. . . pour les nouvelles en français

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Aug 23/00 - Radioactive pollution: excess brain cancer in Port Hope.

Hamilton Spectator
page B03

OTTAWA -- Despite almost 70 years of radioactive pollution from Canada's sole uranium refinery the overall cancer rate in Port Hope is no higher than in the rest of Ontario.

Yet a study by federal health experts released here yesterday found statistically significant higher incidences of brain cancer among women and young people. Brain cancer rates in men were elevated but not statistically significant.

Brain cancer is not closely linked to radiation exposure, unlike leukemia which scientists call a "sentinel" cancer.

The health effects of radioactive contamination have been a festering issue in Port Hope for three decades. Local activists accuse the federal government of complicity because the uranium refinery was owned by Ottawa for most of its existence.

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Aug 23/00 - Plutonium airlift: why doesn't Ottawa listen to the people?

page D 2

by Gordon Edwards

AECL spokesman Larry Shewchuk is wrong ("Activists demand Ottawa call off proposed airlift of Russian plutonium," Aug. 3) to suggest that plutonium (MOX) fuel can't be inhaled because it is a solid ceramic material.

MOX pellets crumble into dust when heated in the presence of oxygen. In 1982, German scientists reduced a MOX pellet to fine powder using 400 C heat for 30 minutes. AECL uses similar temperatures to decompose fuel pellets in its DUPIC process. This is not very hot -- it's about the temperature of a kerosene fire.

In a 1997 document, the U.S. Department of Energy reported:

"Two credible transportation accident scenarios were analysed for the shipment of MOX fuel to the Canadian border . . .

"The first accident relates to an event that leads to the MOX fuel package container breaking open, igniting, and releasing plutonium dioxide particles into the air. . . . The public is assumed to be near enough to the accident to breathe air contaminated with plutonium dioxide." -- Section 5.2 "MOX Transportation Accidents"

This scenario, says DOE, has "a reasonable probability of occurrence."

In November 1999, Transport Canada reported that MOX could not be transported by air -- "Not until there were a container deemed safe enough to survive all credible airplane accidents." Such containers do not yet exist.

Transport Canada also stated that an accident involving MOX "could result in the release of a heavy dust. Because it has the potential for damage if inhaled, the material will not be flown. . . ."

A severe air crash, allowing oxygen to get at the fuel -- acompanied by a fire, even at modest temperatures -- could release a fine plutonium-bearing powder into the atmosphere. That's why U.S. law prohibits air transport of plutonium, given the extraordinary toxicity of inhaled plutonium dust.

It is not fear of accidents, however, but appreciating the stupidity of circulating nuclear explosive materials in civil society, that motivates those who oppose fuelling reactors with plutonium. Far safer to take plutonium out of circulation completely by a process called "immobilization."

That's why the House foreign affairs committee unanimously recommended the MOX plan be scrapped.

Over 170 Quebec municipalities have passed resolutions explicitly denouncing transport of plutonium by air, land or sea. They want Ottawa to stop plutonium imports altogether. Why doesn't the government listen to the people it is elected to represent?

Gordon Edwards is president,
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

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Aug 04/00 - Nuclear Sunset: It's time to axe AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.).

Toronto Star
page A17

by David H. Martin

Following a Turkish cabinet meeting in Ankara on July 25, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit cancelled the controversial nuclear power plant that had been proposed for Akkuyu Bay on Turkey's

Mediterranean coast north of Cyprus. Ecevit emphasized that Turkey would instead focus on energy conservation and invest in natural gas, hydro-electricity, as well as solar and wind generation.

In a stunning front-page interview the day before, Ecevit admitted that, "The world is abandoning nuclear power."

The decision was a major setback for the international nuclear industry, since Turkey was the only country in the world actively engaged in starting a new nuclear power program. It was also a serious blow to Canada's state-owned nuclear company, AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited), which was bidding against two competitors to sell two 700 megawatt CANDU reactors for about $3.6 billion.

Most of the world has indeed stopped building new nuclear plants, and is opting for cheaper, cleaner, and safer means of generating electricity. Nuclear power has been plagued by high cost, erratic performance, technical problems, the risk of catastrophic accidents, and environmental problems such as routine radiation releases and the radioactive waste dilemma.

Ontario Power Generation has temporarily shut down eight of its 20 nuclear power reactors because of poor performance, bad management and safety issues. World nuclear power use is expected to peak in 2002, and then decline permanently as old plants are shut down. Independent cost studies show that nuclear power plants are about twice as expensive to build and operate as high-efficiency natural gas generating plants.

There was unprecedented opposition in Turkey to the Akkuyu nuclear plant, and the manifest problems of nuclear power provided concerned citizens with ample ammunition.

Critics pointed to the outdated and inadequate studies done on the earthquake hazard at the Akkuyu site; the high cost of nuclear power; the potential impacts of a catastrophic accident on the 165 million people of the eastern Mediterranean region; the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation; and the security threat in the Middle East, where nuclear plants have already been bombed on three separate occasions.

Environmentalists argued for energy alternatives such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydraulic and high-efficiency natural gas. They pointed out that before building new generating plants, Turkey should rectify its 20 per cent losses in the transmission and distribution system.

Safe energy advocates found an unlikely ally in the Turkish treasury department, which did not want to provide a sovereign (state) guarantee on the $3 billion nuclear plant. This would have appeared as a liability on the country's balance sheet, and endangered a three-year, $4 billion (U.S.) loan program from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF program is to fight inflation in Turkey, which has raged at over 80 per cent per year for the last decade.

So what does Turkey's decision mean for AECL and for Canada?

First of all, AECL wasted a lot of taxpayers' money on the Akkuyu bid -- more than $40 million according to a recent Turkish media report. Part of this expense included "agent fees" that AECL has used for bribes in previous deals with South Korea and Argentina.

But that would not have been the only cost if the project had proceeded. In 1997 a leaked cabinet document revealed that the Chretien government had agreed to provide $1.5 billion of government funds in financing for the Akkuyu plant. The loan would have matched the biggest loan in Canadian history -- the $1.5 billion provided for the sale of two reactors to China in 1996.

Private-sector financial institutions would never provide this kind of large, high-risk loan. AECL had also recently offered to proceed without a state guarantee on loans, which would have put Canadian taxpayers at even greater risk if the project had proceeded.

The nuclear industry in Canada was created by the federal government, emerging from the Allied nuclear weapons effort in World War II.

Detailed analysis, based on AECL's own annual reports, shows that AECL has received subsidies of more than $15 billion (in current dollars) from the federal government since its founding in 1952. Because of this huge subsidy, the nuclear industry has been a net loss to the Canadian economy, despite the jobs it has generated.

As part of a secret federal government program review in 1995, AECL formulated a plan to sell "10 reactors in 10 years." Prime Minister Jean Chretien has made support for nuclear power a personal crusade, and on the basis of AECL's plan, the government agreed to provide a subsidy of at least $100 million per year indefinitely to AECL.

However, the only sale since that time has been two reactors to China in 1996. AECL recently lost another competitive bid to sell a research reactor to Australia. AECL is also seeking another $400 million for a new reactor which will be used for CANDU reactor research as well as industrial testing and research.

It is virtually certain that AECL will not sell eight more reactors in the next five years. Prospects for further sales in Romania, South Korea and China are dubious at best. Even if AECL manages to sell a few more reactors, it will not become self-sustaining.

After almost 50 years of consistent financial failure, it is safe to assume that there will be no surprise turnaround in this sunset industry. Nuclear power is a technology of the past, and the rising stars of our electrical future are renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. It's time to stop subsidizing AECL.

David H. Martin is the research director of Nuclear Awareness Project, a non-profit watchdog organization based in Uxbridge, Ont. He is the author of a recent report entitled, "Nuclear Threat in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Case Against Turkey's Akkuyu Nuclear Plant," available at

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Aug 01/00 - Flying plutonium fuel from Russia: High Radioactivity, Low IQ.

Montreal Gazette
Kamloops Daily News
Sault Star


Ottawa pulled a pusillanimous about-face last week, saying that instead of transporting plutonium from Russia to Canada by ship it would use an airplane.

The flip-flop reflects far more concern for public relations than for public security.

Until now, the federal government had insisted that the safest way to import the dangerous radioactive material from decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads was to bring it by ship to Cornwall, Ont., and from there truck it to the nuclear facility at Chalk River, Ont., where the plutonium would be tested to see if CANDU reactors can use it to produce electricity. Under the new plan, the government will fly the shipment to the Canadian Forces Base at either Bagotville or at Trenton, Ont., and then put it aboard a helicopter for the final leg.

Why settle for the less safe scheme? Because -- get this -- Ottawa did not want to anger those numerous critics in Quebec and Ontario who claimed the original plan was so hazardous that it should not traverse their territory.

In other words, to appease the pro-safety forces, Ottawa has opted for the least safe course. It did the same thing last January when Sault Ste. Marie and other Ontario towns squawked about a planned road shipment of plutonium from the United States to Chalk River.

The ostensible winners of this latest saga are local politicians of the Montreal Urban Community and more than 100 Quebec and Ontario municipalities whose councils passed resolutions against the surface-transport shipments, the scheme's opponents in the Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party and the Mohawk leaders at the Kahnawake and Akwesasne reserves who vowed to stop at nothing to block a shipment passing by their territory.

They may have spared themselves the minimal peril of a slow-moving, heavily guarded vessel or truck, but they've greatly elevated the risk. The material's elaborate container has a far better chance of rupturing in an air crash, and fire could spread toxic vapours over a vast area.

Many of the critics argue that Canada should take no plutonium in the first place. That purist line ignores the fact that this country is better able than Russia to diminish this radioactive legacy of the Cold War. The import plan's alternative is for the stuff to stay in that notoriously unstable nation where it is vulnerable to leaks into the environment or to theft by terrorists.

Ottawa should at last make a serious effort to counter the scaremongers' blarney and stick to its original transport plan.

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July 29/00 - Change of Plans: Russian plutonium to be flown into Canada.

Windsor Star
page A9

by Mike Trickey

The federal government has scrapped plans to transport diluted plutonium from Russian nuclear weapons into Canada by ship and will instead fly it to a Canadian military base and then by helicopter to a research facility at Chalk River, Ont.

The weapons-grade plutonium is mixed with uranium to create mixed oxide (MOX) fuel which is to be tested by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to determine whether burning the fuel in the Canadian Candu nuclear reactors is an effective means of disposing of it.

Government officials said on Friday that the plan to fly the MOX fuel to either Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont. or Bagotville, Que. replaces the original plan to transport the Russian product by ship up the St. Lawrence Seaway and then by road to Chalk River.

They said they made the change in response to hearings last year in which witnesses expressed a preference for air shipment to reduce the number of towns involved in transport.Government officials said last year that ground transport was preferable to air because it was safer.

A shipment of 15 kg of Russian MOX fuel, containing 528 grams of plutonium, is expected to arrive this fall. Details of timing and transportation are being kept secret for security reasons.

The government is being sued by the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility for transporting American MOX fuel by helicopter from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Chalk River in January in contravention of the previously announced plan of ground transport.

A proposed emergency response plan was posted Friday on the Transport Canada Web site and the public has until Aug. 25 to intervene.

However, opponents of the plan to test the MOX fuel in Canada protest that the public can only comment on the proposed transportation route.

"Leaving outside just how phenomenally stupid it is to be flying this stuff around, a more profound concern for us is that they're moving it at all," says Cim Nunn of Greenpeace Canada.

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Aug 01/00 - Plane forced down in Calgary carrying radioactive cargo.

Edmonton Journal
page B8

by Howard Salkow

A Canadian Airlines Airbus that was forced to make an emergency landing in Calgary was carrying radioactive cargo -- a load frequently transported by Canada's two major airlines.

The aircraft was carrying 18 kilograms of radioactive material Saturday night when engine troubles forced pilots to make an emergency landing at Calgary International Airport.

Although the plane landed safely, a local environmentalist questions why airlines are used to transport hazardous material across provincial borders.

John Lee, of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said it's not an unusual practice. "Canadian and Air Canada are both certified to carry dangerous goods. WestJet has chosen not to."

Flight 917 from Montreal to Vancouver was forced to divert to Calgary International Airport shortly after 10 p.m. Another aircraft was used to fly the 130 passengers to their West Coast destination about an hour later.

Michele Meier, of Air Canada, said the captain was correct in identifying the radioactive cargo to officials. She could not specify what exactly the cargo was or where it was headed.

Meier said extreme precautions are taken to ensure hazardous material is appropriately packaged and sealed. "We follow strict standards and procedures. The materials are placed in special containers and treated with utmost care."

United States commercial aircraft are not permitted to transport radioactive material, according to John Pottinger, a 25-year aircraft-accident investigation expert.

Hazardous material is defined as a chemical that can cause acute or chronic health effects if humans are exposed or a chemical that exerts a physical hazard.

Environmentalist Scott Darling questioned why radioactive cargo has to be moved out of province by air. "I would prefer to see the materials stay in a province."

Chris Richardson, an aviation expert, said airlines carrying dangerous material must follow many regulations.

Last year, First Air was fined a total of $105,000 under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act for carrying propane tanks and a toxic chemical called hydroquinone. The fines also include an incident in which fuel was discovered leaking from an aircraft motor that had not been properly stored.

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Aug 17/00 - New wrinkle in plan to burn plutonium: aging of the test reactor.

Toronto Star

Peter Calamai
Science Reporter

Atomic watchdog flags concerns
about Chalk River reactor safety

Wrinkle added in plan to test mixed oxide fuel

OTTAWA - The federal atomic watchdog is worried that the country's aging main nuclear research reactor could become unsafe because of poor training methods and a severe loss of experienced staff.

This concern by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission adds a new wrinkle to continuing controversy over plans to test MOX (mixed oxide) fuel containing plutonium from Russian and U.S. weapons.

The MOX tests are supposed to be done at the 43-year-old National Research Universal (NRU) reactor operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., a company controlled by the federal government.

Nuclear safety commission official Barclay Howden said the NRU reactor in Chalk River, Ont., has recently suffered a big loss in senior staff. The reactor is due to shut down in 2005.

"NRU has been known for years to be a good fixer," Howden told a commission meeting in Ottawa yesterday. "But they don't have the depth to fix the problems or prevent them."

Officials at the nuclear safety commission want Atomic Energy to adopt a more rigorous approach to training NRU supervisors and engineers because too few experienced staff remain for traditional on-the-job training.

Yet the crown corporation says the exodus of experienced staff has been stopped at Chalk River and that apprenticeship training has been working well for four decades.

Watchdog says better waste monitoring,
and training are needed

"It's a philosophical difference," said Atomic Energy official Paul Lafrenière.

The stand-off over training contributed to the commission staff giving only conditional approval to renewing the operating licence for the sprawling Chalk River Laboratories.

Officials found the labs also needed to complete safety upgrades and improve monitoring of radioactive waste.

In other business yesterday, the nuclear safety commission also heard a University of Toronto plea to effectively cut off potential public intervention on plans to tear down its Slowpoke research reactor, which was closed 18 months ago.

Unless the university quickly clears out the remains of the 30-year-old reactor, it might lose $30 million in private funding for a nanotechnology centre proposed to open on the site by January, said U of T official James Smith. The delay is due to changes in federal nuclear safety regulations.

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Aug 02/00 - Groups accuses government of dishonesty over plutonium airlift.

Broadcast News

OTTAWA -- A group opposed to the shipment of weapons-grade plutonium into Canada is accusing the federal government of dishonesty.

The Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout says a federal plan to airlift Russian plutonium to Chalk River, Ontario ignores widespread opposition along the flight path.

The group is calling on the Chretien Liberals to cancel the Russian shipment, or at least put it on hold until public hearings can be called.

Spokeswoman Kristen Ostling says "people want truth and fairness," but aren't getting either.

The government announced its revised plutonium shipment plan last month, saying a small amount of so-called 'MOX' fuel would be transported by air to the Chalk River nuclear testing lab.

Government officials have maintained the shipment won't put public safety at risk.

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Aug 02/00 - Activists demand Ottawa call off airlift of Russian plutonium.

Various Papers (CP)

by Sue Bailey
Canadian Press

The Calgary Sun
Fear over plutonium
shipment poses threat

The Chronicle-Herald (Halifax)
Activists demand Ottawa call off
proposed airlift of Russian plutonium

The Guelph Mercury
Activists want feds to halt airlift of Russian plutonium

The London Free Press
Plutonium Airlift Blasted
Opponents demand Ottawa hold public hearings

The Ottawa Sun
Group Fears Disaster
Activists call for hearings
before plutonium is shipped

The Toronto Star
Activists urge halt to nuclear shipment
Ottawa says tests vital to disarmament

The Winnipeg Sun
Plutonium Move Feared

OTTAWA (CP) -- Anti-nuclear activists fearing a potential radioactive disaster want a proposed Russia-to-Canada airlift of weapons-grade plutonium to be scrapped.

"The government of Canada has a responsibility to consult the public," said Gordon Edwards, spokesman for the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

His group joined several other critics Wednesday to demand that the shipment be stopped or delayed until there are independent public hearings.

They fear a crash and subsequent fire could release deadly plutonium dust -- a concern one nuclear official laughed off.

Canada is "wrong-headed" to support disarming nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia by seeing how well plutonium can be burned in nuclear reactors, said the activists.

"It's about propping up the nuclear industry" at needless risk to Canada, said Kristen Ostling, spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout.

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) submitted a plan Friday to fly plutonium-laden fuel made from surplus Russian warheads to a CANDU reactor at Chalk River, Ont., near Ottawa.

It would be used with an earlier shipment of U.S. plutonium in reactor tests expected to take about three years.

No date or flight plan has been made public for security reasons, and Transport Canada must approve the proposal.

Edwards said a 28-day period for public comment began Friday but does not offer the serious input of independent hearings.

Larry Shewchuk, an AECL spokesman, laughed at the coalition's doomsday warnings and called them "completely out to lunch."

It would take 3,000 degrees Celsius to melt the ceramic-encased fuel pellets held in metal tubes then packed in a container that passed tests similar to those done on airplane black boxes, he said.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission -- Canada's nuclear regulator -- recently approved the steel-reinforced container to be used in the shipment.

"It has withstood all the impact tests needed to reassure the regulator that in the case of a crash it would not split open," said spokesman Jim Leveque.

Three containers would be used for the Russian shipment, he said.

Controversy erupted in January when a similar but smaller sample of plutonium from the United States was flown across Ontario from Sault-Ste. Marie to Chalk River.

It was discreetly moved by air instead of road, as originally planned, after several groups promised to block its path.

Canada is one of few countries in the world that both the United States and Russia trust to see if the material can be recycled as nuclear-reactor fuel, said Shewchuk.

Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale has said that by agreeing to the test, Canada is playing a vital role in eliminating nuclear weapons.

The January shipment contained 119 grams of plutonium in five kilograms of mixed oxide (MOX), a blend of 97 per cent uranium and three per cent plutonium oxide.

The proposed Russian shipment would include 528 grams of plutonium in 14.5 kilograms of ceramic MOX fuel pellets in 28 sealed metal tubes.

John Read, director general of the Transport Dangerous Goods Directorate of Transport Canada, said AECL must show how it would "effectively respond" to the worst accidents: including the release of plutonium dust.

"If they can't, they don't ship."

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Aug 03/00 - Groups demand end to plan to fly nuclear fuel to Canada.

Globe and Mail
page A2

by Clark Campbell
Parliamentary Bureau

Accidents not likely, but
public discussion of risks essential, they say

Ottawa -- A coalition of environmentalist groups charged yesterday that the federal government has misled Canadians about the potential dangers of flying nuclear fuel containing plutonium into Canada, and demanded the controversial plan be scrapped until there has been wider public consultation.

"If Ottawa wants to respond to the public's suggestions, the message is crystal clear," said Kristen Ostling, national co-ordinator for the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout. "Don't fly it, scrap it. The whole project should be cancelled."

The plan to fly in Russian MOX fuel, which contains 4.5-per-cent plutonium, is part of a test to determine whether weapons-grade fuel from the United States and Russia can be disposed of in Canadian-made nuclear reactors.

The federal government plans to have the fuel flown to the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. test facility in Chalk River, Ont.

However, environmental groups say importing MOX is potentially dangerous, and aboriginal leaders and community groups have been wary of the material passing nearby. In Quebec, 155 municipalities have passed resolutions asking that the MOX not travel through the province.

Yesterday, a collection of environmental and aboriginal groups charged that the government has underplayed the potential dangers of transporting the plutonium by air. They said it is possible harmful materials could be released if the transport plane were to crash.

"Why are Canadians being misled as to the nature of the accident scenarios that are possible, although not probable?" asked Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

"We acknowledge they're not probable, but the whole idea of responsible government, the whole idea of responsible environmental assessment, is to look at even improbable accidents and see what the consequences could be."

The government has launched a 28-day public consultation period on the plan to fly in the Russian fuel -- but the environmentalists say the scope of the hearings is too narrow and should include hearings over the idea of importing plutonium.

The MOX fuel will be in ceramic-encased pellet form, wrapped in a metal sheath, bundled, and encased in a special container. The container has been approved for transporting MOX by air by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

However, Mr. Edwards said there is no evidence the container would withstand a serious plane crash.

A spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale said many of the environmentalists' arguments have been disproved.

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Aug 10/00 - Plutonium (MOX) reactor fuel is far from harmless.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
page A10

by Gordon Edwards, President
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Regarding the Aug. 3 article, Activists Want Plutonium Airlift Called Off, AECL's Larry Shewchuk is wrong to suggest plutonium (MOX) fuel is harmless because it is a solid ceramic.

MOX pellets decompose when heated in the presence of oxygen. In 1982, German scientists reduced a MOX pellet to fine powder using 400 C heat for 30 minutes. AECL uses similar temperatures to pulverize nuclear pellets in its DUPIC process. This is not very hot; unlike the 3,000 C Shewchuk mentions would be required.

In a 1997 document, the U.S. Department of Energy reported on credible transportation accident scenarios "analysed for the shipment of MOX fuel to the Canadian borderS

"The first accident relates to an event that leads to the MOX fuel package container breaking open, igniting and releasing plutonium dioxide particles into the air . . . The public is assumed to be near enough to the accident to breathe air contaminated with plutonium dioxide."

This scenario, says the Energy Department, has "a reasonable probability of occurrence."

In November 1999, Transport Canada reported MOX could not be transported by air "until there were a container deemed safe enough to survive all credible airplane accidents." Such containers do not yet exist.

Transport Canada also stated that an accident involving MOX "could result in the release of a heavy dust. Because it has the potential for damage if inhaled, the material will not be flown."

A severe air crash, allowing oxygen to get at the fuel -- accompanied by a fire, even at modest temperatures -- could release a fine plutonium-bearing powder into the atmosphere. That's why U.S. law strictly prohibits the air transport of plutonium, given the extraordinary toxicity of inhaled plutonium dust.

It is not fear of accidents, however, but understanding the irresponsibility of circulating nuclear explosive materials in civil society that sparks opposition to using plutonium as nuclear fuel. It's far safer to take plutonium out of circulation completely by a process called "immobilization."

That's why the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously recommended the MOX plan be scrapped.

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July 29/00 - Nuclear Nightmare revealed in Kazakhstan: the human fallout.

BBC News

by Sue Lloyd-Roberts

Babies born with deformities
are often abandoned

Kazakhstan -- The Russians chose one of the most desolate parts of their empire to build their nuclear testing base. Scorching in summer and 40 degrees below freezing in winter, it is an inhospitable place.

Nonetheless when the first bomb exploded, there were over a million Kazakhs living here.

More than 100 bombs were detonated above ground, with radioactive fallout spreading over a vast area equivalent, scientists say, to over a hundred Chernobyls.

It was the Cold War and the Russians were eager to catch up with America. Safety was not a priority.

Watching the explosions

Nurgul Skakova, whose child is disabled, said: "We were told there was nothing to worry about. In fact, we were ordered out of school in order to watch the mushroom clouds.

"I was contaminated and that's why my son was born paralysed and mentally sick."

21-year-old Zaneisti is only a metre tall

Nurgula told me that every family in her village, which was 30km from the epicentre of the explosions, has been affected.

To prove her point, she took me next door to see the girl with six toes. Her mother said that her older daughter is in hospital with leukaemia.

In the next house, I was introduced to Zaneisti, who is 21 and stands only a metre tall. Everyone in the village wanted to show me their disfigurements because, they said, they welcomed any outsider who showed any interest.

From the house opposite, a woman called out that she had even worse to show me - Davidya, whose tumours have left him hideous and half blind. One of his sisters recently committed suicide for fear that her unborn child might be affected by the same poisoned genes.

Most of the many suicides in the area have been among young men who discover they are impotent.

Red Cross stretched

People told me they are living in the most polluted place on Earth and are afraid to eat, drink and even breathe the air.

The International Red Cross look after old people who are dying of cancer and whose children have fled the area.

The next generation is also suffering

With a 30 year or so period before radiation exposure develops into certain cancers, more and more people in this age group are affected, and Red Cross workers can barely cope with the demand on their scarce resources.

In the state hospitals, doctors, some of whom have not been paid for six months and who lack modern equipment and drugs, fight to save those with a chance.

But what is puzzling the doctors is the number of babies who continue to be born with deformities.

Unable or simply unwilling to cope with them, parents often abandon these babies in the doors of state orphanages.

Lasting legacy

Without accurate information about how badly the region was contaminated, doctors can only speculate about the long term genetic damage that has been done to its people.

Dr. Boris Gusev from the Institute of Radioactive Medicine says: "Even today, the military in Moscow are lying to us about the tests as they have all along.

"They tell us that 700,000 people might have been affected. I believe it is over 1.5 million.

"The contamination spread over thousands of kilometres. There's nowhere else like this in the world. Japan? Nevada? Forget it! It's equivalent to 1,000 times the impact of the Hiroshima bomb. This is a unique situation and we need help."

The statue of Lenin has been removed from the central square in Semipalatinsk. The Soviet military-industrial complex has withdrawn and the scientific boffins have packed their bags and gone.

But the people will feel the effects of the Soviet era for decades to come.

The Russians say they have too many of their own problems to help their former colony.

At a conference later this year, the Kazakhs will argue that these are victims of the Cold War and it is up to the international community to pay the price of helping.

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July 28/00 - Nuclear fuel made from weapons plutonium to be flown from Russia.

Gov't of Canada
Media Release


OTTAWA -- Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has submitted a new Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) to Transport Canada for the air transport of one shipment of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel test samples into Canada from the Russian Federation. The samples will be tested at AECL's Chalk River Laboratories. The ERAP will be available for public comment for 28 days.

"These tests demonstrate Canada's commitment to nuclear disarmament," said Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs. "At the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference in May, Canada brokered a new commitment by the nuclear powers to nuclear disarmament. We need to find safe, effective ways to deal with weapons-grade plutonium, and these tests are part of that important examination of options."

"Undertaking this test does not oblige Canada to agree to any large-scale use of MOX fuel in CANDU® power plants," said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Natural Resources. "Before any such decision could be taken, we would first require a formal request from the United States and Russian Federation - which has not occurred. Even if we are asked, very stringent conditions would apply to protect the public interest, including the opportunity for full public input and complete compliance with all environmental, health and safety requirements of Canadian law."

Under the new emergency response plan, it is proposed that the Russian MOX shipment be shipped by air to a Department of National Defence air base in either Trenton, Ontario, or Bagotville, Quebec. The new ERAP replaces AECL's original plan to transport the shipment along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Cornwall.

Canada's regulatory regime is one of the most stringent in the world, and Canada has an excellent record of transporting dangerous goods of all types. On January 14, 2000, a test sample of MOX fuel from the U.S. was safely delivered to AECL's Chalk River Laboratories.

The shipment of MOX fuel samples is low-risk. The trace amount of radiation is so small that it poses no significant risk to health, safety or the environment. The fuel is in a stable, solid, ceramic form inside a sealed zirconium alloy element and transported in a container that meets Canadian and international safety standards.

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July 27/00 - With no CANDU sales in sight, AECL should justify its existence.

Globe and Mail
Comment -- page B10

by Janet McFarland
Report on Business

Why is AECL still in business? The Crown corporation is supposed to be operating as some kind of commercial operation selling nuclear reactors around the world. But it hasn't had any success since it sold two CANDU reactors to China in 1996, and there aren't too many other countries shopping for a nuclear plant these days.

The Turkish government cancelled its plans to buy nuclear reactors this week, despite five years of lobbying efforts on AECL's part and the promise of a $1.5-billion purchase loan from the federal government's Canada Account, which is used to support big, risky deals around the world. AECL hasn't sald how much money it spent chasing the Turkey deal.

Turkey said it could not afford the $4-billion project because it is in the middle of an austerity program supervised by the International Monetary Fund. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also said Turkey doesn't need nuclear power yet because the country is building conventional gas-fire and hydro-electric plants.

This lies at the core of AECL's sales problems. The corporation keeps waiting for a renaissance of the flagging nuclear industry, and it keeps not arriving. Nuclear plants are hugely expensive to build and often provoke opposition by environmental groups -- especially since the disaster at Chernobyl. Both these factors make nuclear projects difficult to complete, even when governments are initially interested.

The Turkish news was the second blow for AECL in the past month. In June, Australia picked an Argentine company to build a controversial new Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, rejecting bids from AECL and other international competitors.

This means there isn't much left in the pipeline. Previous CANDU purchasers like China, North Korea [sic: should read "South Korea"] and Romania are the most likely countries to expand their nuclear programs. There are still hopes that South Korea could make a decision on a new reactor this year, but there isn't much else imminent.

AECL says it also expects to find other developing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines to become customers, but those are speculative options.

AECL says for now it will focus on serving Ontario's existing nuclear reactors. British Energy has just signed a deal to take control of managing the Bruce nuclear station, and reopen some of the moth-balled reactors. AECL provides some services to existing plants, and hopes the overhaul at Bruce will create some work.

This, however, is a pretty slim foundation for a long-term business plan. Back in 1998, the president of AECL said foreign sales are critical to the financial health of the corporation, because Ottawa had cut its annual subsidy to $100-million a year from $177-million in 1995. Allen Kilpatrick also said his company needed to complete potential deals with Turkey and South Korea to remain financially viable. Those words must be haunting him today.

In 1995, Nesbitt Burns Inc. finished an independent review of AECL and said it would have to sell nine reactors in 10 years plus close many of its facilities to succeed on $100-million a year. The corporation has done much cost cutting, but hasn't succeeded on the revenue side of that equation. If Mr. Kilpatrick and Nesbitt Burns were right in their analyses, AECL officials should be seriously worried about the future.

The Liberal government has been endlessly patient with AECL, and Prime Minister Jean Crétien [sic] is one of the Crown corporation's biggest defenders, promoting CANDU technology in trade missions around the world. But a four-year dry spell for international sales must also be making it increasingly difficult for the government to argue that AECL is still paying its way or generating a valuable economic benefit for Canada after billions of dollars of subsidies.

One 1998 study, prepared by anti-nuclear group Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, said AECL has received $15.8-billion (in constant 1998 dollars) of government funding since it was founded in 1952, although AECL complained that it was not fair to recalculate subsidies in constant dollars. In 1993, AECL estimated the government's total investment at $4.7-billion over 40 years.

It's unfortunate that AECL hasn't had more success, especially because it was nice to see a Canadian company build an international reputation in a once cutting-edge industry. But AECL needs a justifcation for its continued existence, and must find one soon to convince us its worth our money to keep it operating.

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 24/00 - Japan admits public fears over nuclear energy amid fresh incident.

Agence France Presse

by Kiriko Nishiyama

TOKYO, July 24 (AFP) -- Japan's authorities admitted high levels of public anxiety about their accident-prone nuclear energy programme Monday, as one plant suffered its second mishap in three days.

The programme remained crucial to supplying the resource-poor nation's electricity needs, the Atomic Energy Commission said in a draft report on Japan's long-term nuclear power policy.

But it acknowledged "the sense of mistrust is growing along with fears about nuclear power, as a result of recent nuclear accidents as well as cover-ups and falsified reports related to these."

"Based on the premise that we cannot completely rule out the possibility of accidents, emergency measures have to be prepared to minimise damage to lives and the health of residents in case of an accident," the report added.

Concerns over nuclear power have escalated in Japan since the country's worst-ever nuclear disaster last September, which was also classified as the world's worst since Chernobyl in 1986.

A critical reaction at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, 120 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Tokyo, killed two plant workers and exposed 439 people to radiation.

In the accident's fallout, the government said in March that plans to build 16-20 new nuclear power plants by March 2011 would be abandoned.

In the latest incident, energy company officials launched a probe after a radioactive oil leak within a nuclear power plant forced operators to shut down a reactor on Sunday.

Another reactor at the same Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, 200 kilometres north of Tokyo, was shut down on Friday after a strong earthquake measuring 6.1 on the open-ended Richter scale rocked the region.

The oil leak was confined to within the plant in the town of Okuma and "we consider there is no danger to the surrounding environment", said Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. (TEPCO) spokesman Ichiro Kudo.

About 150 liters (39 gallons) of radioactive oil had collected from a drip out of a cracked turbine valve, TEPCO said. Operators had shut down the No.6 reactor manually by 9:17 pm (12:17 GMT) Sunday.

"We detected radiation, but the level was not high enough to pose a threat to people," Kudo said.

The No.2 reactor was still shut after Friday's powerful quake provoked fears that control systems monitoring exhausts may have been damaged. But there was no radiation leak and no danger, officials said.

Japan relies on 51 reactors to produce about one-third of its electricity. It is the only nation still developing nuclear fast-breeder reactors after France closed its Superphénix reactor in 1997.

The programme, however, has been mothballed since December 1995, when secondary cooling water leaked from the prototype fast-breeder plant at Monju, 350 kilometres west of Tokyo, causing a fire within the plant.

"We hope to resume operations at the plant at an early stage while gaining understanding from local communities and from society at large," said the Atomic Energy Commission report.

Heightening public mistrust was an embarrassing dispute between Japan and Britain, finally resolved on July 11, over a consignment of nuclear fuel which arrived in Japan last year with faked quality control data.

London eventually capitulated to Japanese demands that it take back the fuel sent by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 25/00 - Turkey cancels plans for the first nuclear power reactor at Akkuyu.

Nuclear Awareness Project
Media Release

by Dave Martin

Toronto -- Following a cabinet meeting in Ankara today, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit announced the cancellation of the controversial nuclear power plant that was proposed to be built at Akkuyu Bay on Turkey's Mediterranean coast north of Cyprus.

In a stunning front page interview yesterday (July 24th) in the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet, Ecevit observed that "The world is abandoning nuclear power." In a public statement following a cabinet meeting today, Ecevit stated "It is unnecessary for us, for the time being, to invest in nuclear energy." Ecevit emphasized that Turkey would focus on energy conservation and invest in natural gas, hydro-electricity, as well as solar and wind generation.

Ecevit's statement reflected the fact that most of the world has stopped building new nuclear plants, and has opted for cheaper, cleaner, and safer means of generating electricity. Nuclear power has been plagued by high cost, erratic performance, endemic technical problems, the risk of catastrophic accidents, and environmental problems such as routine radiation releases and radioactive waste management.

World nuclear power use is expected to peak in 2002, and then begin a period of sustained and permanent decline. Reliable independent cost studies show that nuclear power plants are about twice as expensive to build and operate as high-efficiency natural gas generating plants. Canada has been forced to temporarily shut down one-third of its own nuclear power reactors because of poor performance, bad management and safety problems.

The decision is a serious blow to the three nuclear vendors bidding to build the nuclear plant, and a major setback for the international nuclear industry. Canada's state-owned nuclear company, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) was competing against Nuclear Power International (NPI -- a consortium of the German company Siemens and the French company Framatome), and a third bidder, a partnership of Westinghouse (USA/UK) and Mitsubishi (Japan).

The Akkuyu nuclear plant had sparked an unprecedented ground swell of opposition within Turkey, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region and around the world. Turkey's latest attempt to build a nuclear plant at Akkuyu began with a request for preliminary proposals in 1992, although revised bid specifications were not released until December 1996. Following the final bid deadline of October 15, 1997, Turkey delayed the selection of a vendor no less than eight times between June 1998 and April 2000.

The extraordinarily high cost of nuclear power has been the indirect cause of Turkey's decision. This spring, the Turkish Treasury department refused to provide a sovereign (state) financial guarantee (at least initially) for the loans being made by vendor country governments for the nuclear plant, which was costing about $3.6 billion (Canadian dollars -- about $2.5 billion US).

In a surprise development, Westinghouse reportedly offered to proceed without a sovereign guarantee. AECL also confirmed last week that it was willing to proceed without a sovereign guarantee, and was searching for private sector "bridge" financing of $100 million.

The loss of the Akkuyu contract is a blow to AECL, a publicly funded federal Canadian crown corporation. AECL has seen its reactor export plans collapse over the last 5 years. As part of a federal government program review in 1995, AECL identified a plan to sell "ten reactors in ten years".

On the basis of this plan, the Chrétien government committed to provide a $100 million-per-year subsidy indefinitely to AECL. However, the only sale since that time has been two reactors to China in 1996. Since its founding in 1952, AECL has received subsidies of over $15 billion from the federal government.

In 1997 a leaked cabinet document revealed that the Chrétien government had agreed to provide $1.5 billion of government funds in financing for the Akkuyu plant. AECL's bid was for $2.572 billion (US dollars -- about $3.6 billion Canadian) for two 700 MW CANDU reactors.

AECL's bid was targeted by an effective international campaign. Nuclear Awareness Project worked closely with activists opposing Akkuyu in Canada, Europe, Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean for the last four years. The campaign included speaking tours throughout Canada, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. The international campaign flooded the office of Prime Minister Chrétien and other cabinet ministers with over 100,000 cards, letters and e-mails.

Dave Martin, Research Director for Nuclear Awareness Project, stated,

"The cancellation of Turkey's Akkuyu nuclear plant is a death knell for the international nuclear industry. Renewable energy is the way of the future."

"It's time to pull the plug on 48 years of senseless Canadian government subsidies to AECL. More nuclear subsidies are just throwing good money after bad."

"Turkey has made a wise decision to forego nuclear power and focus its electricity program on conservation, renewable energy, and high efficiency natural gas. There will be huge environmental, economic and security benefits from this decision."

"A nuclear program would only have interfered with Turkey's hard road ahead in building a sustainable energy future, healing its economy, democratizing its political system, and improving its human rights record."

The Akkuyu nuclear plant was opposed for a variety of reasons, including earthquake risk at the site, the possibility that it would contribute to nuclear weapons development, and ongoing human rights abuses in Turkey.

Some of Turkey's most prominent earthquake experts have demanded a halt to the nuclear plant until further research is conducted on the Akkuyu area. The death of over 18,000 people in the Izmit earthquake is a tragic testimony to the human cost of poor planning and inadequate regulation.

The Turkish government and the nuclear vendors conspired to cover up the real earthquake risk at the Akkuyu site. An earthquake would have been the most likely cause of a catastrophic nuclear accident at Akkuyu. Such an accident could have had devastating consequences for the 165 million people in the eastern Mediterranean region.

The dark underside of nuclear power has always been its potential for nuclear weapons proliferation, either through the production of plutonium -- an inevitable byproduct of reactor operation -- or through the transfer of sensitive nuclear information, technology and materials. Turkey's nuclear program would have fanned the flames of the nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Turkey has already been implicated in nuclear arms aid to Pakistan. An earlier attempt to build an Argentinean-designed reactor was likely aimed at plutonium production for nuclear weapons. Evidence of nuclear smuggling based in Turkey, and Turkey's push for its own nuclear fuel capability and indigenous reactor design, all pointed to possible nuclear weapons development. The support of prominent Turkish citizens for nuclear weapons development has lent credence to this evidence.

Turkey has a long history of gross human rights abuses, which include systematic widespread torture and murder of prisoners in custody; death squad murders; disappearances; restrictions on freedom of speech; and incommunicado detention without legal representation.

Despite the capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, and his cease-fire call, human rights improvements have been minimal. Incidents of torture actually worsened in 1999 as compared to the previous two years. Restrictions on free speech and overt political repression have continued despite pressure on Turkey to meet western standards in order to join the European Union.

Turkish political history over the last 40 years has been characterized by a series of unstable governments, interrupted at intervals by four military coups -- in 1960, 1971, 1980, and most recently in June 1997, when the government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, was forced out of office. Allegations of corruption at the highest levels have added to this political instability, which has been accompanied by economic instability.

Inflation has averaged more than 80% per year over the last ten years, and the national debt is over $100 billion (US). It remains to be seen if the current $4 billion (US), three-year anti-inflation program sponsored by the International Monetary Fund will succeed. Five similar programs in the 1990s failed, and many Turks believe that the cure may be worse than the disease.



By David H. Martin,
Research Director,
Nuclear Awareness Project

June 2000

View or download the full report here
(106 pages, Acrobat PDF format, 1071K)

A   bound hard copy of the report can be
obtained by sending $25 (US) or $35 (CDN) to

Nuclear Awareness Project,
PO Box 104, Uxbridge,
Ontario, Canada
L9P 1M6.

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 25/00 - There'll be no CANDU nuclear power station in Turkey any time soon.

CBC radio news

by Derek Stoffel

OTTAWA -- Canada won't be building a nuclear power station in Turkey any time soon. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has announced that his country cannot afford to build the plant.

Canada's nuclear Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, was one of three companies bidding for the tender [sic].

AECL was competing against companies from the United States and Europe for the tender to build Turkey's first nuclear power station. Now the tender has been cancelled, because Turkey says it just doesn't have the money. Instead it will invest in cheaper energy sources such as natural gas and hydro-electricity.

A spokesperson for AECL, Larry Shewchuk, says the bid was worth about $4 billion. "It's always disappointing to lose potential markets. We submitted a very competitive bid. However we have sales prospects in other parts of the world that we are pursuing," said Shewchuk.

AECL is looking to sell CANDU reactors in South Korea, China, and Romania.

But Dave Martin doesn't think AECL will be successful in those markets either. Martin is with the Nuclear Awareness Project -- a group that has opposed AECL's proposal to build in Turkey. "This is, I think, a real disaster for AECL. Their whole export program and the basis of their commercial viability is an abysmal failure," he said.

Martin says since AECL was started almost 50 years ago, it's received $15 billion in subsidies from Ottawa.

He says Turkey's decision shows that the world is abandoning nuclear power and Canada should abandon any funding for AECL in the future

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 25/00 - Turkey scraps plans to build the country's first nuclear plant.

BBC radio news

Opponents say earthquake zones lie perilously close

Turkey has abandoned plans to build its first nuclear plant.

The project has caused a storm of protest from campaigners and neighbouring countries who say the proposed site at Akkuyu is dangerously near a Mediterranean earthquake zone.

Announcing the move, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said the government could not afford the estimated $3 billion to $4 billion cost of the plant while it was committed to spending cuts.

"It is unnecessary for us, for the time being, to invest in nuclear energy," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "Our economic stability programme could seriously be hampered."

But he said Turkey -- which is committed to an IMF-backed three-year anti-inflation programme -- would reconsider building the plant in the next 10 to 20 years.

"Once the stability programme has reached its aims, nuclear plants will come back onto the agenda," he said.

In the meantime, he said, Turkey would seek to reduce energy waste, and invest in natural gas and hydroelectricity plants. It would also look into solar and wind power to meet its increasing energy demands.

Greenpeace welcomed the decision. One activist said Turkey had neither the time nor the money "to waste on a technology that is dangerous, polluting and outdated".

Concerns about the proposed plant were heightened by the fact that a powerful earthquake hit the nearby region of Adana in 1998.

Repeated delays

The Akkuyu reactor tender has already been subject to repeated delays -- eight in all -- since Turkey first announced plans to build it in 1996.

Until now the government had insisted that the project was safe -- as well as being vital to meet Turkey's growing energy needs.

But the Turkish Treasury refused to provide financing guarantees and on Monday the press reported that Mr Ecevit was considering scrapping the plan.

Three companies -- one American, one Canadian and one European -- have been involved in a long bidding process to win the contract.

One -- Westinghouse of the United States -- made clear last week that it would withdraw from the bidding if the decision was delayed again.

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 23/00 - Turkey again delays decision on purchasing CANDU reactors.

Sudbury Star
page A8

by Juliet O'Neill

Delay is good news for those opposed to CANDU sales,
but the victory may be only temporary and
taxpayers may be on the hook for even more money

OTTAWA -- An expected delay in Turkey's announcement of whether it will choose the CANDU over nuclear reactor bids from European or American consortium has been welcomed as a victory for taxpayers by a Canadian organization opposed to the sales by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

But it may only be a temporary victory, says Dave Martin, research director of the Nuclear Awareness Project.

While welcoming the delay, caused by Turkey's inability to guarantee loans for portions of the proposed nuclear project, Martin warns that it will simply buy time for the AECL to secure financing that would put Canadian taxpayers "on a slippery slope" toward even greater potential costs than now envisaged.

Martin, author of a new 106-page case against reactor sales to Turkey, commented in an interview Saturday after AECL vice-president Bill Hancox was quoted as saying Turkey will again delay its decision on the winning bidder to build a nuclear plant at the Akkuyu site and that AECL will seek bridge financing of as much as $100 million for pre-construction costs.

Hancox said Turkey's decision, which had been postponed last spring until this Monday, is delayed again because the Turkish government cannot provide loan guarantees for portions of the project for at least two years under debt management restrictions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

"Every delay increases the chance that the Akkuyu plant won't be built," said Martin. "That's a big victory for (opponents in) Turkey as well as a victory, indirectly, for those of us in vending countries who don't want to see our tax dollars used in that way."

The Canadian government approved a $1.5-billion loan guarantee, through the Export Development Corp., to finance the sale of two CANDU reactors to Turkey. Competing bids have been submitted by Nuclear Power International, a partnership between Siemens of Germany and Framatome of France, and Westinghouse/Mitsubishi, a consortium of British, American and Japanese interests.

Martin said it is unlikely that private financial institutions will provide pre-construction loans to AECL if they are not guaranteed by Turkey and that the money would then have to come from the Export Development Corp., putting taxpayers on the hook.


"I would suggest that this is a dangerous way to proceed," he said. "It's a slippery slope if they proceed with partial financing. If you make that first commitment, then AECL is going to be coming back and saying we want the next $100 million or the next half a billion or the next billion and they've already laid out that scenario. The fact is that Turkey is unwilling or unable to provide a sovereign guarantee for this loan for the total package and without that sovereign guarantee, Canada should not be proceeding at all."

The Nuclear Awareness Project's report against the sales to Turkey covers an array of grounds which have been debated periodically in Canada since the proposed CANDU sales were backed by the Liberal government.

The grounds range from financing and fear of nuclear proliferation to the dangers of the plant site's close proximity to an earthquake fault line and arguments in favour of using natural gas to generate power.

Martin argues that Canada should give up trying to sell CANDUs altogether on sheer economic grounds. He says the government has subsidized the AECL to the tune of $15 billion since it was created in 1952 and "there's simply no hope that staggering amount of money will be recouped."

. . . back to List of News Stories

July 22/00 - AECL seeks more public funding to extend bid for selling CANDU to Turkey.

Globe and Mail
page B3

by Shawn McCarthy
Report on Business

Ottawa -- AECL is looking for bridge financing to allow its proposed bid to sell nuclear reactors to Turkey to proceed, until the cash-strapped country can afford to provide state guarantees for the entire project. AECL vice-president Bill Hancox said yesterday that he expects the Turkish government will delay, yet again, announcing the winning consortium that will supply the country with its first nuclear power plant at the Akkuyu site in southern Turkey.

The decision, which has been delayed several times, was postponed until Monday from last spring, but Mr. Hancox said the [Turkish] government cannot provide the loan guarantees needed to secure financing from the various proponents.

"I am expecting that they are not ready yet," said the AECL executive, who just returned from Turkey.

Federally owned AECL is competing with French-German consortium Nuclear Power International and a group headed by U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. for the $4-billion development.

However, Turkey is now operating under financial restrictions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and won't be able to issue the required loan guarantees -- which count as debt on a government's books -- for at least two years.

Both AECL and Westinghouse are looking for bridge financing, which would allow them to complete as much as $100-million worth of pre-construction engineering and environmental studies, as long as there is a firm commitment by the Turkish government to proceed.

"We're trying to make the project fit with their schedule and provide a solution," Mr. Hancox said yesterday.

While Ottawa has approved a $1.5-billion in financing from the Export Development Corp., Mr. Hancox said the initial financing would be done commercially and EDC involvement would kick in when Turkey was prepared to guarantee the loans.

AECL believes Turkey's financial problems may actually tilt the playing field in its favour since the Canadian consortium is offering to build two 700-megawatt reactors, which can be financed separately. Its two competitors are offering one 1,400-megawatt plant.

Meanwhile, anti-nuclear activist David Martin published a lengthy study yesterday that condemns the proposed sale, saying it would be costly and unsafe to build in an earthquake zone.

Mr. Martin said the Americans have, in the past, blocked the sale of nuclear material to Turkey because of safety concerns.

. . . back to List of News Stories


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