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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 49, August 2000

Canada to Fly in More Russian Plutonium for Reactor Trials

On July 28, Canada announced a decision to fly a small amount of Russian fissile material, rendered surplus by nuclear arms reductions, to the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario. The material - 14.5 kilograms (32 lbs) of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, including 530 grams (1 lb) of plutonium - will be burnt in a nuclear reactor as part of a trail exploring the option of converting much larger amounts of surplus materials into commercially usable fuel. In the words of Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy: "These tests demonstrate Canada's commitment to nuclear disarmament." The scheme is, however, bitterly opposed, both on safety grounds and out of a suspicion that its real intent is to provide cheap fuel to the nuclear energy sector rather than taking the material permanently out of circulation. A first delivery of Russian material to Chalk River was made by helicopter in January, following large protests at original plans to transport it by sea and land.

Canada had originally offered to conduct trials on both Russia and US surplus fissile materials, but as Canada's Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters on July 28, US Energy Secretary Richardson "has indicated to me that they would deal with their own plutonium using their own procedures and their own facilities."

Report: Canada to fly in Russian plutonium for reactor test, Reuters, July 28.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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