WASHINGTON - Legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives late on Wednesday to establish an interim storage site in Nevada for thousands of tons of nuclear waste.
The legislation would allow the nation's utilities to ship spent fuel and other radioactive waste from their nuclear power plants to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, even before the site is formally approved for long-term storage.
The bill, which is similar to legislation overwhelmingly approved in the last Congress, is sponsored by Reps. Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, and Edolphus Towns, Democrat of New York.
The issue of whether or not Yucca Mountain - which is some 90 miles north of Las Vegas - is a safe place to put nuclear waste is under dispute.
Environmentalists charge that the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) research shows rainwater less than 50 years old has been detected at the level of the proposed repository.
The DOE has said uncertainties remain about the Yucca site and that environmental impact assessments would be conducted in the next two years before the final recommendation on whether to approve the site is made to the president in 2001.
The Nuclear Industry Institute praised the legislation, arguing a central repository is needed to store nuclear waste.
"The nation's need for nuclear energy and the federal government's obligation to safely isolate used nuclear fuel...make it imperative that Congress and the White House act on a bipartisan basis to meet one of our top environmental challenges," the trade group said.
The consumer group Public Citizen criticised the measure, fearful that opening Yucca Mountain even as a temporary site would expose 50 million Americans across 43 states to danger from nuclear waste shipment accidents.
"How could any member of Congress assume we could transport 100,000 shipments of deadly radioactive waste without serious consequences?" asked Auke Piersma, energy policy analyst for Public Citizen.
The waste site would become the home for some 70,000 metric tons of spent radioactive fuel rods from nuclear power plants, and additional waste from production of nuclear weapons.
Currently, around 38,000 tons of spent fuel is being stored at more than 70 commercial nuclear power plants across the country, pending the resolution of a dispute over when the federal government must remove the waste for storage.
A coalition of states and nuclear utilities has charged that a 1982 law ordered the DOE to start disposing of spent nuclear fuel no later than Jan. 31, 1998, and that a department viability study on Yucca Mountain released in December clears the way for building an interim waste site.
Last November, the Supreme Court let stand a U.S. appeals court ruling that refused to force the DOE to start taking waste, but did allow utilities to seek compensation for costs related to the storage of spent fuel at their facilities.
BONN - German government officials said on Thursday a compromise had emerged to settle a damaging row within the ruling coalition over its commitment to abandon nuclear energy.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his junior partners, the environmentalist Greens, have for weeks been locked in a fierce political battle over how quickly the phase-out can be achieved, with the Greens wanting it to go ahead as soon as possible.
The withdrawal was to have begun with an immediate ban on German nuclear waste being sent abroad for reprocessing. But nuclear firms warned that could put them in breach of contract with French and British reprocessing companies.
The Economics Ministry said it was now discussing a plan to delay the ban for one year with representatives of Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, the Greens politician who must legislate the scrapping of nuclear power.
"We are studying this proposal...We want to do this together," said a spokeswoman for Economics Minister Werner Mueller, a close Schroeder ally.
Schroeder's centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens are due to meet next Wednesday to hammer out their differences on the issue. Trittin is then due to present his bill to parliament outlining the details of the move away from nuclear power.
Germany relies on nuclear fuel for around a third of its energy needs. Schroeder has agreed to hold 12 months of negotiations with Germany's nuclear energy firms before determining how quickly the withdrawal should go ahead.
Because of the long working life of many of Germany's nuclear reactors, the phase-out could take decades.
The proposed one-year delay to the reprocessing ban is designed to give the nuclear firms time to renegotiate existing contracts for the reprocessing of their waste, which is currently sent to France's La Hague plant and Britain's Sellafield.
SYDNEY - Energy Resources of Australia Ltd said on Friday it had completed initial surface work at its Jabiluka uranium mine, which is the subject of aboriginal and environmental protests.
Decline work at the mine should be completed by June 1999, with further exploration and environmental work taking another six to 12 months, the company said.
The mine is located near the Kakadu National Park World Heritage zone in Australia's tropical Northern Territory, an area populated largely by Aboriginal tribespeople.
ERA and the federal government has rejected a United Nations report calling for the mine to be abandoned on environmental grounds.
ERA said it would work with the Northern Land Council Aboriginal body and the federal and territorial government during the development stage to finalise approvals to build a controversial road from the mine to its existing Ranger mine and treatment plant.
It would also seek discussions on options over whether to process uranium from Jabiluka at the mine or to transport the ore some 20 kms to the Ranger facility.
ERA has said it favours transporting the uranium to Ranger.
The mine is scheduled to start production in early 2001 and is timed to take advantage of the next forecast uptrend in uranium prices, it said.
Prices for the type of uranium mined by ERA, used to power nuclear power plants, have fallen more than 25 percent in the last year to around US$9 a pound due to a world supply glut and offlaoding of material by the U.S. Energy Department.
The U.N. World Heritage Committee last month put off a decision on whether to declare Kakadu's World Heritage ranking under threat until June 1999.
ERA is 68.4 percent owned by diversified resources group North Ltd of Australia.
CATTENOM, France - State-owned utility Electricité de France (EDF) on Thursday announced a three-year plan to ensure the country's nuclear industry is free of radioactive contamination.
Laurent Stricker, head of EDF's nuclear activities, said more radioactivity detectors would be installed and the threshold for setting them off would be lowered.
"We always cared about hygiene, we are going to be aseptic," he told reporters on a tour of the Cattenom nuclear plant in eastern France to introduce the programme.
Eighty percent of France's electricity is produced by nuclear plants.
EDF, which controls France's nuclear plants, decided to tighten controls after reports last year that there were traces of radioactive contamination on trains carrying nuclear waste between France, Germany and Switzerland.
An official study carried out by Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland into nuclear waste shipments in Europe later found that radioactive leaks from transport trains had no ill health effects but more safeguards were needed in loading shipments.
LONDON - Minute particles of plutonium have been found in groundwater more than a kilometre away from the Nevada nuclear test site where the United States conducted more than 800 underground nuclear tests, American scientists reported on Wednesday.
Writing in the scientific journal Nature, the team of scientists in California said their experiments suggested that contrary to previous wisdom, tiny quantities of radioactive waste could be absorbed and transported in groundwater even when nuclear tests are conducted in rocks deep underground.
Even though the levels of contamination found were minute, the scientists said their findings could have implications for countries that conduct nuclear weapons tests and those who store nuclear waste underground.
Annie Kersting and colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, said they conducted experiments from two aquifiers 1.3 kms from the Nevada site where 828 underground nuclear tests were conducted between 1956 and 1992.
Analysis of small traces of plutonium found in water taken from the wells showed that it matched plutonium used in a nuclear test at the Benham test site in Nevada.
The scientists argued the contamination was transported there by mobile colloids - suspended particles in the submicrometre size range - which are known to occur naturally in ground water but whose role has been previously underestimated.
"It has been argued that plutonium introduced into the subsurface environment is relatively immobile owing to its low solubility in ground water and strong sorption onto rocks," wrote Kersting in a letter to Nature.
"We argue that colloidal groundwater migration must have played an important role in transporting the plutonium."
The team dismissed as "highly unlikely" the possibility that the plutonium could have been deposited such a large distance away from the test site by the force of a blast.
Kersting said the team's experiments demonstrated that plutonium is not immobile in the subsurface but can be transported over significant distances through water.
"Models that either predict limited transport or do not allow for colloid-facilitated transport may thus significantly underestimate the extent of radionuclide emigration," Kersting said.
Washington Post, page A51
By Steven PearlsteinTORONTO - Canada's Parliament took another step today toward confrontation with the United States over the inclusion of nuclear weapons in NATO arsenals.
Following a two-year study and a divisive internal debate, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons released a report accusing the United States and other nuclear powers of clinging to a Cold War mentality in its defense doctrine long after the Cold War had been won.
In its list of recommendations, the panel called on NATO to consider renouncing the first use of nuclear weapons as part of its war-fighting doctrine. It also urged serious consideration of separating NATO's nuclear warheads from the missiles and bombs on which they are deployed, as a way of reducing the chance that they would ever be used.
The report gives added political support to efforts by Canada's dovish foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, to prod, embarrass and cajole the United States and the major powers to reduce their nuclear arsenals. That effort already had been given impetus this week from Germany at a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.
But the three nuclear powers in NATO -- the United States, Britain and France -- argue that the presence of nuclear weapons in the alliance arsenal is an effective deterrent against aggression. And even within the Canadian government, Axworthy faces opposition from Defense Minister Art Eggleton and other cabinet colleagues who are reluctant to challenge key allies on the issue.
Today's committee report criticizes the United States for talking out of both sides of its mouth on the question of nuclear nonproliferation -- on one hand urging countries such as India and Pakistan to renounce nuclear weapons, while at the same time keeping them at the ready for its own use.
It also declared that nuclear deterrence is an outdated and dangerous concept. And it cited evidence from a wide range of defense planners that battlefield, or tactical, nuclear weapons no longer have any military use.
William Graham, the chairman of the committee, said his aim was "not to start a huge dispute with the United States," but simply to encourage a serious review of a NATO nuclear doctrine that even many defense specialists now consider out of date.
Canada has a long history of ambivalence on nuclear issues, having decided not to develop any of its own while at the same time enjoying the benefits of NATO membership and the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In a speech in Brussels this week, Axworthy noted that 70 percent of Canadians support Canada's membership in NATO -- but added that 93 percent expect Canada to take the lead in working to eliminate nuclear weapons. In the same speech, he added his voice to those calling for a faster pace to nuclear disarmament and a thorough scrubbing of NATO nuclear policy.
U.S. officials note that the number of nuclear warheads in NATO's arsenal already has been reduced by 80 percent since 1991, with further reductions still possible. But they warn that by pushing so publicly for elimination of nuclear weapons, Canada, Germany and a number of smaller NATO members are jeopardizing the alliance's unity at a crucial time in its 50-year history.
"Minister Axworthy is pursuing a course that could lead to a growing and dangerous rift within the alliance," a U.S. official said after reviewing the committee's recommendations and Axworthy's Brussels speech. "This is still very troublesome for us."
Toronto Star, Editorial
Canadians have never had much use for nuclear weapons. Nine in ten of us want them abolished. We were the first country that had the ability to build The Bomb, but chose not to.
Yet while the American-Russian standoff has been over for 10 years, the nuclear club -- which has grown to include France, China, Britain, India, Pakistan and Israel -- are loath to give up the prestige and power that they associate, wrongly, with The Bomb.
Global stockpiles have been cut from 70,000 warheads to 36,000, and more reductions will follow.
But military planners balk at getting to zero. They invent new excuses to hang on to these weapons, multiplying scenarios in which they might be needed.
They are reneging on the formal pledge they made 30 years ago, to get rid of their own nuclear weapons, if other countries refrained from acquiring them. That's why a report urging Canada to "play a leading role in finally ending the nuclear threat overhanging humanity" by marshalling international support for a ban, is timely, and welcome. If not now, then when?
Parliament's foreign affairs committee, headed by Liberal MP Bill Graham, tabled the report yesterday after a careful two-year study. It urges Jean Chrétien's government to make good on its 1997 election promise to "work vigorously" to ban nukes.
Our seat on the United Nations Security Council and the credibility we've earned over the years, will be useful assets. Apart from renouncing The Bomb ourselves, we've been active in every field of disarmament, including the successful campaign against land mines.
These ideas will irritate the Americans, and prompt dire predictions that without nukes we'll be defenceless against some unseen adversary. But that's rubbish. Even without nukes, NATO is the world's fiercest fighting force.
The Graham report lacks boldness in some areas. It doesn't formally urge Ottawa to support ban-the-bomb resolutions at the United Nations. It doesn't propose that we refuse to sign NATO declarations that preach the need to retain nukes. Nor does it urge Ottawa to demand that NATO promise it won't be the first to strike with nuclear weapons.
But these ideas are implicit in its recommendations.
The Chrétien government, to its credit, knows which way the tides of history are running.
In Brussels this week Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy urged his NATO counterparts to "see ourselves as others see us," to "underline the very significant progress made in disarmament since 1991," and to "make a commitment to doing more." Much more.
And last month, Canada joined a majority of NATO states, including Germany, to break ranks with the nuclear powers over a ban-the-bomb resolution at the U.N. Rather than vote No, Canada and 11 of NATO's 16 other members abstained, to remind the nuclear powers that we are impatient with their refusal to phase out nuclear weapons.
There is a trend here, and most of us welcome it.
Globe and Mail, page A7
by Jeff Sallot
OTTAWA - The federal government began to distance itself yesterday from a plan to burn plutonium from Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads in Canadian power reactors.
The plan, once a favourite disarmament initiative in the Prime Minister's Office, was described by government officials in far less enthusiastic tones yesterday following the release of a Commons foreign affairs committee report that says the idea is "totally unfeasible." The government will study the report carefully before making a final decision on whether the idea is dead, Debora Brown, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, said.
She said the plan was never a sure thing and that the government would have required environmental and other regulatory approvals before Ontario Hydro could have begun burning the warhead plutonium in CANDU reactors.
Other government sources say there are also financial problems that make the proposal far less attractive to Canada than when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien first announced Canadian support for the idea at the 1996 Moscow nuclear-safety summit meeting.
The costs associated with refurbishing nuclear-reactor complexes on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula and other associated expenses may be greater than first anticipated and might not outweigh the presumed benefits of getting relatively cheap plutonium fuel, one source said.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., a Crown corporation, plans to do feasibility tests at a reactor at Chalk River, Ontario, early in the new year under an agreement with the U.S. government. Ottawa has already spent $1.5-million on a study of the possibility of processing Russian plutonium into fuel bundles for power reactors.
The committee seems to have lost sight of the importance of disposing of nuclear weapons material, AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk said.
The Liberal-dominated committee rejected the proposal completely for environmental, security and political reasons, chairman Bill Graham said.
He said that the government should still work closely with Russia and the United States to try to develop other ways for the superpowers to safely dispose of surplus plutonium from the warheads they are dismantling.
The Liberal committee members were at first reluctant to reject the proposal, but came around during the give-and-take of producing a consensus report that also contained other important nuclear-disarmament recommendations.
Globe and Mail, page A12
by Jeff Sallot
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's controversial proposal for using plutonium from nuclear warheads in Canadian power reactors is totally infeasible and should be scrapped, the Commons foreign affairs committee says. The Liberal-dominated committee, in a report that is to be tabled today, thus throws cold water on one of Mr. Chrétien's favourite arms-control initiatives.
At the 1996 Moscow summit meeting on nuclear safety, Mr. Chrétien proposed turning "nuclear swords into plowshares" while helping Russia and the United States dispose of hundreds of tonnes of plutonium from surplus warheads by using it in CANDU reactor fuel bundles.
The first tests were supposed to take place early next year at an Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. research reactor in Chalk River, Ont. If the tests demonstrated the feasibility of the projects and regulatory approvals were secured, Russian and U.S. plutonium could have been used as fuel at Ontario Hydro power reactors.
But the fact that the influential committee rejects the idea because of environmental concerns raises doubts about the future of the project.
Environmental groups told the committee that they lauded the idea of helping the superpowers get rid of warheads, but they noted that the usage of plutonium in CANDU reactors would have left Canadians to dispose of the radioactive waste.
Environmentalists also said that it could be unsafe to transport plutonium, a dangerously unstable element, along proposed overland routes.
The committee's unanimous recommendation says Canada should work with the nuclear superpowers and other countries to find other ways of getting rid of warhead plutonium.
The committee report also says Ottawa should push the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to re-examine the need for nuclear weapons in its defence policy.
In fact, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy has already done that, telling his NATO counterparts in Brussels Tuesday that nuclear weapons aren't as important to defence strategy now that the Cold War is over. NATO defence policy is being reviewed with the idea of updating it for a 50th-anniversary summit meeting of alliance leaders next April in Washington.
Nuclear weapons states should physically remove warheads from missiles, aircraft and submarines and store them away from launch vehicles, the committee said.
This so-called de-alerting, long advocated as a valuable first step by disarmament experts and peace groups, would reduce the risk of an accidental launch. De-alerting also eliminates the threat of a hair-trigger nuclear retaliatory strike by providing precious time during an international crisis for cooler heads to consider non-nuclear options.
The majority of MPs on the committee urged that Canada push for the reduction and eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons by trying to reduce their political and diplomatic significance.
In a minority report, the Reform Party said there is no inherent evil in nuclear weapons themselves, but only in the hands of "hostile states, rogue states or terrorist organizations."
Ottawa Citizen, page A2
Canada's Crown corporations -- especially Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. -- will have to avoid bribing foreign public officials in future if they want to stay clear of criminal charges stemming from newly passed legislation.
During debate on the bill, Liberal Senator Serge Joyal said steps should be taken to ensure Crown agencies are specifically notified of the new law to ensure they comply in future trading activities.
"(Certain) agencies, in their activities abroad, had remitted payments which, according to the auditor general, did not comply with Canadian practice," said Mr. Joyal.
For one, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) has been slammed by the federal auditor general for paying $20 million in illegal bribes in the past two decades.
In 1994, a South Korean employed by AECL as its "business agent" was convicted of bribery after handing $350,000 in cash to the head of the state power commission, who subsequently approved a bid to build CANDU reactors in South Korea.
AECL, which avoided charges in the case, denied the money was for bribes but conceded the money was given to its agent as a donation to a business promotion fund.
Larry Shewchuk, spokesman for AECL, said the corporation has never condoned or offered bribes and it terminated its association with the South Korean agent when it became known he had offered bribes.
With the new law, AECL could be held responsible for the future actions of its agents in foreign countries. The Corruption of Foreign Officials Act was rushed through the Senate and House of Commons in the past week.
The federal government wanted to ensure it met the Jan. 1 deadline it agreed upon with 28 other countries about a year ago to pass legislation criminalizing the bribery of foreign officials. Both houses are expected to adjourn for their Christmas break by the end of the week.
With five countries required to make the bribery convention a law, Canada became the fifth after the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. Mr. Joyal declined to name the Crown agencies he had in mind.
"I think that if we are going to encourage the private sector to comply with the objectives of the law," said Mr. Joyal. "The wife of Caesar must be above all suspicion. And I think the first to serve as an example of this are Canadian government agencies involved in trading activities abroad."
While testifying during his lawsuit over the Airbus scandal, former prime minister Brian Mulroney testified Canadian government agencies pay millions in commissions every year for the sale of their goods, such as nuclear CANDU reactors.
During the upper house debate on the bill, Senator Marcel Prud'homme referred to corruption by Canada's Crown agencies.
"Over the years, and I think some of my colleagues have touched on the subject, we have seen great corruption coming from some Crown corporations. If someone were to challenge me, I will give them the amount of money, what it was for and who got the money," said Mr. Prud'homme.
However, when he was contacted later by a reporter, Mr. Prud'homme refused to provide his list of Crown corporations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, who appeared before the Senate's committee of the whole, said the convention does cover Crown corporations as long as there is "a profit transaction."
Globe and Mail
by Shawn McCarthy
The memo reveals that AECL had been looking for a $650-million loan from Export Development's so-called Canada Account, which is backed by taxpayers, but "was advised [by officials] that this level of financing may be unacceptably high."
"It would likely put a severe strain on the resources available for Canada Account financing of exports projects generally and would unbalance EDC's portfolio," states the document, which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Instead, the cabinet was asked to approve a $400-million loan to support the proposed one-reactor deal, and approved the request in January, 1994.
The cabinet memorandum also provided an economic assessment of highly indebted, inflation-prone Turkey and concluded that "there remain several structural problems that could ultimately affect the country's creditworthiness over the long term."
Three years later, AECL was back with a much larger proposal, this time looking for an additional $1.1-billion loan to support a $4-billion sale of two Candu reactors to Turkey.
In April, 1997, the Liberal cabinet approved that request, bring the total commitment to $1.5-billion, roughly the same level of financing Ottawa provided for AECL's $4-billion sale to China in 1996.
Currently, AECL is awaiting word from Turkey on the results of the bid competition for the controversial Akkuyu project.
David Martin, research director of the Nuclear Awareness Project, said the sudden display of federal largess -- even as the government was slashing programs to rein in its deficit -- reveals just how eager the Liberals have been to make export sales of AECL's Candu technology.
"This really is in huge part due to [Prime Minister] Jean Chretien's personal support for nuclear power," said Mr. Martin. "He's taken it to the wall."
Export Development spokesman Rod Giles said it is up to the government -- specifically the Minister of Finance and the Minister of International Trade -- to determine what deals are financed through the Canada Account.
Export Development insists that it receives a commercial rate of interest for the nuclear loans, though Mr. Martin argues that no commercial lender would even touch the AECL project, which requires guarantees from both the Turkish buyer and the government of Canada.
The loans to Turkey and China could cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Political turmoil in Turkey has delayed the announcement of the winning bidder for the Akkuyu project several times. AECL had expected a decision by now, but Turkish officials in Ottawa said the decision will likely not be made until after a spring election.
By Peter Goodspeed
Ministers Meet This Week:
Canada and others increasingly reject U.S.-led nuclear plan
Like anyone pushing 50, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in the throes of a severe identity crisis.
As NATO foreign ministers open two days of talks on their alliance's future in Brussels today, member states are squabbling over goals, strategy and tactics.
The U.S. is pushing to expand NATO's global role, Canada and Germany are requesting a review of nuclear strategy, and France and Britain are planning to create a new, stronger and more independent defence role for the European Union.
Nearly a decade after the end of the Cold War, NATO is trying to reinvent itself, but remains uncertain about what it really wants.
Today's strained debates in Brussels are meant to pave the way for an extraordinary summit in Washington next April to mark NATO's 50th birthday and the alliance's inclusion of the former East bloc states of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Before that summit, NATO leaders want to recast and rewrite their Strategic Concept, NATO's military and political mission statement, to provide a new set of guidelines for the 21st century.
"Canada believes that the revision of the Strategic Concept is essential, given the radical changes that have taken place in the international security environment over the past seven years," Lloyd Axworthy, the foreign affairs minister, said before leaving for Brussels. "NATO continues to play a crucial role in conflict prevention and crisis management in the Euro-Atlantic area."
Canada enters this week's meetings with no fixed demands for altering NATO's guiding principles, but Canadian diplomats and their European counterparts will be taking a long, hard look at a sweeping new U.S. plan to give NATO more global clout.
The U.S. wants Canada and the states of Europe to change NATO's focus and accept a series of new challenges in fields such as limiting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, combating terrorism, and looking at non-European security threats.
Madeleine Albright, the U.S. secretary of state, outlined the proposal yesterday in an article published in several European newspapers. She argued NATO's new blueprint should take account of the fact "alliance territory and alliance interests can be affected by a range of risks from a variety of sources."
NATO's primary mission will always remain defence against aggression, Ms. Albright said, but the concept of defence has changed in the post-Cold War world.
When NATO was arrayed against the Soviet Union, it built its defences around the ideas of "strategic balance" and a European-based concept of "collective defence." Now, the U.S. insists, there is a need for a concept of collective defence that looks beyond Europe's borders.
"If joint military action is ever needed to protect vital alliance interests, it makes sense to use the unified military structure and the habits of co-operation we have built up over the past 50 years," Ms. Albright wrote.
Washington argues that its new definition of NATO's role takes into account the alliance's planned expansion into the old Soviet bloc, and recent NATO decisions to become involved in conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo.
NATO's European partners have been reluctant to endorse the U.S. plan for fear of becoming tangled in other U.S. strategic interests in places like the Middle East.
At the same time, the U.S. and Britain want NATO to agree it can use force any time its members see fit, without first obtaining the sanction of the UN Security Council.
Washington and London insist such an agreement should be spelled out to avoid situations like the latest crisis in the Balkans, when NATO forces found it impossible to secure UN backing for possible air raids over Kosovo.
A requirement to obtain UN backing could give China and Russia, both of whom have UN Security Council veto powers, an inordinate say in NATO's affairs, they argue.
Washington has adopted much the same argument to counter Canadian and German suggestions that NATO should change its policy to ban the first use of nuclear weapons. Canada's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and Germany's new foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, of the Green party, have urged the change as an incentive to world-wide disarmament.
But NATO's nuclear powers --Britain, France and the U.S. -- all reject the idea outright, saying that by retaining a first-strike nuclear option, they can intimidate any potential adversary who might contemplate attacking them with chemical or biological weapons.
Finally, NATO's foreign ministers are slated to receive a briefing from France and Britain on last week's landmark agreement to review the defence role of the emerging European Union.
by Mike Trickey
Sources close to the committee said some of the more extreme proposals were toned down after a National Post story two weeks ago prompted a number of Liberal MPs to make clear to committee members that they would have difficulty supporting conclusions that brought Canada into direct conflict with its chief ally and defender on a fundamental aspect of defence strategy.
The final report, to be made public Wednesday, contains 15 recommendations concerning Canada's role in future global nuclear disarmament strategy. The most controversial seeks a review of NATO's "strategic concept," which carries with it the implicit call for the defence alliance to renounce its option for "first-use" of nuclear weapons.
French, British and U.S. military officials say the first-use option, which does not mean first-strike but reserves the option to use the nuclear response in retaliation to any outside aggression or threat, is a fundamental component of NATO's deterrence strategy and will not be altered.
The committee has backed off its earlier draft recommendations that called for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, but it kept a controversial recommendation that all nuclear weapons be "de-alerted," which means separating the warhead from the delivery system. Defence strategists say de-alerting reduces the capability of NATO forces to respond immediately to aggression or hostile acts and would harm its deterrence capability.
The report praises the work of nuclear abolitionist Senator Doug Roche and notes his submission in which he said, "at the very least, the bottom line is that NATO must get rid of its nuclear weapons."
Bob Mills, Reform foreign affairs critic, expressed anger over what he said were committee attempts to force him to sign on to the final document. He said such statements are "the height of folly" and plans to read his dissenting paper in the House after the report is released.
"They are living in a dream world and preparing a report which will dangerously undermine Canada's security and credibility on the international stage," he said.
"Canada's own limited defence effort has already undermined the country's standing and influence in the alliance. If Canada were to engage in irresponsible rhetoric on the nuclear issue, its credibility would be ever further eroded. "They're (Liberal committee members) worried about how this is going to look in foreign capitals and they want to be able to lump us all together and say, 'well, look, the official opposition signed this, too.' "
Louis Delvoie, a former high- commissioner to Pakistan and assistant deputy minister of defence, said: "Non-first use doesn't do anything. It's purely declaratory and not legally binding. It does not enhance global security in any way, shape or form in terms of capability. It has the additional downside of creating false hopes and seriously pissing off the Americans.
"I am not averse to crossing swords with the Americans when there are valid Canadian interests at stake on something like Cuba. But on something like this, to achieve a purpose which is dubious in its merits, I don't see the need to go out and deliberately annoy the Americans at a time when we need a certain amount of good will from the American administration in resisting protectionist forces in terms of our bilateral trade and investment relations."
Mr. Mills compared the tone of the majority report to the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact that purported to abolish war as an instrument of state policy.
"That was at best a naive plan and at worst, one that contributed to an atmosphere in which real threats from hostile states were downplayed by the Western democracies with the most horrific consequences."
He says Reform prepared a six-page dissent, but was informed by the committee that only two pages would be permitted to be attached to the majority report.
The full Reform dissenting report focuses primarily on the "deeply misguided assumptions in almost every section," particularly the emphasis placed on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and to abandon NATO's reserved right of first use in self-defence.
Mr. Mills says the hopes that the end of the Cold War would bring increased stability to the world has proven unfounded, with Russia in chaos, the development of nuclear capability in India and Pakistan, and the growing possibility of states hostile to Canada and the West obtaining weapons of mass destruction.
"In light of these realities, the underlying assumptions of the majority report are seriously flawed and raise grave concerns as to how its recommendations will be interpreted," he said.