Canada’s nuke connections

Navigating the line between the peaceful atom, which is the province of my book, and military nuclear weapons, was always going to be tricksy. On the one hand, I am of course interested in what nexus there is between reactors and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, I don’t want to get caught up in nuclear weapons history itself; the topic is just too big to be included willy nilly. Here’s the notes I took from a Canadian academic book from a couple of decades ago:

Canadian military forces would in due course be equipped with nuclear arms. . . . However, they would never be placed at the independent disposition of the Canadian government, and such use as might have been made of them was closely constrained by NATO and American military policy . . . Once Canada acceded to the [NPT] – which occasioned little public debate – the great majority of these arms were quickly phased out.

Should I pursue this in my book? I’m aware that some folks would consider I should. But here’s the thing. Canada always foreswore the bomb. It’s one of the few nations that had no sneaky side motives when it commenced its pursuit of nuclear power after WWII. Sure, its uranium went into American bombs. Sure, its very first research reactors helped some of the American nuclear research in aid of bombs. Sure, as the notes above indicate (and I must admit I wasn’t aware of these issues) Canada briefly held American nukes. But all of these steps simply reflected Canada being an integral part of the American alliance. None of these aspects of Canadian policy suggest any causal linkage between Canada’s emerging, rather individualistic nuclear reactors and any desire by the nation for a nuke. So in the end, I’m going to make no mention of the above quote. Am I right or wrong? Who knows.


Buckley, Brian. 2000. Canada’s Early Nuclear Policy: Fate, Chance, and Character. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. 129.