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Judge Blocks Plutonium Shipment

December 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) _ A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the shipment of plutonium through Michigan, saying there are questions about whether the Department of Energy did enough study of potential environmental effects.

The shipment is part of a test to determine whether commercial nuclear reactors in Canada can use material from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons as fuel.

U.S. District Chief Judge Richard Enslen issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting any shipments to Canada until Dec. 17.

U.S. Department of Energy lawyers had no comment after the ruling. In court, they told the judge that delaying the shipment could hurt U.S. credibility in negotiating nuclear disarmament treaties.

Alice Hirt, one of six individuals who filed a lawsuit along with the group Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, welcomed the decision.

``We have stopped them from proceeding, and now they’ve got to prove that they don’t need to have an environmental impact statement,″ she said.

The federal government conducted public meetings and an environmental assessment, but did not do a more extensive environmental impact statement that the plaintiffs argued was required.

Department of Energy officials insist the shipment of 4.25 ounces of plutonium would be safe. In court Tuesday, the government said the plutonium will be transported in an armored tractor-trailer with heavily armed guards.

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