Documents show that one shipment of nuclear material has been moved to the United States as part of a deal signed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Obama Administration last year. The amount of nuclear material slated to be hauled from a site in Chalk River, Ontario to locations within the U.S. is the equivalent of “several Hiroshima-sized bombs” according the CBC report.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, however, has no plans to reveal the size, time, or type of shipments to any communities that the materials will travel through, citing fears of terrorism or criminal attacks. The memorandum is dated February 25, 2011 and states that the watchdog agency believes that it is “unnecessary” to hold public forums that would give citizens a chance to ask questions or express concerns about the materials or methods of transport.
Only authorized personnel or government agencies like fire and police forces along the routes will be notified about the details. The CNSC states that theft is of much greater concern in shipping this type of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) than the possibility of accidents or spills.
The article quotes nuclear expert Bill Garland as saying that the types of containers used for these substances are resistant to road accidents, chemicals, fires, and explosions.
Garland agrees with the decision by the Canadian and U.S. governments to keep the shipments secret, “If I were the people doing the shipping and so on, I’d want to keep as low a profile as possible,” he says, “You don’t want to give terrorists or criminals any advantage.”
Because of the precautions taken in moving HEU, Garland says that people are much more at risk sharing highways with trucks carrying chemicals that are less sensationalized but much more dangerous like gasoline and chlorine.
The uranium was originally sent to Canada from the U.S. for use in medical technology, resulting in a backlog of materials at the Chalk River site that potentially could be used to create weapons. Once the materials are back in the U.S., they can be converted to a form that will be useless for building bombs or other weapons.
The process of moving them to U.S. to be downgraded is part of a broader Obama administration initiative to consolidate and secure enriched uranium around the world.
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