January 2000

Plutonium Arrives Safely in Canada

Associated Press, January 14, 2000

[Posted 17/01/2000]

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A shipment of weapons-grade plutonium arrived safely in Canada early Friday after passing through Michigan overnight, a congressman said.

``We are very pleased that there has not been a problem,'' Rep. Bart Stupak said. ``Everything has arrived safely. There has been no harm to our environment, or the health or safety of northern Michigan.'' Stupak had pushed for greater safety measures after the shipment was announced in September.

The controversial shipment was part of the Parallex Project, a joint American-Russian experiment to determine whether commercial nuclear reactors in Canada can use material from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons as fuel.

The plutonium -- 4.2 ounces -- was sent from a laboratory in New Mexico to a nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario.

The shipment drew sharp opposition from many Michigan officials and citizens, who said trucking the radioactive material across the state -- including over the Mackinac Bridge -- posed great danger.

A federal judge last month rejected a request by environmental groups to block the shipment.

Federal officials said the experiment was crucial to U.S. efforts to help Russia dismantle nuclear weapons. They insisted it would be a one-time event, although critics said they believed it would be only the first of many shipments of nuclear material through Michigan.

``Because of the input of the people of northern Michigan, we've had much greater safety and security on the shipment and it arrived safely,'' Stupak said. ``Without our objections, those extra safety precautions never would have take place.''

Stupak's office was not notified of the shipment until it had nearly reached its destination, spokesman Bob Meissner said. It apparently crossed the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie around 4 a.m., he said.

At a public hearing last fall in Sault Ste. Marie, some protesters threatened to place their own bodies in the truck's path to keep it from crossing the bridge.

No details were immediately available on the route taken. Earlier, the Energy Department had said the truck would cross the Lower Peninsula using Interstates 94, 69 and 75.

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