Nuclear proposals at G8 would ensure the spread of nuclear weapons, groups warn

Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout
2006-07-13

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(version française)

Ottawa –  Agreements being sought at the G8 meetings in Russia would exacerbate the safety, security, environmental and proliferation risks of nuclear power on a global scale, says a coalition of Canadian environment groups. The Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout is calling on Canada's delegation to the G8 to take a strong and unequivocal position against any proposal which would lead to the expanded use of nuclear power and plutonium extraction.

"Leaders at the G8 need to place the interests of the international community ahead of the short-term interests of nuclear power lobbyists. More reactors in more countries means more bombs and more nuclear-armed countries. It's that simple," said Emilie Moorhouse, National Coordinator for CNP.

Russian G8 officials have indicated they are seeking support for a plan whereby nuclear supplier countries would retrieve the irradiated fuel from power reactors sold abroad and extract the plutonium from the spent fuel for future use. The Russian position is in line with the Bush administration's "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership" (GNEP) proposal to be put forward at the G8. GNEP would allow the U.S. and other specified countries to extract the weapons-usable plutonium from the stored irradiated fuel from "civilian" reactors in order to fuel a new generation of "breeder" reactors.

This suggestion comes at a time when the global community is at odds with both Iran and Korea over nuclear weapons, which can be made from either enriched uranium (as in the case of Iran) or plutonium (as in the case of Korea).

"Stephen Harper is preparing to follow George Bush, and take Canada further down the nuclear power path. It's a dirty, dangerous and expensive energy strategy. It cannot solve the climate change problem because of its high cost - it only changes one set of environmental problems for another," said Dave Martin of Greenpeace.

"G8 leaders must recognize the enormity of what is going on and act now to protect this and future generations," said Dr. Gordon Edwards, Chairman of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. "Building a new generation of nuclear power plants may well seal the fate of the entire planet, because it will proliferate the enrichment of uranium and accelerate the production of plutonium, the two key explosive materials needed for nuclear weapons. With a rapidly expanding nuclear power industry, these strategic nuclear materials will quickly become available to every country and terrorist group in the world, with incalculable consequences for us all."

Last April, at a "not for attribution" meeting held at Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, a Russian G8 official stated that developing countries needed to build nuclear power plants in order to meet their energy needs and that in order to avoid proliferation, spent fuel from such plants would be transferred back to developed nuclear power countries. The official stated that the US, France, Japan and the UK were on-side with the proposal.

Such a plan would actually increase the risk of proliferation and accidents as more reactors are built and the trade in trans-boundary shipments of radioactive waste and plutonium increases. Hundreds of communities in Canada in 1999-2000 passed resolutions against the transport of plutonium fuel (MOX) when the federal government allowed the importation of a small quantity of plutonium from Russia for "testing" at Chalk River (see: www.cnp.ca/issues/pu-backgrounder-2001.html). A G8 agreement promoting the expansion of nuclear power raises similar environment and safety concerns on a global scale.

"Only by phasing out nuclear power can we hope to forestall another round of nuclear weapons proliferation and prevent future nuclear disasters," said John Bennett, of the Sierra Club of Canada.

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For further information:

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, www.ccnr.org
Sierra Club of Canada, www.sierraclub.ca
Greenpeace, www.greenpeace.ca
Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout, www.cnp.ca

            

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