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For release March 16, 1998
Ottawa -- Organizations and individuals around the world are participating today in an international day of action against the use of weapons plutonium as reactor fuel. In Canada, public interest groups are protesting federal government support for the nuclear industry's plan to import weapons plutonium (MOX fuel) for use in CANDU reactors. Events are being held in Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
The first step in the plan is to bring plutonium--extracted from dismantled Russian and American nuclear weapons--to Chalk River Nuclear Labs for testing. Though the U.S. shipment was originally set for late last year, it was postponed until this spring after a flood of Canadian protests to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over the lack of environmental assessment in Canada.
"Unlike the U.S., the Chrétien government has refused to do an environmental assessment of the upcoming transport of plutonium into Canada," says Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada. "Any Canadian environmental assessment of the plutonium import plan is years away and will not address the fundamental question of whether it should proceed at all."
Kristen Ostling of the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout notes the U.S. DOE pushed back the first shipment to allow for analysis of health risks to Canadians in the event of a transportation accident. "It is shocking that the Prime Minister has given such enthusiastic support for the transport of a highly toxic substance through Canadian communities-particularly when the DOE has identified a credible accident scenario that would release plutonium in a form that could be inhaled by people along the route," she says.
Another concern, says Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, is the nuclear waste issue. "Importing plutonium assumes that Canada will keep the nuclear waste forever," he says. "So we are burdening future generations with guarding this plutonium fuel waste in perpetuity." This concern, he notes, has been heightened with Friday's announcement that Canada has no acceptable disposal scheme for high level nuclear waste.
Critics are also condemning the absence of public consultation or parliamentary debate on this issue and are calling for the immediate cancellation of the project. "If the government of Canada doesn't take this proposal off the table, it could be locked into an irreversible decision which would see weapons plutonium entering Canada on a monthly basis for at least a quarter of a century," says Neil Sinclair of the Saskatoon-based Inter-Church Uranium Committee.
In concert with the world-wide protests, over 200 groups in North America, Europe and Asia are issuing a joint declaration against their governments' support for the use of plutonium as a reactor fuel. Prominent Canadian signatories include Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Ursula Franklin and Dr. David Suzuki.
Marc Chénier, of the Centre d'analyse des politiques énergétiques, has doubts about the motivations behind the proposal. "How dare the government describe this scheme as a 'swords into ploughshares' initiative when it will integrate public organizations, such as Ontario Hydro, into the military-industrial complex of the world's nuclear superpowers," says Chénier.
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For more information:
Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout (613-789-3634) Sierra Club of Canada (613-241-4611) Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (613-789-3634) Centre d'analyse des politiques énergétiques (514-527-2712) Nuclear Information and Resource Service, (202-328-0002)
Also available: Joint International Declaration on Weapons Plutonium
List of March 16th actions in Canada, Russia and the United States
What: Plutonium Press Conference When: 11:30 a.m. est Who: CNP, Sierra Club of Canada, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Centre d'analyse des politiques énergétiques, Inter-Church Uranium Committee Where: Charles Lynch Press Conference Room, House of Commons Contact: Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, Tel: 613-789-3634
What: Parliament Hill protest When: 12:00 noon Who: Sierra Youth Coalition, Greenpeace-Ottawa, EnviroAction Where: Steps leading to House of Commons Contact: Sierra Youth Coalition, Tel: 613-241-4611
Sarnia, Ont./ Port Huron, MI.
What: American demonstration at Canada-U.S. border A "Mock MOX" truck will follow one of the three proposed transportation route while being pursued by the "people's plutonium police". Rallies will be held in South Bend, Indiana and Kalamazoo and Lansing, Michigan culminating in a rally at the Canada- U.S.border. When: 5:30 p.m. Who: Nuclear Energy & Information Service (Illinois), Citizens action Coalition (Indiana), For Mother Earth, World Tree Center, Don't Waste Michigan, Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (Michigan) Where: Blue Water Bridge border crossing, public area north of bridge Contact: World Tree Center for Peace, Justice and Mother Earth, Tel: 616-383-9317 Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two, Tel: 734-457-0359
What: Rally and demonstration in front of Deputy Prime Minster Herb Grey's office When: 4:00 p.m. Who: Citizens Environment Allliance of Southwestern Ontario Where: MP Herb Grey's office, 1537 Ouellette Ave. Contact: Citizens Environment Allliance of Southwestern Ontario, Tel: 519-973-1116
What: Plutonium Information Vigil When: 12:00 noon Who: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF-BC), the Nanoose Conversion Campaign (NCC), Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA), and the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW-BC) Where: Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. Contact: NCC, Tel: 604-351-1416, WILPF-BC, Tel: 604-536-3047 VANA, Tel: 604-985-7147
What: Artistic protest, news conference, an information booth When: All day Who: Mouvement Vert Mauricie Where: Université du Québec à Trois- Rivieres (UQTR) Contact: Comité Action Buto, Mouvement Vert Mauricie, Tel: (819) 532-2855
What: Demonstration / news conference Who: Inter-Church unranium Committee When: 12:00 noon Where: in front of Cameco's offices Contact: ICUC, Tel: 306-934-3030
Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout