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Canada sending 'observer' to nuclear partnership meeting

North Bay Nugget: September 15, 2007

Canada will send an "observer" to a major international conference on nuclear energy, scheduled to start Sunday in Vienna.

Canada's plans for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, an initiative launched by U.S. President George W. Bush last year, had been unclear until Friday, when Foreign Affairs issued a terse statement about sending an official as observer.

The move delays what could be a controversial decision, one that might see Canada getting into the business of reprocessing nuclear waste.

"This will permit us to monitor developments of the GNEP and Canada will make a decision about joining the partnership at a later date," Eugenie Cormier- Lassonde, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, said Friday.

"The next step and its implications will be carefully considered by the government."

The new partnership - which includes the United States, France, Japan, China and Russia - proposes that nuclear energy-using countries and uranium-exporting countries form a new association to improve safeguards in the industry.

"This international partnership seeks to build a new course for the nuclear industry, one with deeper and more thorough guarantees on non-proliferation," said Cormier- Lassonde.

But the plan also includes a proposal that could see Canada accepting, storing and refining used nuclear fuel from other countries. The idea would be to send the spent fuel back to the original uranium exporting country for disposal.

Canada is the world's largest uranium exporter.

Opposition parties have suggested that the Conservative government has already decided to sign on, but is leery of a public backlash against accepting radioactive waste.

The Green party urged the government Friday to shun the Vienna meeting.

"The GNEP operates under the guise of non-proliferation by requiring countries to take back highly radioactive waste, but its true purpose is to act as a security blanket for the nuclear industry by increasing export of uranium and reactor technologies," said Green Leader Elizabeth May.

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