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Canada Plutonium Debate Rages
Wednesday July 14 2:18 PM ET
Canada Plutonium Debate Rages
TORONTO (AP) - The Canadian government insists it wants to help
eliminate nuclear weapons, yet its plan to burn plutonium from
dismantled U.S. and Russian missiles is under fire from the country's
most ardent anti-nuclear groups.
A small quantity of weapons-grade plutonium is scheduled to be driven
into Canada from the United States this summer for a test burn at a
nuclear research facility in Chalk River, Ontario, 100 miles west of
Scientists will seek to determine if the plutonium can be used on a
regular basis as fuel in Canada's nuclear reactors. If the test goes
well, and if promised environmental and safety reviews result in
approval, Canada has offered to burn up to 100 tons of weapons-grade
plutonium fuel at reactors in Ontario over a 25-year period.
Opponents of the project express deep concerns about safety and are
skeptical about the fact that Canada's troubled nuclear power
industry is promoting the plan when several of its aging reactors are
``This nuclear industry-driven project is presented by the prime
minister and other supporters as a disarmament initiative,'' said
Kristen Ostling of the Ottawa-based Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout.
``In fact, the project will contribute to proliferation by
commercializing the use of plutonium.''
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, who helped lead the global campaign
to ban land mines and is a strong advocate of disarmament, says
Canada hasn't made a final commitment to the long-term project.
``The only commitment we have made is to undertake certain tests of
very small, minute portions to determine the feasibility,'' Axworthy
told Parliament recently. ``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.''
Parliament members from several opposition parties, and even from the
governing Liberal Party, have opposed the project.
``Canadians do not want our country to become a dumping ground for
the world's Cold War plutonium,'' said Svend Robinson of the left-
wing New Democratic Party.
The plutonium shipments will originate at a U.S. government facility
in Los Alamos, N.M., and be driven overland, possibly through North
Dakota or New York. The date and exact route are not being disclosed
for security reasons.
Under heavy pressure from congressmen and local officials in
Michigan, U.S. authorities agreed to abandon a third possible
route that crossed into Ontario north of Detroit. Michigan officials
said they feared disaster from road accidents and fire.
Greenpeace, part of the coalition of groups opposing the project,
says the plutonium shipments could be targeted by terrorists.
The U.S. and Canadian governments say the risk of an accident or
terrorism is very small. According to Axworthy, the plutonium
involved is no larger than a double-A battery.
``I do not think it represents a real threat to Canada,'' he said.
``But nuclear proliferation represents a threat to all mankind.''
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the mouth, is to close it again on something solid"
- G. K. Chesterton -
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