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Russia: Canadians Worry About Russian Nuclear Waste

Ottawa, 24 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - A report issued by Canada's Foreign Affairs Committee says radioactive waste from Russian submarines and nuclear storage sites are a major threat to the Canadian North and other parts of the Arctic.

The Committee is made up of Members of Parliament from all parties and is chaired by William Graham. He told reporters in Ottawa this week that Russian subs which are no longer in use are floating Chernobyls1 and that there is evidence of leakage from Russian nuclear waste sites into the rivers that feed the Arctic Ocean.

He says this is an immediate threat -- nuclear leakages and other forms of pollution entering Arctic rivers -- and it1s going to be our problem whether we like it or not.

In its report, made public Tuesday, the Committee calls on the Canadian government to help Russia clean up the waste by providing financial help or expertise. Most nuclear assistance that Canada has offered in the past has been concerned with safety improvements at nuclear reactor sites.

The report also notes that the nuclear pollution problem requires tremendous co-operation between the Russian and United States1 government as well as other Arctic countries.

Another member of parliament on the Committee, Lee Morrison, says there is a serious problem with nuclear waste in Russia1s north and the bottom line is there is more nuclear material sitting around in one small area up there than there is anywhere else in the world and its not being properly cared for.

The Committee says the Foreign Affairs Department -- Canada's foreign ministry -- should create a special section just to deal with issues related to the region and that the government should build stronger links with its Arctic neighbors and make more use of the Arctic Council.

Canada played a key role in setting up the Council which brings together the eight nations around the Arctic to deal with environmental, development, social and other issues.

In Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said he welcomed the report and its strong endorsement of the Arctic Council. He promised his department will respond to the Committee report1s recommendations in coming months.