MEXICANS FEAR FREE TRADE MAY YIELD NUCLEAR WASTE

MEXICANS FEAR FREE TRADE MAY YIELD NUCLEAR WASTE

Mexican ecologists, concerned about proposed construction of a nuclear waste site near the U.S.-Mexico border, expressed fear this week that Mexico could become a dumping ground for U.S. nuclear waste once a North American Free Trade Agreement is signed.

''It is unacceptable that radioactivity should figure among exports from Texas to Mexico," Homero Aridjis, poet and head of the ecological alliance Group of 100, told a news conference Tuesday.Aridjis was protesting proposals to build a nuclear waste disposal in Hudspeth, Texas, some 19 miles north of the border, warning the dump could be a sign of things to come.

Mexico, the United States and Canada are negotiating an agreement to liberalize trade links in North America.

"The nuclear waste dump will set a dangerous precedent just when our two countries are negotiating a North American Free Trade Agreement, which does not appear to be taking the environment into consideration," Mr. Aridjis said.

He also said the site would violate the principles behind the 1983 Integrated Border Environmental Plan signed by Mexico's Ecology Ministry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plan defines a 60 mile waste- free zone on either side of the border.

Ecologists on both sides of the border fear that radiation leaks from the proposed, unlined nuclear landfill could contaminate rivers in the Chihuahua Desert, which extends from west Texas into northern Mexico, and affect more than 1.5 million people in both countries.

Texas ecologist Linda Lynch, who also spoke at the news conference, noted there was an additional danger attached to the site, which is near the epicenters of several of the state's strongest earthquakes.