obliged to report nuclear stash: U.S. expert - Size of plutonium stockpile
should not be secret
The Toronto Globe and Mail (Torento), November
By Martin Mittelstaedt, Environment Reporter
-- Canada should reveal the size of its plutonium stockpile, says a
prominent U.S. nuclear non-proliferation expert who estimates that this
country may have enough fissile material to make five nuclear weapons.
Clements, head of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, said
Canada has conducted extensive studies on the use of plutonium in nuclear
reactors and has sent spent reactor fuel that contains plutonium abroad
for processing, but that it provides fewer details on these activities
than other major countries.
Clements said Canada could have about 40 kilograms of plutonium. He
based that estimate on the amount of spent fuel shipped out of the country
and said the location and ownership of the plutonium remaining is not
International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog,
said eight kilograms of plutonium separated, or removed, from spent
fuel is a critical amount for bomb-making purposes.
have separated plutonium means you're a de facto nuclear-weapons state,"
Mr. Clements said. "The mere possession of separated plutonium has nuclear
weapons implications with it."
stocks of material that could be made into nuclear weapons have come
under scrutiny after a revelation earlier this month in the British
House of Commons that spent Canadian reactor fuel has been sent to England
is known about the size of Canada's stockpile of fissile material because
it is kept secret under security regulations.
plutonium holders -- including the United States, Russia, Britain, France
and Switzerland -- have agreed to comply with the international agency's
extensive disclosure and security guidelines on plutonium, but Canada
don't see how Canada can claim leadership in disarmament and non-proliferation
when they won't even declare their own plutonium stocks," Mr. Clements
said in an interview.
people think Canada doesn't have any plutonium," he said, adding that
this view is not correct.
Locatelli, spokeswoman at the Atomic Energy Control Board, the federal
nuclear watchdog, said she can't reveal how much fissile material Canada
has because of regulations designed to foil potential adversaries. "We
aren't able to give out that information under our security regulations,"
Locatelli said Canada believes it shouldn't come under the IAEA guidelines
because it doesn't operate its own reprocessing facilities.
Clements called the Canadian position a "lame excuse" for not reporting.
Switzerland, Belgium and Germany report this information, even though
they do not operate such facilities. He said openness about stocks of
fissile material leads to better monitoring.
are an estimated 1,350 tonnes of plutonium in the world, enough for
about 170,000 warheads.
than 80 per cent of the plutonium was created as an unwanted byproduct
in civilian nuclear power plants. Canada has the world's third-largest
holding of power-plant plutonium, 97 tonnes, according to figures compiled
by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.
The United States, with 304 tonnes, holds the most, followed by Japan,
with 120 tonnes.
plutonium isn't a big worry for nuclear-proliferation purposes because
it is contained in spent fuel, where it is protected from terrorists
or rogue governments by deadly radiation. But when it is reprocessed,
spent nuclear fuel yields fissile plutonium.
this month, a written answer to a question raised in the British Commons
indicated Canada has a long-term contract with British Nuclear Fuels
PLC for reprocessing spent reactor fuel.
concluded a contract to reprocess a quantity of Canadian spent fuel
in 1970 and that fuel covered by this contract has been delivered to
Sellafield," the site of the country's reprocessing facility, said Helen
Liddell, Britain's minister for energy and competitiveness.
Ontario Power Generation said it isn't involved.
Energy of Canada Ltd. won't disclose its stocks of fissile material,
citing nuclear-safety regulations. Canada's use of plutonium is under
further scrutiny because of the federal government's aggressive push
to have surplus Russian and U.S. stocks of the Cold War bomb material
used in Ontario nuclear reactors as fuel.
researchers told an international symposium in Vienna earlier this year
that the company has created about 3,500 individual fuel elements, weighing
nearly 2,300 kilograms, that contain some plutonium. The IAEA plutonium
guidelines require special precautions, including reliable systems to
protect against unauthorized use for amounts of more than eight kilograms.