Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League<
P.O. Box 88     Glendale Springs,  NC  28629

Nuclear Information & Resource Service
1424 16th St. NW Suite 404    Washington, DC 20036

Physicians for Social Responsibility
Atlanta Chapter  421 Clifton Road     Atlanta,  GA  30307


March 22, 2000

For Immediate Release

  Mary Olson, NIRS Southeast  706-722-8968
  Janet Zeller, BREDL   336-982-2691
  Kevin Kamps, NIRS National Office   202-328-0002
  Ed Arnold, PSR/Atlanta   404-378-9078

Three Citizens' Organizations Join Legal Challenge to U.S. Nuclear Proliferation-Prone Plutonium Plan

On Tuesday, March 21,  Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Information and Resource Service joined the plaintiffs who sued the US Department of Energy to stop a U.S.-Russian-Canadian plan to use nuclear weapons plutonium as fuel in nuclear power reactors.  Citing grave concerns about the potential spread of plutonium for bombmaking throughout the world, the lawsuit seeks to halt an imminent test shipment of mixed oxide plutonium fuel, or MOX, from being transported to a test nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario from the Russian Federation.  The experiment is part of a bigger scheme to use MOX as reactor fuel in nuclear reactors in the Southeastern United States, Canada and Russia.
The plan would legitimize the commercialization and exportation of plutonium and may allow many nations and even independent groups to develop nuclear bomb capability.

The Chalk River test, named "Parallex," was first challenged in court last December when plaintiffs in Michigan and Canada sued the U.S. Department of Energy to halt shipment of the U.S. MOX fuel from being trucked from New Mexico to Ontario until there was a formal, public decision making process over the environmental and nuclear weapons proliferation impacts of the program. Judge Richard Alan Enslen ruled that while the Energy Department had acted in bad faith, courts could not stop the Executive Branch from conducting foreign policy.

The plaintiffs are asking the judge to reconsider that decision, and NIRS, PSR and BREDL now join Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Mohawk Council of Akwasasne, the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County, Northwatch, the Canadian Council for Nuclear Responsibility, and individuals in that request.

"The Department of Energy has already begun to disregard the law and trample our rights," said Janet Zeller, BREDL's Executive Director. "People from across the country must join together to block this reckless and secretive program and insure that the DOE obeys national and international law." BREDL is campaigning against the planned use of MOX fuel in six Southeastern U.S. reactors: Duke Power's Catawba 1&2 near Rock Hill, South Carolina; McGuire 1&2, near Charlotte, North Carolina; and Virginia Power's North Anna 1&2 reactors near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trial activity will resume on April 7 on the issues of whether the Russian shipment must be stopped because of  violations of federal environmental law and violation of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Physicians for Social Responsibility has actively opposed the MOX plan since its inception, primarily on the grounds that it promotes nuclear proliferation, rather than delivering the goal of making the plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons unavailable for further destructive purposes. The Atlanta chapter of the national organization has led professionals in the region in their action to oppose the commercialization of plutonium.

"Citizens everywhere want nuclear weapons abolished," said Ed Arnold, Executive Director of PSR/Atlanta. "We don't accomplish that by recirculating nuclear weapons material. And we don't abolish nuclear weapons by shipping bomb-grade plutonium all over the planet. This MOX program encourages nuclear proliferation and we must stop it."

NIRS, which launched a "NIX MOX" campaign in 1998, recently opened a Southeastern office to assist BREDL and other grassroots groups opposing MOX fuel usage and the spending of hundreds of millions in public funds to subsidize MOX fabrication, utility acceptance and reprocessing.

"Nuclear power is the most expensive form of energy and under utility deregulation is going to be subject to tough competition. The MOX program provides direct tax dollars to underwrite more dirty, dangerous nuclear waste production," said Kevin Kamps, nuclear specialist with NIRS. "This is an unfair subsidy that will disadvantage safer and cheaper power sources that have less hazardous byproducts. This is another reason that we are committed to stopping the MOX mistake."

"The people in the Southeast have gotten the picture loud and clear from the first shipment of MOX fuel to Canada that the US DOE will lie, cover their actions, take a cloak of secrecy and act above not only the law of the land, but also international treaty in order to accomplish their goals" affirmed Mary Olson, Director of NIRS Southeast Office. She continued, "This is the old National Security mythology applied to a so-called commercial enterprise, but in the end it is taxpayer dollars that are funding this program, so we are proud to support citizens in taking action to stop this charade." The first MOX shipment to Canada included transport within Canada by helicopter, despite DOE's acknowledgement that the MOX casks were not certified for air transport and the agency's assurances that no air travel would be involved

"The use of MOX creates more bomb possibilities around the world, not fewer," said Terry Lodge, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "Instead of rolling plutonium up in two-ton glass logs and disposing of it under heavy guard, our government instead wants to show the world how to fuel low-security civilian nuclear plants with it. There will be lots of scary new members to the 'Nuclear Club' if we do this."

The internationally-known Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), with nearly 6000 members, including more than 1000 U.S. grassroots groups nationwide, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Inc.  (BREDL), headquartered in North Carolina with 30 chapters
in five southern states, and the internationally known Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for educating about the dangers of nuclear weapons, are the latest public interest advocates to formally enter a federal lawsuit in Kalamazoo, Michigan which was brought by an array of Canadian and U.S. First Nations tribes and other nuclear power and weapons critics.

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More info: Excerpt from the Motion for Injunction, & March 21, 2000 filing.