawing future plute shipments. - CBC News
  • Dec 18/99 - Plutonium given green light to cross Michigan into Canada. - Windsor Star
  • Dec 16/99 - BNFL says Kansai rejects plute fuel; more data problems found. - Bloomberg
  • Dec 16/99 - KEPCO won't use plutonium-based fuel with suspicious data. - Kyodo News Service

  • Dec 16/99 - US plute shipments' safety & consequences debated in court. - Globe & Mail
  • Dec 16/99 - Japan abandons use of suspect plutonium-based fuel from Britain. - Agence France Presse
  • Dec 15/99 - Japanese officials question safety of MOX pellets from Britain. - Independent
  • Dec 13/99 - "Unusual" MOX fuel data ~ inspector's comments sow confusion. - Nuclear Fuel
  • Dec 12/99 - Citizens seek injunction to block weapons plutonium shipment. - Globe and Mail

  • Dec 08/99 - U.S. judge bars Chalk River plutonium shipment for ten days. - Globe and Mail
  • Dec 07/99 - Judge blocks plutonium shipment through Michigan. - Associated Press
  • Dec 06/99 - New Chalk River MAPLE reactors may use weapons-grade uranium. - Toronto Star
  • Nov 30/99 - US may ship plute to Canada beginning Dec 2. - Christian Science Monitor
  • Nov 26/99 - Natives protest plute transport through their territory. - K-W Record

  • Nov 26/99 - Natives firm in opposition to proposed plutonium shipment. - Sault Star
  • Nov 23/99 - Canada keeps mum about the size of its own plutonium stockpile. - Globe & Mail
  • Nov 20/99 - Container ship runs aground in seaway: second this month. - Canadian Press
  • Nov 18/99 - Japan delays plutonium-uranium use after nuclear accident. - Agence France Presse
  • Nov 17/99 - Japan will postpone the Niigata plutonium-thermal project one year. - Greenpeace

  • Nov 17/99 - Restraining order sought to stop plutonium shipments. - Kalamazoo Gazette
  • Nov 17/99 - Shipments of weapon-plutonium okayed by Transport Canada. - Windsor Star
  • Oct 17/99 - Transport Canada okays import of plutonium fuel to Chalk River. - Winnipeg Free Press
  • Nov 18/99 - Native chiefs in Ontario to rally against US plutonium shipment. - Globe and Mail
  • Nov 18/99 - U.S. files notice ~ weapons plutonium will soon be headed for Ontario. - Globe and Mail

  • Nov 15/99 - US abandons plan to ship tonnes of plutonium to Canada. - Globe and Mail
  • Oct 12/99 - Lawmakers push to detour plutonium -- test raises questions. - Chicago Tribune
  • Nov 12/99 - Opposition to plutonium fuel shipments is mushrooming. - Ottawa Sun
  • Nov 11/99 - Ottawa is set to approve plutonium shipments despite protests. - Toronto Star
  • Nov 05/99 - Aboriginal protestors vow to stop convoy of weapons plutonium. - Ottawa Sun

  • Nov 02/99 - Plutonium shipment lacks support, wins only opposition. - Saginaw News
  • Nov 01/99 - Canadian plutonium plan called blueprint for nuclear instability. - Reuters
  • Nov 01/99 - Americans and Canadians join to oppose plute shipments. - Edmonton Journal
  • Oct 22/99 - Without Ontario support, plutonium plan unlikely ~ official. - Globe & Mail
  • Oct 21/99 - Ontario rejects use of surplus plutonium as "too costly". - Globe and Mail

  • June 3/99 - Plutonium plan cracks as Los Alamos fails to make MOX. - STANDpoint #24
  • Oct 20/99 - MOX fuel is ''uneconomic and dangerous'' says British Report. - Reuters
  • Oct 19/99 - Assembly of First Nations supports anti-plutonium fight. - Standard-Freeholder
  • Oct 16/99 - Opinion piece: plutonium imports ~ are they noble or nutty? - Toronto Star
  • Oct 13/99 - Ontario Minister says he is powerless to stop plute shipments. - Ottawa Sun
  • Oct 07/99 - Public forum airs concerns about plutonium fuel, nuclear energy. - Sault Star

  • Oct 04/99 - Mohawks threaten to block plutonium from passing reserves. - Gazette (Montreal)
  • Oct 02/99 - Mohawks promise "human resistance" to stop plutonium. - Toronto Star
  • Oct 01/99 - Feds delay moving plutonium through Michigan to Canada. - Reuters
  • Oct 01/99 - Listen to Canadians on plutonium imports, says Alexa McDonough. - NDP Press Release
  • Oct 01/99 - U.S. public comment period opens on planned plutonium shipment. - Evening News

  • Oct 01/99 - Mohawks from Québec and Ontario vow to stop plutonium. - Globe and Mail
  • Oct 01/99 - U.S. Dept of Energy delays shipment of plutonium to Canada. - Globe and Mail
  • Sept 30/99 - Ottawa suburb seeks to prohibit plutonium transports. - City of Nepean
  • Sept 28/99 - North Bay demands hearings on plutonium shipment. - North Bay Nugget
  • Sept 28/99 - North Shore Cities demand public hearings on plute shipments. - National Post

  • Sept 28/99 - North Bay says plute shouldn't be shipped until forum is held. - Sault Star
  • Sept 27/99 - Resolution regarding mixed oxide (MOX) fuel shipments. - City of North Bay
  • Sept 25/99 - Few attend information session on plutonium shipment. - Sudbury Star
  • Sept 24/99 - North Bay Church reps urge Council to give leadership on MOX. - Open Letter
  • Sept 23/99 - NDP challenges right to ship plutonium through Sault. - Edmonton Journal

  • Sept 22/99 - Ottawa officials to meet Sault reps about plutonium shipment. - Sault Star
  • Sept 22/99 - Sault (Michigan) City Commission opposes plute shipment. - Soo Evening News
  • Sept 17/99 - Sault (Michigan) mayor says she'll block plutonium truck. - Detroit Free Press
  • Sept 15/99 - Emergency resolution against MOX. - Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Sept 14/99 - Township objects to transport of plutonium. - Township of Nairn and Hyman

  • Sept 14/99 - North Bay wants more information on plutonium shipment. - North Bay Nugget
  • Sept 13/99 - Municipal resolutions against MOX imports. - Cornwall, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, etc.
  • Sept 09/99 - Editorial on Plute Shipments: Let Reason and Science Decide. - Flint Journal
  • Sept 09/99 - Mayor of Sault questions proposed plutonium route. - Sault Star
  • Sept 08/99 - Sault mayor seeks full public hearings on plutonium. - Sault Star

  • Sept 08/99 - City Council opposes shipment of weapons plutonium. - Sudbury Star
  • Sept 04/99 - Play on fears of protestors, federal strategy paper advises. - Ottawa Citizen
  • Sept 04/99 - Questions persist about plute shipments: Harris. - St. Catharines Standard
  • Sept 03/99 - Anishinabek Nation denounces decision to import plutonium. - Press Release
  • Sept 03/99 - Plute cargo route shocks Ottawa region: no warning given. - Ottawa Citizen

  • Sept 03/99 - Locals stunned by decision to truck plutonium through Sault. - Sault Star
  • Sept 03/99 - U.S. and Canada reach a deal to approve plutonium fuel shipments. - Reuters
  • Sept 03/99 - Ottawa announces plutonium routes & shocks communities. - Windsor Star
  • Sept 03/99 - Canada to test plutonium fuel from warheads. - Kitchener-Waterloo Record
  • Sept 2/99 - Ontario NDP rejects federal plan to import plutonium. - Queen's Park

    Sept 02/99 - US & Canada agree to send warhead plutonium to Canada. - US Dept of Energy
    Sept 02/99 - Ottawa permits Weapons Plutonium to enter Canada. - Gov't of Canada
    Aug 28/99 - Dangers of plutonium leaks from weapons plant are denied. - Regina Leader-Post
    Aug 25/99 - Protest against use of MOX in Russia results in more than 20 arrests. - Press Release
    Aug 24/99 - Russian MOX program ''can't be implemented'' due to ''incompetence''. - Press Release

    July/Aug 99 - Hot Leftovers from a Cold War -- (G. Edwards on Plutonium). - Briarpatch
    Aug 16/99 - Ottawa viewed plutonium plan as doomed to fail in 1996. - Globe and Mail
    Aug 08/99 - High plutonium exposure at Chalk River angers MPP Sean Conway. - Ottawa Citizen
    Aug 07/99 - Plan to clean up defunct plutonium plant 5 years behind schedule. - Ottawa Citizen
    Aug 06/99 - Four get massive radiation exposure from old plutonium plant. - Ottawa Citizen

    Aug 02/99 - Plutonium will be Canada's forever, although storage site is lacking. - Globe and Mail
    July 12/99 - Canada facing opposition in plan to burn plutonium. - Boston Globe
    June 21/99 - Canada's plutonium import scheme is on the ropes. - Time Magazine
    Apr 27/99 - Firefighters' Association seeks to stop plutonium imports. - Ottawa Citizen
    Apr 27/99 - Plutonium transportation reports worry Halifax port workers. - Halifax Chronicle-Herald

    Apr 27/99 - Firefighters oppose plutonium nuclear-fuel transportation plan. - Edmonton Journal
    Apr 27/99 - "Plutonium project risky": Greenpeace warns of accidents.- Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    Apr 26/99 - Firefighters use plute shipments to request new technology. - Kitchener-Waterloo Record
    Apr 26/99 - Greenpeace asks PM to stop promoting MOX; will tour transport routes. - Press Release
    Apr 25/99 - Greenpeace to launch tour of plutonium shipment routes. - Press Conference

    Apr 22/99 - Questioning plans to dump nuclear junk here is not silly. - Kitchener-Waterloo Record
    Apr 23/99 - Officials scrap secret session on N.S. plutonium shipments. - Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    Apr 22/99 - Halifax probable entry point for plutonium from Russia - EMO. - Canadian Press
    Apr 22/99 - "Does Canada Really Want Plutonium from Dismantled Weapons?" - Globe and Mail
    Apr 22/99 - John Herron M.P. questions the wisdom of plutonium imports. - House of Commons

    Apr 20/99 - Minister rejects MOX recommendation of all-party committee. - House of Commons
    Apr 20/99 - Government responds to Report against plutonium imports. - CBC National News
    Apr 20/99 - Reactor tests of plutonium from nuclear warheads will proceed. - Globe and Mail
    Apr 19/99 - Opposition questions import of wastes from nuclear weapons. - House of Commons
    Apr 17/99 - Ottawa ignores Committee's advice, plans plutonium fuel test. - Globe and Mail

    Apr 18/99 "Surprise! It's a truckload of plutonium." Feds keep mum. - Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    Apr 6/99 - Editorial: Port of Halifax has a role to play in disarmament. - Halifax Daily News
    Apr 5/99 - Public hearing sought into AECL MOX plan; secrecy assailed. - National Post
    Apr 1/99 - Bill is introduced to prohibit transport of nuclear waste through N.S. - NDP Press Release
    Apr 1/99 - Politicians debate if they have power over plutonium shipments. - Halifax Daily News

    Apr 6/99 - Two Penlight Batteries. Is that really all we're charged up about? - Winnipeg Free Press
    Apr 1/99 - Nuclear industry attempts to quell fears of plutonium disposal. - National Post
    Mar 24/99 - Chrétien to Clinton: want us to dispose of U.S. waste plutonium? - Financial Times
    Mar 26/99 - No nuclear waste wanted in Halifax harbour, Tories say. - Halifax Daily News
    Mar 29/99 - Editorial - The burning issue of plutonium. - National Post

    Mar 26/99 - Keep nuclear waste out of Halifax - MLA. - Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    Mar 24/99 - Canada is ready to test-burn plutonium, Axworthy says. - Ottawa Citizen
    Mar 25/99 - Prime Minister is open to accept American scrap plutonium. - Globe and Mail
    Mar 23/99 - Transporting plutonium by ship considered safer than flight. - Ottawa Citizen
    Mar 24/99 - Feds deny any agreement in place to import plutonium. - Kitchener-Waterloo Record

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Apr 22/99 - Questioning plans to dump foreign nuclear junk here is not silly.

    The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, page A11

    by Rosemary Speirs

    Liberal ministers sometimes dismiss NDP leader Alexa McDonough as though she were too dimwitted to signify.

    Example: The reply from Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy earlier this week when McDonough asked him why Canada has agreed to dispose of surplus plutonium from stockpiled American and Russian warheads.

    "Why are we risking Canada's environment? Why is Canada not telling the Americans and Russians to clean up their own mess?" she demanded.

    Axworthy's response: "In all my years in Parliament, I think that is just about the most foolish question I have ever heard, frankly."

    McDonough's question hardly qualifies as the "most foolish" ever posed in Parliament. Only four months ago, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, representing all five parties in Parliament, raised similar doubts.

    The committee's report unanimously recommended that Canada withdraw from even the proposed test-burn of plutonium fuel later this year at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s Chalk River research facility.

    The experimental burning of minute quantities of plutonium follows a promise made five years ago by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He agreed in principle that Canada would take Russian and American surplus-weapons plutonium to encourage the superpowers' stockpile reduction and reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation.

    Russians call their plutonium stockpile a "national treasure." They hope to turn surplus warhead plutonium into a profit by sales to Ontario Hydro. Hydro would use it to partially replace uranium in the production of electricity.

    Like the U.S., the former Soviet countries have an estimated 50 metric tonnes of surplus plutonium. Canada and its allies fear the stockpiles will "leak" to rogue states or terrorist organizations.

    The Americans say they'll build a fabrication plant in South Carolina to mix surplus plutonium with depleted uranium oxides, producing pellets of so-called MOX fuel. The MOX would be clad in metal and shipped in 45-gallon drums.

    Russia, too, would build a MOX plant, although it's begging for international financing. All the surplus plutonium would thus enter Canada as stable MOX pellets and be shipped to Ontario Hydro's Bruce generating station.

    When burned, the plutonium would no longer be weapons-grade, says the government's Web site, and it would be 15 per cent smaller than a similar quantity of spent uranium fuel. The spent fuel would be temporarily stored at the reactor sites, pending the day when the government finally gets approval for burying radioactive waste underground.

    But all this, of course, is a decade at least away (years while Russia's plutonium may be "leaking"). First comes test burning of tiny samples of MOX at Chalk River.

    It sounds altruistic -- using CANDU reactors in Ontario to convert part of the world's biggest nuclear stockpiles into electricity. But the Parliamentary committee heard from scientists and activists with deep concerns.

    They pointed out that several Ontario Hydro plants are already decommissioned because of safety problems. Some suggested the burning of surplus weapons plutonium is an excuse for extending the life of the Canadian nuclear power program.

    The critics argued that after burning, manufactured plutonium cools more slowly than naturally occurring uranium. They wanted more proof it is a "safeguardable substance."

    Most of all, they are angry that the test-burn is going ahead without public hearings, although the Americans are conducting an environmental assessment and notifying communities along the proposed transport route.

    Axworthy argues that no Canadian purchase of Russian or American MOX fuels will occur without meeting all of Canada's environmental and transport safety regulations. This is a "swords to plowshares" initiative, the government says, which peaceloving Canadians should all support.

    The Liberals are clearly worried that Chrétien's undertaking to burn weapons' grade plutonium will run afoul of a "not in my backyard" movement. Which is sufficient, perhaps, to explain Axworthy's dismissive reply to McDonough. But putting her down, and disregarding the committee report, only increase suspicions.

    The government should lay the pros and cons out clearly, so we can judge whether we really want to be a "safe" depository for the radioactive relics of others' nuclear madness.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Apr 23/99 - Secret session on Nova Scotia plutonium shipments is scrapped.

    The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, page A1
    also The Globe and Mail, National News, page A7

    by Amy Smith and Brian Underhill


    Canadian Press

    A secret session on transporting plutonium through Nova Scotia was scrapped after it became public knowledge Thursday.

    John Read of Transport Canada said the department cancelled the meeting, planned for today in Truro, because "it turned out we startled people, which was not our intention."

    He said officials didn't want Nova Scotians to think government was "pulling a fast one."

    The session was organized to train fire chiefs and emergency measures personnel how to handle plutonium in case of an emergency.

    Mr. Read said there was no need to make it public.

    A memo saying plutonium will definitely be shipped through the Port of Halifax was a mistake, he said.

    "It was wrong," Mr. Read said. "I spoke to the person who wrote that."

    The memo, from the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization, said one sample of MOX fuel (a combination of plutonium and uranium) would come from Russia by ship, enter Canada at Halifax and be moved by road to Chalk River, Ont., this summer. A second sample, from the United States, would be transported through Southern Ontario.

    Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. plans to burn about 1,200 grams of weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled American and Russian warheads in the Chalk River nuclear reactor this summer. The exercise would determine the feasibility of disposing of the material by using it to fuel CANDU-type nuclear reactors.

    Transport Minister David Collenette said Thursday in Ottawa that discussions about transporting the radioactive material are premature because Atomic Energy Canada has not made an application to transport the material.

    "We have 800,000 (radioactive material) shipments a year (in Canada), so having meetings with local communities and fire chiefs and other response organizations on how you deal with radioactive spillage is not unusual," he said in an interview.

    But officials in his department expect to get a request from the agency sometime next month. "And then it's a question of deciding where ... the route would go," he said.

    Environment Minister Michel Samson said it's not a certainty that Halifax will be the entry point for plutonium.

    "It's a federal issue and that's what we're dealing with," he said Thursday during a break from cabinet.

    "Certainly at this point, they haven't made it clear to us that they do plan to use the port." He said he had not seen the EMO memo.

    Tory transportation critic Brooke Taylor said it's obvious a shipment will come through Halifax.

    "I think the minister is being very coy here," he said.

    "I think the government knows ... quite well, that a shipment is coming in from Russia by ship to the Port of Halifax."

    Mr. Taylor said he believes the material can be transported through the province safely.

    Opposition Leader Robert Chisholm said plans involving plutonium shouldn't be kept from the public.

    "The fact that they are cancelling the meeting is not good enough," he said.

    "We need some answers (about) exactly what's going on because clearly, there is a lot of confusion at some very high levels on this issue."

    Steve Shallhorn, campaign co-ordinator with Greenpeace, said his organization plans to visit all of the communities along the proposed route.

    He called Canada's role in burning of the material a bad idea dressed up as a good one.

    "It's a group I would call the 'Nuclear Mafia' that support it."

    Federal NDP Leader Alexa McDonough said Nova Scotians deserve to know the federal government's plans.

    "The government cannot go on deceiving the people of Halifax or the citizens of any other affected community," Ms. McDonough said.

    "With stockpiles of up to 50 tonnes of plutonium in Russia alone, and plans for the construction of factories to produce MOX pellets, clearly this is the first run of many."

    Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey, who raised the issue in the House, said he's convinced the federal government will proceed with the proposed tests at Chalk River.

    "Whether they will import it through Halifax or some other port, whether they will transport this small sample by train or car or truck or what, I don't know," he said.

    He said he plans to follow up because the plutonium could be transported through his riding.

    Mr. Casey said he's been assured the risk is minimal, but he wants make sure it is safe.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Apr 22/99 - Halifax probable entry point for plutonium from Russia - EMO.

    Canadian Press

    TRURO, N.S. (CP) - The Port of Halifax is a probable entry point for weapons-grade plutonium destined for a test burn this summer in Ontario, says a memo obtained by the Truro News.

    Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has said Canada will proceed with the test burn of U.S. and Russian material to determine whether plutonium can be efficiently destroyed in CANDU-type nuclear reactors.

    Ottawa has said burning plutonium could help with nuclear disarmament.

    The Truro News said today it has obtained a memo from the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization suggesting one sample will come from Russia by ship, enter Canada in Halifax and be moved by road to Chalk River, Ont.

    The other sample, from the United States, will enter Canada in southern Ontario. Some reports have suggested this material will cross the border at Sarnia.

    Federal and Nova Scotia government officials will meet Friday in Truro to discuss the idea of plutonium being shipped through the province.

    Michel Samson, Nova Scotia's environment minister, said he wants to make sure Ottawa consults with the public on the issue.

    Samson said people have concerns, but added the Port of Halifax already handles many dangerous goods.

    The Truro newspaper also said officials in Nova Scotia are quietly training emergency response personnel on how to handle plutonium in the event of an accident.

    More than 30 emergency measures co-ordinators and firefighters will meet with Transport Canada official John Read on Friday in Truro for a training session.

    The unpublicized meeting is one of several scheduled for the Maritime provinces, said Read.

    The three-hour meeting will deal with safety issues surrounding the transportation of MOX fuel, including characteristics of the fuel and emergency plans. MOX is a mixture of plutonium and depleted uranium.

    Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. must have an acceptable emergency response plan in place before registering with Transport Canada to ship plutonium across the province.

    AECL hasn't applied to the transportation of dangerous goods division of Transport Canada as yet, but Read expects an application by the end of May.

    "We don't have the application or an informal application that it is coming to Halifax," said Read.

    Halifax is but one possible port of entry for the 150 grams of Russian weapons-grade plutonium. Other places considered possible entry points are Saint John, N.B., Quebec City and Montreal.

    But the Emergency Measures Organization memo indicates Halifax is a probable entry point.

    "One sample will come from the U.S. and will enter Canada in southern Ontario," reads the memo. "The other sample will come from Russia by ship, will enter Canada in Halifax and be moved by road to Chalk River, Ontario."

    The memo was marked urgent and footnoted "this meeting is not to be publicized."

    Read said none of the ports have a preferred status as an entry point, but neither Montreal nor Quebec City have been contacted for emergency training sessions as yet.

    Read said his department approached Nova Scotia and Sarnia for the training sessions after news reports indicated city officials were worried about the hazards of transporting radioactive material through their areas.

    Sarnia borders the States at Port Huron, Mich.

    Read said it would take at least a month to approve the emergency response plans before AECL can start moving the plutonium.

    Following a meeting Wednesday with federal Transportation Minister David Collenette and federal Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale, Tory transport critic Bill Casey said he has been assured Ottawa has not yet received an application for the transportation of nuclear waste.

    "Nothing can happen until minister Collenette OKs it," said Casey, a Nova Scotia MP. "(Collenette) hasn't even seen an application."

    Both Collenette and Goodale were caught off guard by the provincial memo, said Casey.

    "They told me no port routes have been selected," said Casey." (Collenette) said this memo was very premature."

    But officials from the Nova Scotia departments of environment, transportation and public works confirmed they were aware of the training program in Nova Scotia and yet it was not made public.

    Robert Chisholm, Nova Scotia's NDP leader, said people shouldn't be kept in the dark on the issue.

    "What the government seems to be making clear to us is they don't believe that Nova Scotians deserve to know," said Chisholm. "I say that is just unsatisfactory -- that's not good enough." (Truro News)

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Apr 22/99 - "Do We Really Want Plutonium Scraps from Nuclear Bombs?"

    The Globe and Mail, page A13

    by Franklyn Griffiths
    Professor of Peace Studies
    University of Toronto




    Toronto: The federal government is offering Russia and the United States an opportunity to rid themselves of up to 50 tonnes of plutonium each.

    This would be done by converting plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for continuous shipment to and irradiation at Ontario's Bruce nuclear generating station, beginning around 2005 and continuing into the 2030s at the latest. The resulting nuclear waste would be held forever in a planned depository cut deep into the Canadian Shield. The plutonium-fuel scheme is presented as an opportunity for Canadians to contribute to world peace. No mention is made of the costs to Canadians, and to Ontarians and the Ontario environment in particular.

    To do the federal government a favour, let's say nothing about costs, and consider only the nuclear disarmament benefits claimed for this scheme.

    Together, Russia and the United States hold an estimated 300 tonnes of plutonium accumulated during two generations of military-industrial activity. Of this total, Moscow and Washington have agreed to dispose of 50 tonnes each. (The amount that might come to Canada could be considerably smaller, since the U.S., for one, will wish to "immobilize" a substantial amount of material not fit for use in reactors, so that it cannot be used for weapons.) This will leave the U.S. with 50 tonnes and Russia with an astonishing 150 tonnes, if we include its 30 tonnes of weapons-usable separated plutonium for civil reactors.

    Right away it's evident that the two principals are determined to withhold vast amounts of plutonium from the nuclear-disarmament process.

    The U.S. in particular intends to maintain indefinitely a force of 2,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads, plus 2,500 warheads in an inactive reserve, plus an additional 5,000 plutonium "pits" for replacement in deployed and inactive warheads. Russia can be expected to follow suit as best it can.

    Holding on to what the Americans call the "sweet stuff," the two suppliers of plutonium for use at the Bruce station would divest themselves of what amounts to nuclear waste. Canada would receive plutonium formulated for obsolete warheads, reactor plutonium in fresh and irradiated form, scraps and residues, process waste, and material used for peaceful purposes.

    On this last point -- peaceful uses -- well over a third of the declared U.S. excess of "weapons" plutonium that's intended for disposal in reactors consists of non-weapons plutonium used in testing breeder-reactor fuel, and in studies of plutonium criticality or spontaneous ignition.

    The Russians are sure to have plenty of the same. Impoverished, and valuing plutonium a great deal, they will gather and purify everything but lean scraps in order to maximize payment for disposal from the G7 group of industrial states.

    Given the extraordinary secrecy that surrounds these matters in both countries, Canada would not be in a position to know what forms of plutonium were being fabricated into CANDU MOX fuel. We'd have to take what was provided.

    It is truly difficult to find hilarity in plutonium. Canada could be the first to do so in striving earnestly to reduce the likelihood and the destructiveness of nuclear war by irradiating plutonium made for peaceful purposes.

    Proponents of the fuel scheme will reply that whatever came our way would be sourced only from warheads and from plutonium made expressly for warheads. But how could any such claim be verified, especially at the Russian end?

    Ottawa is proposing to enter Canadians into a shell game with exceedingly wily suppliers. In their different ways, Moscow and Washington will contrive to retain excessive amounts of plutonium for excessive numbers of warheads of latest design, and to divest themselves of elderly weapons plutonium laced with substantial amounts of accumulated industrial and military shop-floor waste. It is hard to see much benefit in this for nuclear disarmament.

    Moreover, in acting on the fuel scheme as it stands, Canadians would actually underwrite the intention of the United States, which sets the pace for other nuclear-weapons states, to maintain an outrageously large strategic nuclear force into the indefinite future. U.S. willingness to countenance major reductions in its inactive strategic reserve and stockpile of replacement pits should be a precondition for any action on the federal government's scheme.

    Far better for Ottawa to drop the whole idea right now. Leave the United States, which is fully capable of dealing with its own plutonium safely and efficiently, to its own devices. And see to it that Russia is paid a premium by the G7 to demilitarize and secure that part of its 50-tonne excess which cannot safely be wasted in Russian nuclear reactors.

    Franklyn Griffiths holds the Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of a study of the plutonium fuel project that influenced the recent unanimous decision of a Commons committee to recommend abandoning the project. The study, MOX Experience, is available at

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    Apr 22/99 - John Herron M.P. questions the wisdom of plutonium imports.

    House of Commons
    Hansard, Question Period


    Mr. John Herron (Fundy--Royal, PC): Mr. Speaker, Canada has a long term nuclear waste disposal problem. The material is currently stored at temporary sites at Canada's 22 nuclear reactor stations. According to the Seaborn panel, Canadians still need to be convinced that the solution is to bury it deep in the Canadian shield. Despite all of this, the government is looking at importing weapons grade plutonium from the U.S. and Russia to burn at Canadian reactors.

    My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Does the minister have any plans to ensure that this imported plutonium will not compound Canada's nuclear waste disposal problems?

    Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I guess this is now the 19th time I have responded to the details of this question.

    If there were to be a commercial MOX proposal, that would go forward. In addition to a number of other conditions that would need to be satisfied, all relevant environmental, health and safety regulations in Canada, whether federal or provincial, would have to be fully satisfied. On a scientific basis the waste that would be created by this MOX product is less than the more conventional product.

    Mr. John Herron: Mr. Speaker, we do not have to be asked to participate in the program. The Prime Minister is practically writing letters to the President of the United States perhaps even demanding to participate in the MOX program. For something that we do not have to be asked to participate in, the government is spending an awful lot of money on it. The feasibility study performed by the government indicated that the plan to burn Russian and American weapons grade plutonium would cost Canadian taxpayers $2.2 billion. The study itself has already cost Canadians $1.5 million.

    How much does the government have to spend before getting the support of the Canadian parliament? Is this really a spending priority of the Canadian people?

    Hon. Ralph E. Goodale: Mr. Speaker, we are now on to number 20.

    The fact is that the testing that may be undertaken later this year is fully within the regulatory authority and the regulatory licence afforded to AECL. It is covered within the financial arrangements provided to AECL. If there were to be a commercial program pursued after that, one of the conditions that I referred to generically in my first answer is that it would have to be on a commercial basis with no subsidization by the Government of Canada.

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    Apr 20/99 - Minister rejects recommendation to scrap plutonium imports.

    House of Commons
    Hansard, Question Period


    Mr. John Herron (Fundy-Royal, PC): Mr. Speaker, a foreign affairs committee called a plan to burn weapons grade plutonium in Canada totally infeasible. A recent U.S. environmental assessment on the project stated activities conducted in Canada would be the sole responsibility of the Canadian government.

    Given Canada's poor record on enforcement as pointed out by the environment committee last year and that superficial screenings account for 99% of Canada's environmental assessment as pointed out by the auditor general, what assurances can the Minister of the Environment provide that the decision to burn U.S. and Russian weapons plutonium will be environmentally safe and secure for all Canadians?

    Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we received no request to participate in the MOX program. We have not yet conducted any feasibility testing that would come within the licence of the Chalk River laboratory. If we were to proceed, there would be full, open and transparent proceedings under relevant federal and provincial law with respect to the protection of the environment, health and safety. We would also ensure that there is no subsidization involved on the part of Canada and that the process, if it is to go forward at all many years into the future is conducted with complete safety in Canada.

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    Apr 20/99 - Ottawa responds to all-party Committee Report against plutonium imports.

    CBC National News

    Sasa Petricic reports:

    OTTAWA - The federal government has issued a controversial report on Canada's nuclear policy.

    The report is a response to a series of recommendations made last year by the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. The committee looked at several issues, including whether Canada should accept shipments of what's known as MOX fuel.

    That's material enriched with plutonium from Russian and American nuclear missiles. It can be burned in commercial nuclear reactors.

    The committee decided it would be a bad idea to accept these shipments. It said transporting the fuel would be difficult.

    People living along the route might worry an accident could cause nuclear contamination. The government rejected the committee's objection. It says MOX fuel is used in Europe and there are no technical, health or safety problems.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says by burning this fuel, Canada could also help the cause of nuclear disarmament. "We have to be very careful that nuclear materials do not end up in the wrong hands, that they do not get proliferated. And, so, one way to ensure it is to burn it, to get rid of it," he said.

    Axworthy says Canada has not decided whether it will accept large-scale shipments of MOX fuel. But he says the government has authorized a test burn at a Canadian reactor this year.

    The federal New Democrats are upset with the government's decision. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough says Canada should not become a nuclear dumping ground. "We have a unanimous recommendation of a parliamentary committee after careful and detailed consideration that's recommended against it. It's absolutely clear that the only reason the government wants to proceed with this testing is they want to take us down that road."

    The government report contains another controversial proposal. The foreign affairs committee looked at whether Canada should urge NATO to reconsider its first strike policy on nuclear weapons.

    The committee said Canada should urge the alliance to change that and the government accepted the recommendation.

    That means Canada may begin lobbying NATO to promise to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack.

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    Apr 20/99 - Reactor tests of plutonium from nuclear warheads will proceed.

    The Globe and Mail
    Canadian Press

    OTTAWA -- Ottawa won't dismiss outright the possibility of burning plutonium from nuclear warheads in Canada and will go ahead with tests to find out if it can be safely done.

    An all-party foreign-affairs committee had recommended that Canada steer clear of burning so-called MOX fuel because the option is "totally unfeasible." But in its response yesterday, the federal government said burning plutonium is an option that could promote nuclear disarmament.

    Russia and the United States each have some 50 tonnes of plutonium produced through the dismantling of nuclear warheads.

    Canada has said in the past it would consider a program to destroy the material by burning it in CANDU reactors as fuel.

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    Apr 19/99 - Opposition questions import of wastes from nuclear weapons.

    House of Commons
    Hansard, Question Period


    Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

    The Americans and the Russians have a nuclear waste problem. Against every environmental principle, against the unanimous recommendation of a parliamentary committee, Canada now proposes to make the problem worse by transporting highly dangerous plutonium thousands and thousands of kilometres through Canadian communities.

    Why are we risking Canada's environment? Why is Canada not telling the Americans and the Russians to clean up their own mess?

    Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in all my years in parliament, I think that is just about the most foolish question I have ever heard, frankly. Trying to terrify Canadians based upon supposition and hypothesis is a very dangerous tactic.

    My colleague the Minister of National Defence and I will be tabling this afternoon a response to the committee's recommendation. We have said so far there is no decision to make any transportation. Any decision will be made on the basis of all environmental safety standards.

    Frankly, for a party that has committed itself over the years to nuclear disarmament, that was a shameful question.

    Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I suppose we will now hear the same kind of unlikely excuses about PCBs. Canada is preparing to import PCBs from U.S. military bases in Japan, PCBs that the Americans have rejected as too dangerous.

    How does this work? Clinton pulls the chain and buddy responds. Why is Canada becoming the dumping ground of choice for the world's waste?

    Hon. Christine Stewart (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe I can respond to the question about PCBs.

    My department has had no request to authorize such a shipment into this country. If we were to get such a request we would review it and any action we would take would be absolutely according to the policy of the government.


    Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, in spite of what the Minister of Foreign Affairs had to say earlier, it has been reported that the cabinet has approved the test burning of plutonium from U.S. warheads in Canada's reactors.

    If this is true, the decision directly contravenes an all-party committee that specifically ruled out such a test burn.

    What part of no does the minister not understand?

    Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the committee made recommendations, not decisions. It is up to the government to make a response to those recommendations and it will be tabling a response.

    I go back to what I said in the House many times before. First, the test uses a minute portion of the fuel to determine its validity, its safety and its application of environmental standards. It comes down to a very central question because the committee also strongly recommended that Canada make a contribution to get rid of nuclear weapons, to de-nuclearize the world. We think it is up to Canada to make a contribution.

    Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that they will be burning this stuff in Canada. The committee has listened to expert witnesses and concerned Canadians. It unanimously rejected the test burn idea, but the government is going ahead with it.

    This is the start of a small test of a large problem. Will Canada become the nuclear waste dump of the world?

    Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman may be confusing two things. With respect to the testing of a minute amount of MOX fuel, that is already covered under the existing licence of the Chalk River facilities. If there should be any consideration in the future to a full MOX program in Canada it would require not only those successful tests, but also the complete environmental review of the proposal in compliance with all federal and provincial laws to ensure that all environmental health and safety factors in the country are taken into account.

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    Apr 17/99 - Ottawa ignores Committee's advice, plans plutonium fuel test.

    The Globe and Mail
    page A11

    by Jeff Sallot

    The U.S. and Russia will need to dispose of up to 50 tonnes of plutonium each in the next few years as they dismantle 40,000 warheads under terms of disarmament treaties.

    The tests will involve only very small quantities of plutonium -- only a few hundred grams. The U.S. MOX fuel to be used in the first test would be shipped to Chalk River by truck from Los Alamos, N.M.

    U.S. regulators have not yet determined what route will be taken to the Canadian border. Some state and municipal politicians in Michigan have voiced strong opposition to the shipment passing through their jurisdiction on a proposed route to the border crossing at Sarnia.

    The Russian fuel would come from the Bochvar nuclear laboratories near Moscow and would arrive by ship at an as-yet-unspecified East Coast port -- possibly Halifax -- and would continue to Chalk River by truck.

    AECL says a date has not been set for the tests, but they will not be before summer.


    What the Commons foreign affairs committee said:

    Canada's agreement-in-principle, at the 1996 Moscow Nuclear Safety Summit, to consider burning surplus Russian and American plutonium as MOX fuel, has been very controversial.

    As the committee learned in Washington, while MOX remains a fallback option, it is not now among the mainstream choices in the United States. Russia has traditionally supported the MOX option in the hope of recouping some of its investment over the years; it remains to be seen what it, and the United States, decide.

    The committee recommends that the government reject the idea of burning MOX fuel in Canada because this option is totally unfeasible, but that it continue to work with other governments to address the problem of surplus fissile [warhead] material.


    Plutonium is a man-made element produced from uranium in nuclear reactors. It decays slowly, remaining radioactive for thousands of years.

    Radiation from plutonium can be easily blocked, however -- a sheet of paper, for example, can act as an effective barrier. In powder form, small amounts of plutonium can cause cancer if inhaled. Even small amounts of plutonium, of five kilograms or less, release huge amounts of energy in the form of an explosion when detonated in a warhead.

    Plutonium is cheaper to produce than other types of nuclear warhead material, and the superpowers made hundreds of tonnes of it during the Cold War.

    The transportation of plutonium in fuel bundles for power reactors does not pose any risk of explosion. Many experts say the greatest risk is that it will be stolen by would-be terrorists.

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    Apr 18/99 - "Surprise! It's a truckload of plutonium." Feds won't announce shipments.

    The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    page A11

    by Kelly Shiers

    Halifax: If plutonium taken out of dismantled Russian nuclear weapons comes through the port of Halifax this summer, you could pass it on a highway and never know it.

    "We won't make an announcement," said John Read, spokesman for Transport Canada, the federal department charged with approving the route and the methods used to get the plutonium from an East Coast port to Ontario, where it will be burned in a nuclear reactor.

    "When we know, other people will know because they'll see it on our Web site or they'll ask us, (but) we're not going out to make it a big deal," said Mr. Read, the director general of Transport Dangerous Goods.

    Halifax is one of the ports being considered to unload a small amount of Russian plutonium. The radioactive material is destined for Chalk River, Ont., where it will be burned, along with a small amount of plutonium from American weapons. It's the first step in a process that has Canada considering taking more plutonium from the two countries sometime after 2005.

    But there may be some confusion about how much the public will know about the test project.

    Mr. Read said Transport Canada will not keep the route secret, although with 27 million shipments of dangerous goods in the country annually, informing people of dates and times is not something the department normally does.

    However, a spokesman for Atomic Energy Canada, Ltd., the Crown corporation doing the test, said he believes there's been no decision yet to make public details about the route, although emergency personnel - for example, fire departments - along the route would be told in advance.

    "It's not because of a threat of terrorism or anything like that," said Larry Shewchuk. "Quite frankly, it's because of any sort of anti-nuclear protest in which you might have groups trying to block the highway in the event this kind of material would be moving through their area."

    But that's not a good enough reason, says NDP environment critic Don Chard, whose party tried to ban the transportation of nuclear material in Nova Scotia. "We should be dealing with these issues openly," he said, although he acknowledges the likelihood that some people may want to demonstrate against importing plutonium. "There's an obligation on the government's part to treat the public with some respect. The public can make intelligent comment on this, and we should be seeking their input."

    Controversy over Canada's involvement in getting rid of the nuclear weapons material is expected to heat up in the coming weeks as Atomic Energy Canada moves forward with the test plans.

    "I think it's a betrayal of the Canadian public by making these kinds of arrangements or offers (to take other countries' plutonium) without a mandate from the public," said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

    "It's not something that should be decided behind closed doors." Mr. Edwards said the concern isn't over whether nuclear powers should disarm, but Canada's choice to "import" problems, by bringing the plutonium here, burning it and then taking on the responsibility of storing the leftover radioactive waste.

    "I don't think people should get hysterical about the test - it involves very small quantities of plutonium," Mr. Chard said. "(But) if the decision on the basis of the test burn is it's worthwhile going to the larger project, we're talking about substantially larger quantities."

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    Apr 6/99 - Editorial: Port of Halifax has a role to play in disarmament.

    The Daily News (Halifax)

    THE WORLD will be a lot safer place when hundreds of Russian and American nuclear warheads are destroyed. A pact is in place, but it will take years and lots of money to make disarmament a reality. Canada can help achieve that goal -- by burning weapons-grade plutonium at its Chalk River, Ont. reactor -- and the Port of Halifax could play a role in getting rid of the nuclear threat.

    Clearly, this is a major issue, with technical and political aspects. It is also an essential task. But turning from that hopeful scenario of world disarmament, let us focus on the smaller picture of the Nova Scotia legislature. There the NDP proposes a ban on shipping nuclear material into or through Nova Scotia, a variation of the NIMBY syndrome turned into NNIMBY, as in No Nukes In My Back Yard.

    New Democrat Leader Robert Chisholm says the risk of shipping plutonium to Halifax and trucking it to Ontario is "totally unnecessary and unacceptable."

    Well, nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles are becoming unacceptable, and it is surely a responsible gesture to assist in getting rid of them.

    OF COURSE safety is a factor. We don't expect the plutonium will be dropped off at Pier 9 one morning into a half-ton truck. Transport of highly hazardous materials is a specialized business (Nova Scotia has an act, which Mr. Chisholm wants to amend, regulating movement of dangerous goods) and a great many safeguards would have to be in place.

    We are confident the port, which has learned a few things about dangerous goods since 1917 (and 1945), can handle this responsibility if it is called upon to do so. Volatile fuels and chemicals are transported through Halifax and other ports daily.

    Plutonium is hardly your average shipment, but it would have to be covered by guarantees at various government levels.

    This terrible stuff has to be destroyed -- somehow, somewhere. Russia alone has 50 tonnes of plutonium taken from warheads being dismantled, and there are scary reports of cash-short Moscow not taking the safest care of its weapons arsenal. Do we want to leave the job to the Russians in their current situation?

    The sooner the world is rid of these Armageddon devices the better. Even if Canada agrees on a destruction program, it would take seven years to embark on a full-scale operation at Chalk River.

    This gives ample time for the New Democrats to consider whether their bill is merely a narrow-minded stunt or actually reflects an understanding of the need for Canada, and this province, to lend a neighbourly hand with a global problem.

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    Apr 5/99 - Public hearing sought into AECL plan to burn plutonium: secrecy assailed.

    The National Post
    page A7

    by Sheldon Alberts

    OTTAWA - The chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee says he is open to the idea of holding hearings into Canada's decision to test-burn weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled American and Russian nuclear warheads.

    "I personally wouldn't have any problems with that," said Bill Graham, Liberal MP for Toronto Centre-Rosedale. "If the majority of people [on the committee] thought this was something we should do, then we would do it."

    Mr. Graham was responding to demands by Svend Robinson, the New Democratic foreign affairs critic, for full hearings on controversial plans by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to burn warhead plutonium this summer in an experimental reactor at Chalk River, Ont.

    Mr. Robinson told the National Post he plans to write Mr. Graham and formally request public hearings into the tests, which he says the Liberals approved in "total secrecy."

    Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, confirmed last month that the United States and Russia would ship small samples of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) containing the plutonium to determine if AECL's CANDU reactors would be suitable for large-scale disposal. Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, has also written Bill Clinton, the U.S. president, to reassure him that Canada will consider "any safe and financially viable proposal" to dispose of plutonium from surplus weapons.

    The decisions were taken even though the Commons foreign affairs committee rejected in December the idea of burning warhead plutonium in Canada as "totally unfeasible." The committee heard expert testimony suggesting that burning the plutonium in reactors is not the best way of disposing of the radioactive material and raises too many international security issues.

    "The government, without any consultation with the committee at all -- without even responding to the committee -- says we are going ahead with tests," said Mr. Robinson. "It is the first step towards the use of MOX, and I don't believe Canada should be part of this at all. So why would we take that first step down a very slippery slope?"

    Canada has not conducted any environmental impact assessment of the proposed tests, or of the plans to ship the plutonium by truck through several Ontario communities.

    AECL officials say the amount of plutonium being used in the tests is minimal -- the equivalent volume of four double-A-size batteries. They also say the fuel is not highly radioactive, and safety precautions ensure the plutonium cannot explode, ignite, or burn, even if there was an accident during transport.

    "If they are confident in the technology, if they are confident in the safety and security of this, why won't they share this information with the communities involved?" asked Mr. Robinson.

    Mr. Graham, the committee chairman, said he believes the New Democratic MP is "jumping the gun" by demanding hearings for such a small test. But "I don't think there would be any problem in entertaining Svend's idea."

    The committee would proceed with hearings if a majority of members from all parties agreed to the idea.

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    Apr 1/99 - Bill is introduced to prohibit transport of nuclear waste through Nova Scotia.

    New Democratic Party
    Press Release

    HALIFAX - NDP Leader Robert Chisholm today introduced legislation which would prohibit the transportation of nuclear material within or through Nova Scotia.

    An Act to Prohibit the Transportation of Nuclear Material was tabled in response to the federal government announcement of its intention to import U.S. and Russian weapons-grade plutonium into Canada to burn at AECL's Chalk River plant in Ontario.

    Although the exact route the material would take is being kept secret, it has been widely reported that the hazardous waste could be brought into the country at the Port of Halifax and then trucked to Ontario.

    "The risks which this could pose to Nova Scotians' health and safety are totally unnecessary and unacceptable. We want to eliminate any possibility that nuclear waste could be shipped through Nova Scotia," Chisholm said.

    Nova Scotia law already prohibits the use of nuclear fuel in power generation in the province. Moreover, the Dangerous Goods and Transportation Act regulates the transportation of dangerous goods in the Nova Scotia. However, as currently written, the Act would not prohibit the shipment of nuclear waste.

    "Nova Scotians need to know that there is no possibility of their health and safety being put at risk. That's why we need to close any loopholes in the current laws," Chisholm said.

    The NDP bill would amend the Dangerous Goods and Transportation Act by adding a section which expressly prohibits anyone from transporting nuclear materials within or through the Province.

    - 30 -

    Matt Hebb, Communications Officer

    NS NDP Caucus Office
    Suite 1001, 1660 Hollis Street
    Halifax, NS B3J 1V7

    (902) 424-8700 phone, (902) 424-0504 (fax)

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    Apr 22/99 - Politicians debate whether they have power over plutonium shipments.

    Halifax Daily News
    via Canadian Press

    HALIFAX (CP) - Nova Scotia doesn't know if it has the power to prevent weapons-grade plutonium from ever being shipped to Canada through Halifax.

    "We're, at this point, looking at what exact acts would be implicated here and what particular action we could take," provincial Environment Minister Michel Samson said Thursday.

    Halifax has been named as a possible port of entry for a program Ottawa is considering to destroy plutonium from Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads. Atomic Energy of Canada will conduct a small test burn of plutonium this summer at its Chalk River, Ont., reactor.

    NDP Leader Robert Chisholm introduced in the legislature Thursday proposed amendments to the provincial Dangerous Goods and Transportation Act to prohibit the transportation of nuclear material from weapons within Nova Scotia.

    "Nova Scotians deserve, at the very least, to be protected from the introduction of this hazardous material into the province," Chisholm said.

    The Liberals accused the New Democrats and Tories of "fear mongering" as the opposition assailed the government on the issue during question period.

    Premier Russell MacLellan said the notion that nuclear material could be shipped through Nova Scotia is "purely hypothetical" and no cause for concern.

    "Until we actually believe that there's a chance that that can happen, I don't think there's any point in causing anxiety among the people of this province," MacLellan said.

    Tory environment critic Jim DeWolfe, who brought the issue to the legislature last week, said the premier is dead wrong. "Now is the time to be preparing for it," he said.

    "Obviously, decisions are being made in Ottawa that affect Nova Scotia.... The government should be fighting to have this stopped immediately."

    MacLellan said his government would object to any plan that could jeopardize the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

    Samson said Nova Scotia would be able to protest if and when any such plan went before Transport Canada and Environment Canada for approval.

    Russia and the United States each have about 50 tonnes of surplus plutonium from dismantled warheads.

    Ottawa has said a decision on commencing a large-scale plutonium burn is at least seven years away.

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    Apr 6/99 - Two Penlight Batteries. Is that really all we're charged up about?

    The Winnipeg Free Press
    Editorial, page A10

    by Penni Mitchell

    Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says it's part of Canada's responsibility as a global peacemaker to help figure out what can be done with plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons.

    "We live in a dangerous world," he told the Free Press. Indeed, the nuclear arms industry and the nuclear energy industry have made the world one dangerous place to live. And both have come back to haunt us.

    First, with the news that the federal government approached aboriginal leaders to discuss storing nuclear reactor waste in their communities. They declined. After spending 20 years trying to develop a plan to bury nuclear reactor waste in the Canadian Shield, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. couldn't find a way to ensure that rock formations won't shift in the next 500 years, releasing radioactive contamination. The Seaborn committee rejected underground storage last year.

    The federal government, however, may not have ruled it out for the estimated 15,000 tonnes of spent uranium fuel bundles, now stored at nuclear reactor sites in containers designed to last 50 years. In Britain, 1,000 tonnes of nuclear waste - including highly-enriched uranium and plutonium - was discovered by the public when a secret shaft on the north coast of Scotland began falling into the Atlantic Ocean. Moving the waste to an above ground location will take up to 30 years and could cost $1 billion to $2 billion.

    Then there's the issue of what to do with weapons grade plutonium slated to be removed from Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads. AECL says it wants to burn some of the plutonium in a test at a Chalk River nuclear facility this summer.

    Despite Mr. Axworthy's admonition that Canada owes it to the world to conduct this experiment, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee rejected the idea on both environmental and economic grounds. AECL spokesperson Larry Shewchuk's comment that the amount of plutonium would be the same size as two penlight batteries is only marginally more assuring than his claim that the greatest security risk posed by transporting the fuel is the possibility that anti-nuclear protesters could block the highway.

    That AECL doesn't appear willing to discuss potential risks (It's OK, we're adults, we can handle it) or the true size of the surplus plutonium problem (it's closer to 100 tonnes) suggests a dangerous lack of foresight.

    In the 50 years since Canadian-born physicists Arthur Shell and Walter Zinn first worked on the Manhattan Project, plenty has been written about lack of foresight that surrounded the U.S. nuclear defence policy.

    In 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's announcement that Canada was abandoning its own defence project, the Avro Arrow, was coupled with the news that Canada's military was going under the U.S. military's nuclear wing. By 1964, when then defence secretary Robert McNamara said that 400 megatons was enough to cause mutually assured destruction in a nuclear war, the U.S. had amassed 17,000 megatons. Not only was the nuclear arms race overkill as a military policy, but there appear to have been few financial controls, according to a four-year study by the Brookings Institution published last July.

    During the 50-year nuclear arms buildup, the U.S. spent more than $5.5 trillion on nuclear arms, outspending health, education and welfare. Steven Schwartz, who headed the research project, said that "in most cases, even rudimentary standards of government policy making and accountability were lacking." The U.S. may have spent the Soviet Union to defeat, but there are still 10,000 nuclear warheads in U.S. and Russian arsenals.

    Why Canada should assume the financial, environmental or moral responsibility for the superpowers' reckless spending habits has not been adequately explained.

    If it were, perhaps we might be enlisted to support Mr. Axworthy's methods as well as his laudable aims, which include a review of NATO's nuclear policy.

    As things stand, the science backing the experiment hasn't been shared with us. When seven Ontario reactors were shut down in 1997, the head of Ontario Hydro accused managers of operating as if they were part of "some sort of nuclear cult." The secrecy that have been part of nuclear culture since the beginning must be disarmed. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough is a voice of reason on this issue, arguing for a fully informed public debate before any plutonium comes to Canada.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    March 24/99 - Chrétien to Clinton: want to dispose of US waste plutonium?

    Financial Times, page A4
    (London, England)

    by Scott Morrison

    TORONTO: The Canadian government is prepared to consider any "safe and financially viable" proposal to dispose of US and Russian weapons grade plutonium in Canada, according to Jean Chrétien, the prime minister.

    A letter from Mr Chrétien, addressed to President Bill Clinton and leaked this week, runs counter to a parliamentary recommendation last year that Canada reject the idea of burning mixed oxide fuel, consisting of uranium and plutonium, because the option was "totally unfeasible" from a political point of view.

    Mr Chrétien has been attacked for pursuing a project that has raised safety concerns in Canada. Opponents of the plan are worried about security risks, the danger of spills during transportation and where the additional waste would be stored once it used in a reactor.

    The prime minister's letter to Mr Clinton was in response to Mr Clinton's appeal for an international partnership to address high priority arms control and non-proliferation issues.

    The issue involves plans to dispose of Russian and US weapons-grade plutonium by melting and mixing it with uranium for use in commercial reactors. The idea is that the waste from commercial reactors using so-called MOX fuel cannot be readily used in a bomb again.

    Canada is expected to receive MOX test shipments from the US and Russia later this year, in order to verify that Canadian-made reactors can break down weapons-grade plutonium.

    "We would essentially be storing the former superpowers' cold war leftovers," said Kristen Ostling of the Campaign for Nuclear Phase-Out, who is against Canadian plans to co-operate in this area.

    Ms Ostling and other critics of the plan have called on the government to engage in parliamentary and public debate before making a decision to dispose of US and Russian plutonium.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Apr 1/99 - Nuclear industry attempts to quell fears of plutonium disposal.

    The National Post
    page A7

    by Sheldon Alberts

    OTTAWA - Canada's nuclear industry is trying to defuse controversy over plans to test-burn weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled American and Russian warheads, saying the radioactive material being shipped to Ontario weighs little more than four Double-A batteries and can't ignite, explode, or burn en route.

    "This material is not hazardous. Moving propane would be more hazardous," said Larry Shewchuk, one of three officials from Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) who defended the plan in Ottawa.

    In the face of strong opposition from anti-nuclear groups and several parliamentarians, the AECL officials insisted there is little public risk in transporting and burning mixed oxide fuel (MOX) in its experimental reactors at Chalk River, northwest of Ottawa.

    "The analogy is that we are taking the bullet out of the rifle, and out of the shell casing. . . Technically you are shipping weapons material, but you are not shipping weapons-usable material." Lloyd Axworthy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, last week confirmed Canada has agreed to accept the plutonium this summer.

    Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, has written Bill Clinton, the U.S. president, to reassure him that Canada will consider "any safe and financially viable proposal" to dispose of warhead plutonium.

    But while no large-scale proposal has yet been made, the government has been under fire from opponents who fear the invitation will result in Canada becoming a dumping ground for radioactive waste.

    "Canada is embarking on this process without any, or very minimal, public and parliamentary debate," said Kristen Ostling, national director of the Campaign for Nuclear Phase-out. "I think they are scrambling to try to get support. There has been so much opposition to the test, which is a small amount of plutonium. I think they are worried about how much they will see for a broader project."

    AECL officials say people are reacting to misinformation. The unburned fuel is safer than radioactive waste because it has not been subject to any reaction, they say.

    The plutonium fuel will come in the form of small ceramic-based pellets, which are stuffed into zirconium metal tubes. Canada is accepting eight MOX-filled tubes from Russia and another eight from the United States. Though the total weight of each eight tubes is five kilograms, only 3% is weapons-grade plutonium, or about 150 grams from each country. The fuel will be transported by truck in heavy-steel containers similar to large oil drums.

    "It cannot spill, cannot ignite, and cannot explode," said Bob Gadsby, director of AECL's MOX project. "The test itself is very small-scale."

    He said more than 30 million tubes of nuclear fuel have been shipped from a production facility near Toronto to nuclear reactors in the last 30 years, and not one serious accident has occurred.

    Mr. Gadsby said he would feel comfortable handling one plutonium-filled tube with gloved hands.

    Despite safety assurances, several communities along proposed plutonium transport routes are fighting to keep it out.

    Ms. Ostling said studies indicate MOX is potentially usable in nuclear weapons, and accidents during transport could result in plutonium fuel becoming airborne.

    Transport routes being considered include bringing the fuel across the U.S. border in Manitoba, through Michigan and Sarnia, Ont., or through upstate New York and across the border near Kingston.

    Ross Glasgow, director of Canada's Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agency, said the government believes it is time Canada, a proponent of disarmament since the end of the Second World War, put its policy into practice.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 26/99 - No nuclear waste wanted in Halifax harbour, Tories say.

    The Daily News (Halifax)
    News, page 5

    The Tories want to make sure Halifax harbour remains a nuclear-free zone.

    Tory environment critic Jim DeWolfe called on the government yesterday to make sure that radioactive nuclear waste from Russia doesn't find its way into Halifax onboard container ships.

    A feasibility study by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) found it would be safer to bring weapons-grade plutonium to Canada from Russia by sea. The waste would then be burned elsewhere. The study identified Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Sarnia, Ont., and Churchill, Man., as possible ports of entry.

    In a resolution at the legislature, DeWolfe called on Premier Russell MacLellan and Environment Minister Michel Samson to block any such wastes from coming to Nova Scotia.

    Samson said he knew nothing about the AECL study until DeWolfe brought it up in the House.

    "Staff are looking into it to try and get a bit more of the background information," Samson said. "I can't comment on it now."

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 29/99 - Editorial - The burning issue of plutonium.

    The National Post
    Editorial, page A15

    As an energy source, plutonium is so powerful that a baseball-sized 6-kg chunk of the stuff is sufficient to blow up a small city. Now imagine what you could do with 50 metric tons. That is the declared weapons-grade plutonium surplus of the United States. The Russians have even more. Although their scientists have not yet made an accurate accounting of Russia's stocks, experts estimate it may be as much as 200 metric tons.

    What to do with it all? In general, there are two choices -- bury it after it has been vitrified and mixed with high-level radioactive waste ("immobilization" in the scientific jargon); or mix it with uranium and burn it in commercial nuclear reactors (the so-called MOX process). Both the Americans and Russians prefer the latter option.

    As a method of arms reduction, MOX is superior because it isotopically transforms weapons-quality plutonium into the less dangerous fuel and reactor grades that emerge normally as a by-product of conventional uranium burning nuclear power plants. (Of course, you can still make a bomb out of low-grade plutonium, but it is more difficult). Immobilization simply locks the plutonium away in highly radioactive canisters. Recovering it is difficult, but not impossible.

    The Russians are eager to use MOX for another reason. Any electricity Russia can produce using plutonium means an equivalent amount of gas and oil is freed up for export. They see their massive plutonium cache as a valuable energy asset -- and they'd prefer to beat their swords into plowshares rather than dump them into a hole.

    But there are problems. Neither the Americans nor the Russians have facilities to apply either MOX or immobilization technology on anything but a laboratory scale. Nor will they have them until 2005 at the earliest.

    There is also the inconvenient fact that the United States steadfastly opposes the use of plutonium in its commercial nuclear reactors -- a policy every U.S. president has clung to steadfastly (against European opposition) since Gerald Ford signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act in 1978. When the United States does start its own MOX-burning program sometime in the next millennium, it will be at a special government-owned facility yet to be constructed.

    On the Russian side, the main problem is money. Like the United States, Russia will most likely choose to develop both MOX and Immobilization technologies simultaneously. But building a "dual-track" facility is expensive. To dispose of the United States' 50 tons, the U.S. Department of Energy has budgeted more than $2.2-billion (US) -- and it expects total costs might reach as high as $4.5-billion (US) by the time all the plutonium is burned, which could take until 2025. Russia's disposal costs will be even greater because of its larger inventory.

    And that is where Canada comes in. The Liberal government has offered to burn Russian and American MOX feed in Ontario's CANDU reactors as part of our nation's contribution to the cause of nuclear disarmament. (Presumably this would also make Canada a leader in this new technology.) Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Ontario Hydro even conducted a study to evaluate the cost and feasibility of such a project in 1997. The advantage of Canada's involvement would be that final plutonium disposal would take place in a non-weapons country, with the reactors under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, so the amount of plutonium burned would be independently verified.

    This is an attractive idea, but it runs up against three serious objections. First, Russia's leaders are keen on MOX technology in large part because they think they can extract an energy dividend from their plutonium reserves. In fact, this is questionable, because burning hybrid plutonium-uranium fuel is not economical compared to conventional uranium-burning technology (the U.S. Department of Energy, for instance, has estimated that using commercial reactors to burn 35 tons of plutonium would require $500-million [US] in operating subsidies). Even so, Russian leaders think they can make MOX pay -- rather than let Canada have their plutonium, therefore, they are likely to sit on their stash until they get the money to build the needed infrastructure.

    Second, even if Russia were going to export its plutonium, Canada would be, at best, the third most sensible destination. Unlike either Canada or the United States, European countries already employ MOX technology to burn plutonium fuel in their nuclear reactors (non-weapons grade plutonium is a by-product of the commercial uranium-burning operations). And if Europe were to reject the plutonium, the United States would probably volunteer. The Department of Energy has already committed itself to building a dual-function plant. With a marginal increase in time and investment, the Americans would be able to process Russia's plutonium as well.

    The Americans stand to lose the most if Russia loses control of its plutonium reserves. One U.S. government report found that at some Russian facilities, potatoes are more heavily guarded than plutonium. (If only they were as easy to dispose of.)

    Finally, the Canadian government has a poor record in developing and selling nuclear technology on a cost recovery basis. Costs are invariably underestimated and revenues (or sales) overestimated. Consider the heavily subsidized CANDU reactor sales program or the failed heavy water plants in Cape Breton. If Canada were to assume responsibility for disposing of Russian plutonium, we would be committing ourselves to seeing it through, regardless of the inevitable cost overruns. The Russians are unlikely to be able to cover any unexpected additional costs -- or even the original fee, for that matter. An unknown and likely massive financial burden for destroying the plutonium would rest with the Canadian taxpayer.

    Canada already bears more than its proper share of international burdens. This is one on which we should take a pass.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 26/99 - Keep nuclear waste out of Halifax - MLA

    The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
    page A11

    Tory MLA Jim DeWolfe wants the province to make sure Halifax will not be a shipping point for radioactive nuclear waste.

    "Both the premier and the Minister of Environment should immediately work to stop vast amounts of radioactive nuclear waste from entering Canada through the Port of Halifax," the Pictou East MLA said Thursday.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said this week that Ottawa will allow small amounts of Russian and U.S. plutonium in to test the feasibility of disposing of it in Canada.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 24/99 - Canada is ready to test-burn plutonium, Axworthy says.

    The Ottawa Citizen
    page A8

    by Andrew Duffey

    Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says Canada must do its part to keep the world safe from nuclear weapons by testing the CANDU reactor's ability to burn plutonium from the Cold War stockpile.

    Mr. Axworthy told the House of Commons yesterday the government has committed to a test burn that will bring a small amount of weapons-grade plutonium into Canada from Russia and the U.S. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. will conduct the test at its CANDU reactor in Chalk River later this year. "I don't think it (the test) represents a real threat to Canada but the nuclear question, nuclear proliferation, represents a threat to all mankind," Mr. Axworthy told the Commons.

    Opposition MPs grilled the government on the meaning of a March 3 letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton in which the prime minister reassures him that Canada will consider "any safe and financially viable proposal" to dispose of warhead plutonium.

    New Democrat MP Svend Robinson said the letter flies in the face of a report issued by the Commons foreign affairs committee in December. The committee called the plutonium proposal "totally unfeasible" and recommended it be scrapped. "Canadians do not want our country to become a dumping ground for the world's Cold War plutonium," he said. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien told reporters the letter does not commit Canada to anything beyond the initial test. "We say we'll consider. When you say consider, it's not a commitment."

    At a nuclear summit in Moscow in 1996, Mr. Chrétien proposed burning plutonium in Ontario Hydra's Bruce nuclear reactor as a way of disposing of surplus material from Russian and U.S. warheads. Hydro scientists believe the plutonium can be diluted with uranium and burned as fuel in the reactor. If the plan is approved, large-scale shipments of the material could begin in 2005.

    A feasibility study, obtained by CTV News this week, suggests the disposal plan could cost Canadian taxpayers $2 billion over 25 years.

    The same report outlined potential transportation routes for the plutonium and recommended the radioactive material be moved by cargo ship, rather than airplane, because of safety concerns. The study identified Montreal, Halifax, Quebec City, Sarnia, Ont., and Churchill, Man. as possible ports of entry. None of the ports has a secure storage facility.

    Steve Shallhorn, a Greenpeace campaign director, said the Cold War plutonium should be left where it is now: in vaults in the U.S. and Russia. "If we want to do something for nuclear safety, we should contribute 10 Mounties a year to guard the stuff," he said. "It makes no sense to transport it around the world since that only increases the risk of an accident."

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 25/99 - Prime Minister is open to accept American scrap plutonium.

    The Globe and Mail
    page A8


    Canadian Press

    Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has told U.S. President Bill Clinton that he is open to a plan to dispose of radioactive plutonium in Canada, CTV News reported yesterday. The plutonium - from nuclear warheads in Russia and the United States - would be mixed with uranium and used to produce electricity at the Bruce nuclear power plant on Lake Huron starting in 2005, CTV says.

    "We want to help Russia and the United States destroy its nuclear weapons," Larry Shewchuk, a spokesman for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., told the network. Despite a parliamentary committee headed by the Liberals that urged the federal government to reject the plan, CTV reported that Mr. Chrétien is considering it anyway.

    In a letter to the U.S. President dated March 3, obtained by the network, Mr. Chrétien says Canada "is prepared to consider any safe and financially viable proposal!'

    He adds: "I can assure you that we share your concerns about the need to dispose of the material resulting from warhead dismantlement."

    A 1997 feasibility study also obtained by CTV says the plutonium would be shipped by sea to ports including Montreal, Halifax, Quebec City and Sarnia, Ont. The mayor of Sarnia told CTV that "civil disobedience" probably would result if the plan went ahead.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 23/99 - Transporting plutonium by ship considered safer than flight.

    The Ottawa Citizen
    page A4



    by Andrew Duffey

    A study that examines the transport of Russian weapons-grade plutonium to Canada suggests the radioactive material should be sent here by cargo ship rather than by airplane because of safety concerns.

    The feasibility study, obtained by CTV News under the Access to Information law, identifies Montreal, Halifax, Quebec City, Sarnia, Ont., and Churchill, Man., as possible ports of entry. None of the ports has a secure storage facility that would be required to handle the nuclear material.

    The $1.5-million study was prepared for the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Ontario Hydro in 1997. It contains the first concrete details on how Russian plutonium would be moved to Canada - and how much the project could eventually cost taxpayers. The Liberal government has offered to burn plutonium from dismantled Russian and U.S. warheads in Ontario Hydro's nuclear reactors, beginning in 2005, as part of Canada's contribution to nuclear disarmament. The plan has raised the ire of nuclear activists, who say Canada is about to become a dumping ground for the world's Cold War plutonium. The U.S. alone has a 50-tonne stockpile of plutonium that it must eliminate under conditions of a Russian-U.S. arms-control agreement.

    The feasibility study, financed by the Canadian International Development Agency, concludes the Canadian plutonium disposal project would cost $84 million a year. Operating the program for 25 years, as is proposed, would cost taxpayers up to $2.2 billion.

    The study recommends that Russian plutonium be sent by ship because of safety and security concerns, ever though air transport would be cheaper and quicker. Although the plutonium would be moved in crash-resistant packaging, the report warns that "the risk or consequences of an air accident may not be publicly acceptable."

    It concludes: "From a security of supply point of view, the sea shipments could be considered the primary option with air transport as the back-up option in the event the shipment is lost at sea." Three airports, in Trenton, Ont., North Bay, Ont., and Gander, Nfld., have been identified as possible entry points if cargo planes were used to carry the radioactive material.

    The study also suggests sabotage and terrorist activity cannot be "entirely discounted" during transport because the material could be used to threaten public safety.

    A spokesman for AECL, however, said safety concerns about the inter- national movement of plutonium have been wildly exaggerated. Larry Shewchuk said the weapons plutonium will be heavily diluted with regular reactor fuel, packaged in zirconium tubes and shipped in containers that cannot spill or ignite on impact. "We're shipping material that is not weapons-usable," he said. The diluted fuel is known as MOX, 6r mixed-oxide fuel, and scientists believe it will burn in Canadian reactors, thus destroying the weapons-grade plutonium.

    Mr. Shewchuk said scientists have examined the risks involved in shipping MOX "six days from Sunday" and have concluded the material does not pose a threat to Canadians.

    A small quantity of weapons-grade plutonium from Russia and the U.S. is scheduled to be sent to Canada later this year for testing in a nuclear research facility in Chalk River, about 160 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

    Mr. Shewchuk said the Russian plutonium will arrive by cargo ship and the U.S. plutonium by truck, but neither route has been finalized.

    . . . back to List of News Stories

    Mar 24/99 - Feds deny there is an agreement in place to import plutonium.

    The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
    page A3

    OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says Canada has agreed to do preliminary tests on "minute" amounts of Russian and American plutonium, but there's no deal to dispose of the radioactive missile fuel by using it in nuclear reactors.

    "The only commitment we have made is to undertake certain tests of very small, minute portions to determine the feasibility," Axworthy told the Commons on Tuesday.

    "We live in a dangerous nuclear world. We have some responsibilities to help in the denuclearizing of that world. . . . We are simply testing to see if we can make a contribution to that issue. "

    CTV News reported Monday that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has told U.S. President Bill Clinton he's open to a plan to dispose of radioactive plutonium in Canada. The network obtained a letter dated March 3 to Clinton where Chrétien writes Canada "is prepared to consider any safe and financially viable proposal" to dispose of plutonium.

    The plutonium -- from nuclear warheads in Russia and the U.S. -- would be mixed with uranium and used to produce electricity at the Bruce nuclear power station starting in 2005.

    NDP MP Svend Robinson said the government is spurning a unanimous report from the all-party foreign affairs committee of the Commons that rejected the idea of burning plutonium in Canadian reactors.

    "Does this prime minister not understand that Canadians do not want our country to become a dumping ground for the world's Cold War plutonium?" he asked in the House.

    "Why is it that Canada should allow over-flights of plutonium when the United States itself bans its over-flights? Why should Canadian ports like Churchill, Montreal and Halifax take safety and environmental risks? Why should cities like Windsor and Sarnia be exposed to risk?"

    Axworthy, who said he will respond to the committee's report by a May 10 deadline, repeated that no promises have been made to anyone.

    "The test that will take place will be less than 0.02 of a kilogram, which is about the size of a double-A battery," he said.

    Axworthy said if there were plans to transport plutonium in Canada, it would be subject to environmental safety standards.

    A 1997 feasibility study also obtained by CTV says the plutonium would be shipped by sea to ports including Montreal, Halifax, Quebec City and Sarnia.

    Last week, federal Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale said Ottawa would hold full-scale environmental and safety reviews before it allows American and Russian plutonium to be used as fuel in Ontario Hydro reactors.

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