Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 40, September - October 1999
Canada-US Plutonium Trial AgreementEditor's note: see News Review in issue 39 for background to this controversial initiative.
US Energy Department Press Release
"Agreement Reached on Joint Non-Proliferation Experiment", US Energy Department Press Release R-99-229, September 2, 1999.
"The Department of Energy (DOE) has reached agreement with the Government of Canada to ship a small quantity of mixed oxide nuclear [MOX] fuel to Canada for a one-time test called Project Parallex. This effort is part of a Department of Energy non-proliferation project to obtain, with the co-operation of the Canadian Government, the technical information that would become part of potential international agreements that use the Canadian Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactors to help dispose of Russian weapons-grade plutonium.
The agreement involves the shipment of nine fuel rods, containing less than 120 grams of plutonium, from the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to the Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited, test reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. The material will cross into Canada at Sault Saint Marie, Mich. The shipment of United States and Russian fuel is expected to take place this fall… ".
Details of the agreement are available from the DOE's website: http://www.doe-md.com/
Canadian Comment and Reaction
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, September 2: "The MOX [mixed oxide] fuel test is a step forward in getting rid of nuclear weapons, and the Government of Canada is committed to decreasing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Eliminating the risk of theft and proliferation posed by plutonium weapons helps us reach this goal".
New Democratic Party (NDP) Spokesperson Bill Blaikie, September 2:
"This project will secure a longer life to the nuclear industry, but make Canada the dumping ground for roughly one-third of the excess plutonium generated by the US and Russia...".
Editor's note: In 1998 the Canadian Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Policy unanimously recommended that "… the Government reject the idea of burning MOX fuel in Canada because this option is totally unfeasible, but that it continue to work with other governments to address the problem of surplus fissile material". Tabled in the Canadian House of Commons, December 10, 1998.
Sources: Canada to test US, Russian plutonium fuel, Reuters, September 2; Canada to test-burn nuke waste, Associated Press, September 3. Relevant website, Canadian House of Commons: http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/nucchallenge/annexb-e.htm
© 1999 The Acronym Institute.