Canadian Plutonium Sold
For American Bombs

Canadians have been told repeatedly by spokespersons from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the Canadian Nuclear Association and the Government of Canada
  • that the Canadian nuclear program has nothing to do with atomic bombs,
  • that plutonium produced in Canadian reactors is unfit for military use, and
  • that Canada has a strict policy that all nuclear materials supplied to other countries must be used for peaceful, non-explosive purposes.

What they don't say is

  • that the Canadian nuclear program was born as part of the Manhattan Project -- the secret project which produced the world's first atomic bombs;
  • that the Canadian role in the atomic bomb project was focussed on basic research into the production and separation of plutonium for use in atomic bombs;
  • that the Chalk River Nuclear Establishment was built following a military decision in 1944 in Washington D.C. to utilize Canada's plutonium research;
  • that for thirty years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Canada sold plutonium to the Americans for use in their nuclear weapons program.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy published its stockpiles of plutonium, and revealed exactly how much plutonium was sent to or received from other countries. For the first time, through this letter dated March 4 1996, Canadians learned how much plutonium Canada contributed to the U.S. nuclear weapons program.


Department of Energy

Washington DC 20595


March 4, 1996

Mr. Robert Del Tredici
2297 Hampton Avenue
Montreal Quebec
Canada H4A 2K5

Dear Mr. Del Tredici:

Secretary O'Leary has asked that I respond to your letter of February 8, 1996, and to convey to you the Department's appreciation for the use of your photograph for the cover of our report entitled "Plutonium: The First Fifty Years".

As mentioned in our plutonium report, programs for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy are carried out largely through Agreements for Cooperation. Under these programs, the Department exchanges atomic energy information and nuclear materials with foreign governments, subject to the terms of the agreements and the applicable laws of the respective governments. The Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, was entered into force on July 21, 1955, and has been amended many times over the subsequent years.

The majority of the plutonium received from Canada came from the Chalk River Facility. Approximately, 252 kilograms of plutonium in spent reactor fuel was sent to the Savannah River Site where it was processed and blended with other materials in the main production streams for the United States nuclear weapons program. In addition, 2 kilograms of Canadian plutonium oxides and sources were sent to the Hanford Site in Washington and the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

The initial 1955 Agreement for Cooperation did not preclude using nuclear materials for military purposes. In an Exchange of Notes between the American Ambassador and the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs dated March 18, 1976, the United States Government guaranteed that, "uranium and subsequent generations of fissile materials derived therefrom would not be used for the development, manufacture or detonation of any nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device." The 1980 amendment to the Agreement for Cooperation incorporated the interim restrictions imposed by the 1976 Exchange of Notes.

Of the approximate total of 254 kilograms of plutonium received from Canada, less than 0.1 kilograms was received after 1976 and subject to the military use restriction. This restricted use material was sent to the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

I hope this information answers your questions. Again, thank you for the use of your photograph and support in the Department's openness initiatives.

Sincerely,

Thomas P. Seitz
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Military Application
and Stockpile Management Defense Programs


[ Canadian Plutonium Used in the British Bomb Programme ]


US Receipts of Plutonium
from "Agreements for Cooperation"

             kilograms of
Country        plutonium    form of plutonium              year
=======      ============   =================              =====
Australia         4.1       Fuel elements                  1974
Belgium           4.6       Plutonium Oxide samples        1963-91
Canada         254.2      Spent fuel; oxide; sources     1959-85
Denmark           0.3       Fuel elements                  1978
France            0.6       Plutonium Oxide samples        1965-85
IAEA*             0.1       Sources                        1973
Italy             2.2       Fuel elements                  1970
Japan             0.4       Spent fuel                     1965-78
South Africa     <0.1       Spent fuel                     1976
South Vietnam     0.1       Source                         1975
Switzerland       2.8       Oxide; sources                 1957-84
Sweden            8.4       Spent fuel                     1963-79
Taiwan           79.1       Spent fuel; oxide              1978-91
United Kingdom   24.5       Fuel elements                  1967-88
West Germany      2.1.......Plutonium Oxide samples        1967-87
                =====   ==========================================
Total           383.5   *IAEA = International Atomic Energy Agency

Source: United States Department of Energy, 1995


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