Population of Ukraine Continues to Suffer From Chernobyl Nuclear Catastrophe

Ionizing Radiation Increases Risk of Fatal Cancer

Virginia Power Nuclear Utility Withdraws from Plutonium Fuel Deal

In New Mexico the DOE plans to Hold Public Meetings on the Proposed Modifications to the WIPP Hazardous Waste Permit

*Last week the United States Senate voted to uphold a presidential veto of a bill which would have launched the largest nuclear waste transportation program in history to the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. If the Yucca Mountain site opens, tens of thousands of trucks and train casks would be traveling through 43 states, within a half-mile of homes of over 50 million Americans to the site by 2007. If built, the Yucca Mountain repository would serve as a final storage site for wastes from commercial nuclear reactors throughout the nation.

Since Congress voted to establish the nuclear waste repository in 1982, the project has encountered vehement opposition from a wide circle of politicians and citizen groups. Critics of the project point to the risks of a nuclear accident associated with frequent transports of high-level radioactive spent fuel rods on highways and railroads to Nevada. They also cite safety concerns with the proposed storage site at Yucca Mountain, which is located on a seismic fault line. Because the Senators voted no to override the President's veto, the "Mobile Chernobyl" bill was tabled.

*A statement was issued last week at the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting (or NPT) in New York by the five key nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France) where they vowed their "unequivocal commitment" to the goal of nuclear disarmament. Their statement received immediate criticism from nuclear disarmament groups and nuclear weapons free countries. The critics point out that the statement is inadequate, vague and contradictory. The nuclear weapons states are merely reiterating their legally binding obligations under the NPT to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, but they do not propose any concrete measures to actually achieve this goal.

The NPT, which took effect in 1970, bars countries that do not possess nuclear weapons from acquiring them in return for a pledge from nuclear-weapons states to pursue nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons free countries now complain that the nuclear powers have failed to conduct serious negotiations towards a nuclear-weapons free world, and that the latest commitment does not present new ideas or a concrete time frame.

Rebecca Johnson, editor of the arms journal Disarmament Monthly believes that the five nuclear weapons powers are "using buzzwords of 'unequivocal commitment' in the hopes that no one notices that they're not committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons any time soon."

*Responding to the U.S. administration's plans to deploy a multi-billion dollar national missile defense system, European leaders said they were concerned about the potentially damaging effects that such a system could have on Europe's security ties with the U.S.

The Clinton administration is currently trying to re-negotiate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (or ABM) with Russia. The Treaty, called the cornerstone of the arms control agreements, prohibits the deployment of a missile defense system. Scientists warn that irritating Russia by forcing changes in the ABM Treaty could jeopardize efforts to secure Russia's nuclear stockpile and prevent an accidental Russian missile launch. Documents that were presented to the Russians by U.S. negotiators and later obtained by The New York Times reveal that the U.S. negotiations are based on the expectation that "both the United States of America and the Russian Federation now possess and, as before, will possess under the terms of any possible future arms reduction agreements, large, diversified, viable arsenals of strategic offensive weapons..."

A wide array of critics fear that the deployment of a national missile defense system could mark the beginning of a new arms race.

*And locally in New Mexico, the Department of Energy will hold public meetings in Carlsbad and Santa Fe on their proposed modifications to the WIPP Hazardous Waste Permit issued by the New Mexico Environment Department last fall. The Carlsbad public meeting will be held at the Skeen-Whitlock Building on May 16. The Santa Fe public meeting will be held at the Santa Fe Hilton on May 18. For more details, please call CCNS at 986-1973.

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