ReutersBONN - The German government on Thursday ordered a halt to all shipments of nuclear waste following reports that contaminated German waste had been transported to reprocessing plants in France and Britain.
The Environmental Ministry said in a statement that the ban on all shipments of spent fuel rods from German nuclear power plants would remain in effect until operators of the plants can guarantee that there would be no more contamination.
On Wednesday Environmental Minister Angela Merkel had issued an order suspending nuclear transports to Britain and France before the ban was extended to all transports within Germany as well.
"There will be no further transport of spent fuel rods in Germany or to foreign reprocessing plants until technical means, such as an improved purification process before shipment, can ensure that the contamination does not take place," the statement said.
Rail cars of German nuclear waste shipped to France showed spots of contamination up to 3,000 times the level considered acceptable, French officials said this month. Recent shipments to Britain's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant showed much lower levels of contamination, but still above the norm.
Merkel had said shipments would be suspended until the causes of the contamination had been determined.
But opposition politicians had criticised the measure as insufficient and urged her to stop all shipments, the step taken on Thursday.
Germany has no reprocessing plants of its own, and relies on the facilities in La Hague, France, and at Britain's Sellafield.
State and federal officials met on Tuesday to pool information on the contamination cases, and the Environment Ministry said the investigation was continuing. All the containers passed radiation inspections before leaving Germany.
Fact-finding meetings with nuclear transport and electricity industry representatives took place on Wednesday. Merkel said reactor operators admitted at the meeting knowing of the contamination since the mid-1980s, but that the ministry had first been informed by French authorities on April 24.
The Westfaelische Rundschau newspaper, citing sources in the nuclear industry, reported on Wednesday that German authorities had been aware of the problem for a long time, but decided there was no public health risk and tried to handle the problem internally.
The ministry confirmed that six German shipments to France showed small patches with radiation of up to 13,400 becquerels per square centimetre, compared with a standard tolerance level of four becquerels.
Deline Band Council
The Record submitted to government containing the Dene history and claim -- "They Never Told Us These Things" -- is a 106 page document that is the product of intensive community-based discussions, interviews, consultations, workshops and research.
The Dene are now pursuing an urgent meeting in Ottawa with the three involved ministers
Government spokespeople have said in the press and in the House of Commons that the government is concerned about this "horrible situation . The Dene believe that the immediate meeting being sought is necessary to establish good faith and dialogue.
A government spokesperson has indicated initially that it may be "a few months" before the ministers are able to convene together to meet with representatives of the Deline Dene Band Uranium Committee in Ottawa. The Dene are hoping that such a delay be avoided since surviving Dene ore carriers are now of very advanced age.
CBC Special Report
CBC: Three people from the Deline Uranium Committee are heading to New Mexico this weekend. They will be guest speakers at a United States Congressional hearing on uranium and radiation contamination. The Navajo people want to change the five-year-old Radiation Exposure Victims' Act. Cindy Kenny-Gilday is one of the people attending the hearings and she tells Douglas Dillon why the Deline committee was invited.
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: The Navajo people have been involved in dealing with radiation exposure and uranium contamination for quite a long time. About five years ago, they had passed a law in the U.S. called Radiation Exposure Victims' Act. So they had done a lot of research on health impacts of uranium contamination, but they have a lot more advanced experience and knowledge about things like cleaning up contaminated sites and they have community education programs. They have this compensation program.
They had invited us to come and visit us. When they succeeded in getting a congressional hearing to come to their reservation on April 18th. They faxed us a letter and some of the Deline Uranium Committee members were in Yellowknife at that time, so I showed them the letter and they wanted to respond and go. We wanted to go in March, but we didn't have any money so now that we have a bit of support from various sources we thought it was a good time to go. Government people from Washington will meet on the Navajo Reservation to hear what they have to say. We are going to go and show our support for them as well as tell them our story.
DOUGLAS DILLON: What are you hoping to get out of this?
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: Well, a lot actually. They have a lot of experience and they are Dene too. They have language similarities and their people are very much the same in many ways and we will learn from them. They have a technical office and reclamation program which is cleaning up contaminated sites, what level is good for human and animal existence and technical things about clean up. They even have physicians on staff. They have a whole office devoted to cleaning up contaminated sites. They have a community education program that we can learn a lot from. It is only in the past year that Deline has been learning a little bit about uranium contamination.
DOUGLAS DILLON: How will this meeting with the Navajo Nation help your cause?
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: The Navajo people are willing to share their knowledge that they have accumulated over the years and we will get a lot out of that and also how they are dealing with the compensation act for the people. Hopefully, the people who are going down will have a long-term impact on determining what kind of pilot project and community education on uranium contamination and human health and what it means. It is essentially to design a program for Deline that will be helpful to the Dene people.
DOUGLAS DILLON: How significant do you think their story is compared to the people in Deline?
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: It is very significant. They have struggled for many, many years, about 17 years, to get the U.S. government to recognize them. After 17 years of struggle, they got the United States government to recognize the problem that people who are exposed to uranium contamination do die from lung cancer and respiratory problems like emphysema and other radiation problems.
DOUGLAS DILLON: How will the people of Deline prove that there is a link?
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: The Deline Dene are not trying to prove anything. They are trying to learn from the Navajo experiences simply because the experiences are very similar. The history of the Navajo exposure to uranium contamination and the history of the Dene on Great Bear Lake are very similar.
DOUGLAS DILLON: So far what responses have you received from the federal government?
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: I have had some discussions behind closed doors with some of the people who are investigating. They are starting to look at research that is available and different sources. We have been at it for about a year and we are trying to help in pointing to the sources that we got our information from. It sounds like they are pretty open to talking to the Deline people for ministerial meetings. It takes a while within the government. W e are filing a record to provide contacts to the Minister as to why we are doing what we are doing. Hopefully, we will be sending our story to them pretty soon. Once that happens, I expect to hear formally from them.
DOUGLAS DILLON: Okay, Cindy, thank you.
CINDY KENNY-GILDAY: You're welcome.
Associated PressISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan will test a nuclear device in response to India's five explosions despite earlier assurances to U.S. officials that no such decision had been made, Pakistan's foreign minister said Sunday.
Other Pakistani officials and a top U.S. envoy continued to deny that the leadership had agreed on whether to conduct its own tests. A U.S. delegation left Pakistan on Saturday saying the government had indicated no "final or irrevocable" decision had been made.
But Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub said Sunday that Pakistan's position had since hardened, sending the strongest signal yet that his country is ready to match India in kind.
"It's a matter of when, not if, Pakistan will test. The decision has already been taken by Cabinet," Ayub told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his rural home in northwestern Pakistan.
"We have taken in view everything and discussed what it will cost us and we will go ahead," he said.
Pakistan has said its decision hinges on how hard the international community cracks down on India for its detonation of the underground nuclear devices last Monday and Wednesday.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Sunday that Pakistan needs only 12 hours of preparation to explode a nuclear device.
"We will be forced to test ... and no one can stop us from doing so," if the international community's response to India is weak, he told reporters outside his home in the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore.
Sharif did not say whether the government had decided on tests. On Friday, he told a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott that Pakistan was in no hurry to conduct nuclear tests.
Pakistan's information minister, Mushahid Hussain, said the country was still waiting and watching.
"Pakistan has not taken any definitive decisions," he said from Pakistan on CBS' "Face the Nation." "There is tremendous popular pressure in Pakistan for a test."
Longtime rivals, India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1948 and still engage in frequent border skirmishes.
Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also said Pakistan has not made a decision.
He reiterated U.S. appeals to Pakistan to avoid tests. "If they take this positive step and not test, then the U.S. is willing to look at ways to help them," Richardson told ABC-TV.
The United States has been hinting at concessions and a lifting of longstanding sanctions, including the blocked sale of F-16 fighters, if Pakistan shows restraint on tests.
In St. Paul, Minn., U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he had asked the Pakistani prime minister not to compete with India by exploding a nuclear device.
"I know that lots of other heads of states from around the world are sending the same message to Pakistan and appealing to them not to do it," Annan said.
Annan made his comments at a news conference before giving a commencement speech at his alma mater, Macalester College.
Pakistan has been increasingly critical of the international reaction to India's tests.
The leaders of the world's industrialized nations were divided over U.S.-led sanctions against India on Sunday as they wound up their summit meeting in Birmingham, England.
France, Russia and Britain refused to sign on to sanctions.
Ayub called the sanctions "irrelevant" and said the muted response only reinforced Pakistan's decision to test.
In a broadcast interview from the Birmingham summit, President Clinton warned he would have no choice but to implement tough financial sanctions against Pakistan if it does test.
Pakistan has been under some sanctions since 1990, when the United States cut off $650 million in military and humanitarian aid, saying Pakistan had a nuclear bomb.
U.S. spy satellites have reportedly picked up evidence that Pakistan is preparing a test site in Chagai in southwestern Baluchistan province, barely 30 miles from the border with Iran.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed left Sunday for China -- Pakistan's long-time ally and the country Washington says has helped develop Pakistan's nuclear program.
China has denied the charges.
New Delhi - Several residents of a village near India's nuclear testing site have complained of nose-bleeds, skin and eye irritation, vomiting and loose bowels since last week's underground blasts, a report said on Sunday.
The government has said that no radioactivity was released into the atmosphere over the Thar desert, in the western state of Rajasthan, as a result of its five tests.
But the Sunday Statesman said that more than a dozen people from the village of Khetolai experienced syndromes of contamination by radiation immediately after the last two of the five devices were exploded on Wednesday.
"The residents approached us, gave us a list of affected persons," the paper quoted a district official as saying, "Most of them have complained of nose-bleeding, loss of appetite, irritation in skin and eyes."
"We will soon send a team of doctors to examine the affected villagers. Only then can we come to a conclusion. It could also be due to the rise in temperature", he said.
The paper said the people of Khetolai were convinced that the complaints were due to radiation exposure and quoted one man as saying he was suffering nose-bleeds for the first time in his life.
Another man was worried about his 12-year-old daughter "She has been vomiting, bleeding through the nose, and feeling restless for two days after the second explosion," the paper quoted the girl's father as saying. "First we ignored it but when the number of victims rose we brought it to the notice of district and army officers."
Khetolai is one of seven villages dotted around the Alpha Firing range of the area called Pokhran.
NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) - India announced Monday that it had conducted three underground nuclear tests -- its first in 24 years -- in the desert state of Rajasthan, close to the border with Pakistan.
India's arch-foe Pakistan condemned the experimental blasts and said they would suck Pakistan into an arms race. Islamabad asked the international community to condemn them.
And the United States said the tests may force it to impose sanctions.
U.S. officials said senior members of the Clinton adminstration were scrambling to obtain more information about the tests and were examining U.S. sanctions laws to see if they might apply.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the United States was "deeply disappointed by the decision... This runs counter to the effort the international community is making to promulgate a comprehensive ban on such testing."
Another official said: "We're just huddling to assess what happened and what we're going to be able to do." U.S. officials said they were stunned by India's testing and deeply concerend because of the possibility that it could intensify an arms race in South Asia and exacerbate tensions with Pakistan.
There was also concern that it could undermine efforts to implement the landmark Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States and many other countries -- but not India or Pakistan -- signed in 1996.
Officials said they did not believe the United States had advance warning of the tests even though India's foreign minister just had lengthy talks in Washington last Friday with top U.S. officials.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told a hurriedly summoned news conference that the controlled blasts were carried out at 3.45 p.m. (1015 GMT) with a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device.
"The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere," he said in a statement from the lawn of his residence, a national flag standing beside him.
The British Geological Survey said its equipment had picked up tremors from the unexpected tests measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale -- the equivalent of a light earthquake.
The tests, India's first since its only previous test in 1974, come less than two months after the coalition government led by Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power.
The BJP made the option to introduce nuclear weapons a key plank of its platform in the elections.
The government said last month that it would decide whether to build nuclear weapons after a strategic defence review.
India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), saying they are discriminatory because they allow a few countries to indefinitely hold nuclear arms with no commitment to disarm, while forcing all other to relinquish nuclear weapons.
The nuclear tests follow a spate of controversial comments by India's outspoken defense minister George Fernandes on the military threat posed by China, India's nuclear-armed neighbor to the north.
India and China fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 -- two years before China held its first nuclear test. Many Indian analysts say that test spurred New Delhi's test a decade later.
Fernandes also reacted sharply last month to an announcement by Pakistan, which has been to war with India three times, that it had test-flown a long-range missile.
He accused China of supplying Pakistan with the missile technology and said India's Prithvi missile could reach anywhere in Pakistan.
Pakistan says it is capable of producing nuclear weapons but has never conducted a test.
Indian experts gave the unexpected tests a warm welcome.
"It's wonderful. I am hearing the news just now and I'm speechless," said Raja Ramanna, former defense minister and former head of India's Atomic Energy Commission.
"I think the government has taken a decisive step to ensure strategic security for India," Jyotindra Nath Dixit, former foreign secretary and ambassador to Pakistan, told Reuters.
"Secondly, the government has abandoned the accusation of ambiguity and implied that we are a responsible country, but the world should acknowledge our capacities and concerns and that pressure will not work to limit our technological and political capacities.
"You have Pakistan which says it is already a nuclear weapons power... Though efforts are on to normalize relations with China, it is a military power with missile and nuclear weapons capabilities.
"(The tests) will increase his (Vajpayee's) public credibility and infuse India with a great sense of confidence and pride."
NEW DELHI (AP) -- India conducted three underground nuclear explosions today, its first nuclear tests since 1974, the prime minister said.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told reporters the explosions in the desert 530 kilometres southwest of New Delhi did not release radiation into the atmosphere.
The development was sure to alarm Pakistan, India's rival. The two neighbors have fought three wars in the last 50 years.
"These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974," Vajpayee said in a brief statement. He refused to take questions.
He said the devices tested were a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device.
"I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out these successful tests," Vajpayee added.
Vajpayee's government, which came to power in March, says India needs nuclear weapons to prevent what it calls military adventurism by neighboring Pakistan.
India first demonstrated its nuclear [ weapons ] capability with the 1974 test explosion.
The Toronto Star
By Stan Josey
Wailing air raid sirens would be the logical choice for a public warning system for the aging Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, Durham emergency officials say.
And Durham Region Council yesterday said it wants that warning system to reach up to 70,000 people within a 10-kilometre radius of the plant in the towns of Pickering and Ajax.
Councillors yesterday rejected a provincial proposal that would have seen a public warning system confined to a 3-kilometre area of lake and fields with few residents around the plant.
AIR SIRENS TOUTED
While the method of notification has yet to be decided, local emergency measures officials say modern "air raid type" sirens are the best bet.
The province has been working on a new emergency plan for the Pickering station for a couple of years, says Ivan Ciciura, director of emergency planning for Durham.
While he stresses that the likelihood of a significant event such as a major radioactive leak outside the station is "extremely rare," he said both provincial and Durham emergency planners want to be ready for any such emergency and indeed must be by law.
"With the criteria being that it must be able to notify everyone within critical areas within 15 minutes, a siren would seem to be the best way to go," Ciciura told The [ Toronto ] Star.
But, he stressed the sirens would not mean "gather up the kids and head out of town." It would mean simply to turn on a local radio or TV station to get instructions.
People might be told to stay inside, head for the basement, close all windows or in extreme cases head for one of several evacuation centres throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
Canadian PressBy Murray Brewster
HALIFAX (CP) - Canadian Forces engineers spent Sunday looking for radioactive needles in scrap-metal haystacks.
Teams were picking through two New Brunswick junkyards, hoping to find a pair of misplaced containers of Cesium 137, a toxic isotope used in some sophisticated gauges being scrapped by the military.
"Initially, it looks like a case of mistaken identity," said Capt. Luc Plourde, spokesman at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B. "The items that were thrown out, the contractor didn't recognize them as being what they were."
The gauges came from a heating plant being shut down at the army training base. The radioactive material was encased in small lead-lined containers.
Plourde said anybody getting too close would receive a years' worth of radiation exposure in about 24 hours, though exposure would be more rapid if the casing is damaged. The danger to the public is minimal because "the odds of any citizen finding these canisters, taking them home and keeping them in their living room are slim to none," he added.
A local contractor had picked up several canisters from Gagetown by mistake and sent them to junkyards in Saint John, N.B., and Fredericton. The problem became apparent when one such canister set off a radiation alarm at a Montreal scrapyard, where some of the junk had been transferred by rail.
"There were some errors made in the process," Plourde said. "At this point we're asking ourselves how this could have happened. There will definitely be an investigation."
An East Coast environmental activist, Bruno Marcocchio, said somebody should be held accountable. "What it points out is there needs to be a complete inventory of radioactive material," he said. "All of us are at risk if their practices are lax enough that this sort of thing can happen."
The search Sunday proceeded slowly as engineers used giant magnetized cranes to separate metal debris. The junk was then being scanned with radiation-detection gear.