Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Plutonium on way to Canada

copyright 1999 Mark Bellis
CORNWALL, SEPT 29 - Neither the Mohawk reserve of Akwesasne or the City of Cornwall want a shipment of plutonium from Russian nuclear weapons scheduled to arrive in their community before the end of the year.
"Why does it have to be here?" asked Mike Mitchell, Grand Chief of the Canadian side of the Mohawk reserve which is across from Cornwall at a conference hosted by the federal government to address community concerns in Cornwall Wednesday.
132 grams of plutonium will arrive by ship from St. Petersburg, Russia sometime in the near future, said Brian Moore, director of the Nuclear Energy Division of Natural Resources Canada. The plutonium, mixed with uranium, will be taken by road from Cornwall to the nuclear research centre at Chalk River, north of Ottawa and used in test in a nuclear reactor along with plutonium from American nuclear weapons which will arrived from Los Alamos via road through Sault Ste-Marie at about the same time.
Moore said the plutonium cannot produce a nuclear explosion and is shipped in a special disaster resistant container with a locator beacon that will allow it to be recovered if lost underwater.
Mitchell said the shipments would further degrade the image of Akwesasne, which has suffered for years from violence associated with smuggling and illegal gambling and would frustrate their attempts to attract legitimate business investments. Cornwall Mayor Brian Sylvester said he and Cornwall city council feared that the experimental shipments, three in all, from Russia, would lead to Cornwall becoming the port of entry for Russian Plutonium if Canada started a commercial program to use plutonium from weapons in nuclear reactors. The Interational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Mayors' Conference, which represents communities near the shipment routes and the council of the Mohawk reserve at Kahnawake on the Seaway near Montreal by which the shipment from Russia will come have both passed resolutions opposing the shipments.
Russia and the United Started have declared they have a surplus of 50 tonnes each of plutonium from weapons they have destroyed under the START I nuclear arms reduction program signed in 1991, and Sylvester worried more of the 50 tonnes would pass through Cornwall.
But Moore said that Canada has no commercial reactor licensed to use the plutonium fuel being tested at Chalk River.

David Cox, of Atomic Energy Canada Limited, which has the contract to run the tests at Chalk River, says that reducing Russia's surplus plutonium is a big concern of the United States, since he says security is light at the facility in Moscow where the surplus plutonium is stored and it is feared that material or know-how could fall into the hands of other countries.(By "light", Cox said that when his group visited the nuclear stockpile in Moscow, they just had to pass one guy in jeans reading a paperback to get into the plutonium storage area, in contrast to the American facility in New Mexico, which was basically a fort, with tank traps and razor wire fences guarded by military personel.)

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