Fishermen assured underwater depleted uranium safe

HALIFAX (25 September 1999) -- Fishermen along Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore say they are convinced the lobster they catch has not been contaminated by depleted uranium. Earlier this week the fishermen were shocked by reports from the CBC that the Navy had left six tonnes of the radioactive material on the ocean floor.

Up until a year ago, Navy warships used to conduct target practices near the fishing grounds using shells made of depleted uranium.

The same material is suspected of causing illnesses associated with the Gulf War, but the Navy says the ammunition is safe.

The Navy met with fishermen for an hour this week to clear up the situation. One fisherman who sat in on the talk said "We're completely convinced that there's no problem with the food chain."

All the same, the fishermen are going ahead with an independent test on the health of the fish stocks near the depleted uranium shells.

The Canadian military is paying for the study being conducted by a scientist at Dalhousie University.

The Navy says both Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries approved the firing of the shells 10 years ago.

A spokesman says the Navy is only paying for the test because the officials are willing to "put our money where our mouth is."

The depleted uranium shells, made of a material that's a byproduct of the nuclear industry, were fired from a Phalanx gun. The guns were installed on Canadian ships just before the Gulf War.

The hardened shells are used to penetrate armour plating. Now thousands of shell casings are lying a few kilometres offshore from Halifax

Written by CBC News Online staff


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