Tritium Update

By Anne Hanson

IN AUGUST 1989, Ontario's new Energy Minister Lyn McLeod announced approval for somewhat restricted sales of Ontario Hydro's tritium. This decision permits tritium shipments to fusion projects in England, West Germany, Italy and Japan-but not to fusion labs run by the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE), the bomb-making agency. Roughly 95% of the world's tritium inventory is used for making bombs.

ONTARIO PREMIER David Peterson says the decision to export was made with confidence that the titium would not contribute to weapons proliferation. Not everyone shares that confidence. First, even improved Ontario regulations may not curtail the likelihood of illegal diversions of tntium. In 1989, about 2.5 grams went missing in a transaction involving the U.S. DOE and a British company. A comparable amount disappeared from a North Carolina firm, and 42 smaller losses have been revealed.

Energy Probe, Nuclear Awareness Project, and about 30 other groups have for years objected strenuously to a proposed Canada-U.S. tritium deal. In addition to concerns about possible diversion, they stressed that even truly "civilian" tritium sales from Ontario Hydro would mean more bombs, by letting U.S. DOE keep the tritiurn it now sells to civilian customers.

In 1986, Premier David Peterson promised that he would not approve tritium sales unless he was assured "that its availability will not make available an equivalent amount of tritium in military stocks for use in nuclear weapons.

Despite the evidence, Premier Peterson has now dismissed the displacement argument and forgotten his past promise-repeated as recently as April 14 1989, by Robert Wong, who was Peterson's energy minister when Cabinet approved the deal!

Less than four grams of tritium can suffice for one nuclear bomb. The Ontario government recently announced that precisely this amount of tritium is destined for a Boston pharmaceutical firm. This company is an existing DOE customer that would have been able to buy tritiurn regardless.

Put two and two together, and you get not an increase in the amount of pharmaceutical research carried out in the world, but the liberation of one bomb's worth of tritium for the U.S. DOE. So there you have it: the first Ontario Hydro/Ontano government nuclear bomb!

THERE IS STILL TIME to convince the Ontario government that our electrical utility has no mandate to feed nuclear bomb stockpiles. Energy Minister Lyn Mcleod seems to like peace and disarmament, having been active in peace issues in her northern Ontario riding before becoming elected. She has stated publicly that the tritium sales decision was made before she was made Energy Minister, and that all future sales will need express approval by Ontario Cabinet.

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1990

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1990, page 26. Some rights reserved.

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