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[cdn-nucl-l] Goodale reply to Edwards on MOX
Thursday 21 October 1999
Consider facts on nuclear tests before passing judgment
The Ottawa Citizen
In a letter to the editor that appeared in your paper on Oct. 7, Gordon
Edwards appears to be inciting fear and anguish by raising the spectre of a
nuclear disaster in Canada ("Citizens should just say no to plutonium
imports''). It is important for all Canadians to have all the facts.
The government of Canada's first and foremost concern is with public health
and safety and the environment.
Canada's nuclear regulatory system is one of the most stringent in the
world. Canada has been in the nuclear business for more than 50 years.
During that time, we have had an excellent safety record and developed
unrivalled products and expertise.
Mr. Edwards erroneously states that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)
intends to import 100 tons of weapons-grade plutonium into Canada. This is
simply not true.
AECL is importing a very small amount -- 240 grams -- to test its
performance in Candu reactors. The plutonium to be used in AECL's test would
enter Canada as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, not as pure plutonium. The mix is
only three per cent plutonium oxide, with 97 per cent uranium oxide.
Moreover, Canada is only committing to test this MOX fuel. I have stated in
the House of Commons that if there is any decision to be taken that goes
beyond the mere testing -- which is already covered by the licensing at
AECL's Chalk River Laboratories -- there will be a full public review that
will cover all environmental, health and safety requirements as provided in
either federal or provincial law.
The government believes that Canadians share a common desire to rid the
world of nuclear weapons. We believe that Canadians are prepared to take
appropriate action, if public health and safety and the environment are not
compromised in the process. Canada's support in principle for the use of MOX
fuel to make weapons-grade plutonium effectively inaccessible for use in
nuclear weapons is aimed in this positive direction.
Mr. Edwards advocates phasing out nuclear technology. Would Canadians really
want to do without all nuclear applications? The unique technology in our
Candu reactors, for example, currently supplies on average about 15 per cent
of our domestic energy needs.
Nuclear technology also plays a large part in our daily lives in many other
ways. It protects the quality of our water and sterilizes food. It is used
in gauges that help us produce consumer products such as paper and laundry
detergent. And in the middle of the night, when a smoke detector goes off at
the first hint of fire, we can thank nuclear technology for saving another
Think about the impact of nuclear technology on medicine. Almost every
Canadian will at one time or another experience first-hand the use of
nuclear technology in medical diagnostics or therapeutic procedures to treat
a range of health problems -- everything from infections to cancer and heart
Nuclear medicine is less invasive than surgery, and the level of radiation
is about the same as many dental X-rays. Every day, across the country,
doctors use nuclear medicine as an effective early-detection system.
I invite all readers to consult our Web site, www.nuclear.nrcan.gc.ca, to
get the facts about nuclear energy.
Ralph Goodale, Ottawa,
Minister, Natural Resources Canada