Waters off Halifax conceal radioactive shell casings

HALIFAX (22 September 1999) -- CBC News has learned that tons of potentially toxic radioactive material is sitting just off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The Canadian navy fired thousands of low-level radioactive shells into a target range near Halifax. Fishermen in the area say they had no idea depleted uranium was scattered over the fishing grounds.

The navy says the ammunition is safe, but nuclear experts disagree. Some say it could pose a serious hazard.

Until about a year ago the shells were fired from a Phalanx gun, which used shells made of depleted uranium, a byproduct of the nuclear industry. The hardened shells are used to penetrate armour plating. The guns were installed on Canadian ships just prior to the Gulf War.

Over the years the navy fired six tons of depleted uranium shells, mostly into a fishing area near Eastern Passage, off Halifax harbour.

The navy says the depleted uranium is safe. "From our viewpoint we have not dumped nuclear waste, that's stretching it," Lt.-Cmdr. Bill McKillip, a navy spokesman, told CBC TV.

Depleted uranium was widely used in the Gulf War. It is being blamed for cancers in Iraqi children and even for Gulf War Syndrome.

Now thousands of shell casings are lying a few kilometres offshore from Halifax. McKillip said there are no plans to either clean up the slugs or test to see if radioactive material has entered the food chain.

Written by CBC News Online staff

Source: http://cbc.ca/

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