Sunday, July 6, 2008

Canada takes Iraq's uranium

Canada takes Iraq's uranium

Canada is the new home to a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium from Iraq, the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.

The 550 tonnes of "yellowcake," the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment, was sold to Canadian uranium producer Cameco Corp. in a transaction the official described as worth "tens of millions of dollars."

A ship carrying the cargo arrived yesterday in Montreal and Cameco spokesman Lyle Krahn said the yellowcake will be processed at facilities in Ontario for use in energy-producing reactors.

"We are pleased ... that we have taken (the yellowcake) from a volatile region into a stable area to produce clean electricity," he said.

However, there was no confirmation from the Port of Montreal. Robert Desjardins, co-ordinator of the port, said "we don't have any information" on such a shipment arriving there.

The deal culminated more than a year of intense diplomatic and military initiatives - kept hushed in fear of ambushes or attacks once the convoys were under way.

It was a significant step towards closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy.

But it also raises serious security concerns, an environmental activist said yesterday.

"I assume that this uranium still needs to be shipped from Montreal to Port Hope - if it hasn't already been sent. (It's) not clear whether that's going by land or by sea, could be either, or by air," said Dave Martin, the energy co-ordinator for Greenpeace Canada.

"I think Cameco and the Canadian government owe the Canadian public some disclosure on that front."

While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called "dirty bomb" - a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material - it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast.

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