Earlier this month, the U-S completed a controversial shipment of
weapons grade plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest
before the event, the material was shipped without any public
As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston points
out, this sets a dangerous precedent:
Earlier this month, the U.S. completed a controversial shipment of weapons-grade
plutonium to Canada. Despite considerable protest before the event, the material was
shipped without public knowledge. This sets a dangerous precedent, as Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s commentator Suzanne Elston points out:
Proponents of the plan think it’s a good idea. Take plutonium from dismantled nuclear
weapons, mix it with uranium and use it for fuel in nuclear reactors. The process
doesn’t destroy the plutonium, but what it does do is make it very difficult to use.
Supporters hope that this will prevent the plutonium from falling into the wrong
The plan had been in the works for several years. The problem was getting the stuff
from Los Alamos, New Mexico to an experimental nuclear facility in Chalk River,
Ontario. As soon as the public got wind of the trucking routes there were howls of
protest, particularly from a group of activists in Michigan. They were concerned about
the risks of an accident when the plutonium was shipped through their community. They
were desperately trying to get a court injunction to stop the plutonium from being
shipped when it was discovered that the stuff had already been sent.
There was no public input, no warning – nothing. Even the mayors of Sault Ste. Marie,
the towns where the plutonium crossed the border into Canada weren’t notified until
after the event. And because the whole thing went off without any problems, officials
were rather pleased with themselves. They duped the public, nobody got hurt – mission
I find this really scary. Whether the shipment was safe or not isn’t the issue here.
Not only does the public have a right to know what was going on, they also have the
right to stop it, if that’s the will of the people. But that right was taken away by
the boys at the Department of Energy and Atomic Energy Canada who seemed to think they
know better somehow.
Well guess what? That’s not what the democratic process is all about. Public input –
regardless of how inconvenient – has got to be considered. Just because a plan is
proposed, doesn’t mean that it should go ahead. Debate is the cornerstone of
democratic process. One of the possible outcomes of that debate is that the public
will exercise its right to say no.
But that wasn’t allowed to happen here. We the people are supposed to decide. That’s
Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario. She comes to us
by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.