Canadian Nuke Company Connected to Kazakh Investigation

Oops!  A nuker lost his job as head honcho at Kazatomprom, a state-owned nuke company in Kazakhstan.  And there’s a Canuckian connection:

Dzhakishev went on trial in January, charged with stealing 99.8 million tenge (about $679,000) during the opening of the Kazatomprom’s representative office in Vienna. He was ousted as head of the company last May and later arrested on suspicion of embezzling state shares in uranium deposits, including one co- owned by Canada’s Uranium One Inc., by transferring them to offshore companies. An investigation into the charge continues.

It’s an interesting case, to be sure.   A series of YouTube vids were investigated.

Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor General’s Office in November ordered a probe into video clips posted on YouTube of Dzhakishev answering investigators’ questions. In the clips, Dzhakishev says his removal from Kazatomprom facilitated an alleged Russian strategy to block the company’s plan to supply nuclear fuel to Japan, consigning Kazakhstan to the role of a supplier of raw materials.

I don’t speak the language so we’ll have to go with the translation suggested in these articles.

Dzhakishev will spend 14 years in jail, but Mr. Google’s not revealing a thing about the allegations he made regarding the Ruskies’ strategy.   Dear Reader, please let me know if you find any more about it.

Successful Slovakian No-Nukes Campaign (& More)

The Slovakian Parliament responded favourably to a petition from the people of Slovakia.  Environmentalists organized a petition drive to give local citizens a stronger voice.

This week the campaign was victorious when, in a momentous decision, the Slovak parliament agreed on legal changes to geological and mining laws to give more power and control to local communities, municipal and regional authorities. This will allow them stop or limit geological research of uranium deposits and to stop proposed uranium mining.

The pro-nukers won’t be too happy about that, I’m sure.  But hey, they’re watching the markets.  And the nukers are wetting their pants about Cameco’s move back to full operation by 2013.  They really do think they can sell nuclear as green.  Scary, huh?

More and more, however, people are stepping up and saying that nukes are not green, nukes won’t work to solve our energy woes, nukes kill.  Why, then, do the nukers persist?

More Nuke News

Not a lot of people liking President O’s greenwashing of nukes.  This most excellent article in the Guardian dispels the myth that nukes are green.

The argument that nuclear is “carbon-free” conveniently omits the entire process of mining uranium, which produces greenhouse gases, along with other pollutants. In Virginia, where a study has just been commissioned to determine its safety, uranium is mined in open pits. This destroys topsoil and increases runoff, which contaminates drinking water with cancer-causing toxins.

The uranium-enrichment process also emits greenhouse gases and is highly wasteful. Eighty percent of the ore that goes through the enrichment process ends up as waste. And this is to say nothing of the lye, sulfuric acid, and other caustic agents that must be used to turn the uranium into reactor-ready fuel.

While on the surface, the steam billowing from the cooling tower of a nuclear reactor is less harmful than the toxic smoke that spews from a coal plant, nuclear reactors still create byproducts that are dangerous to human health and welfare. There’s also the huge problem of radioactive nuclear waste, which can stay hot for hundreds of thousands of years. Storing the radioactive waste isn’t just a security threat; there’s potential for radioactive chemicals to leak, as they are in Vermont and at other aging reactors around the country.

It’s clear to me that the US Prezzie doesn’t read P’n’P.  Perhaps you could invite him to do so via this handy form?

The folks at nuclear news have that article available, as well as a fantastic sidebar, The Very Secret Costs of Nuclear Power.  From their site:

Well it is impossible for anyone to estimate the real costs of nuclear power, as only a narrow range of costs are discussed, even where the nuclear industry is supposedly privately owned.

1. The nuclear weapons industry is so connected with nuclear power, and the costs on the nuclear weapons industry are huge.

2. Where the nuclear industry is state owned - e.g. in France, Russia, China, South Korea, taxation, and the costs of electricity are manipulated, and figures given out for nuclear costs are not really reliable.

Secrecy about the nuclear industry is essential anyway, for security reasons. But it is also convenient, as no-one really knows how much it costs for state-owned nuclear facilities to manage nuclear waste. Well, there are ‘cheap’ options used, as we learn from time, with nuclear waste dumping occurring secretly, and without regard for the environment or the people, (usually poor communities, indigenous and rural people.) Eventually someone has to pay for the long-term costs.

Back at home, the nukers are bragging about their exploration in Quebec’s Otish Mountains.

Ditem Explorations /quotes/comstock/11v!dit (CA:DIT 0.08, 0.00, 0.00%) is pleased to report that the 2010 exploration program on the Company’s Otish Mountains uranium property in Quebec is underway. A fully operational camp has been established to accommodate geophysical and drilling crews. Drilling on the first hole began yesterday.

They don’t get that they’re involved in ecological racism. And that sux!  The Quebec no-nukers have been working tirelessly to put an end to nuking the environment.  Check it out.  And here’s a thorough piece from the Dominion about the nuke activity in northern Quebec.

One further focus for criticism is the province’s much-hyped development strategy, known as the “Plan Nord,” which involves targeting government money at selected infrastructure projects favouring principally the resource extraction sector in northern Quebec. According to research conducted by The Dominion, last year’s provincial budget earmarked $130 million for extending Highway 167 by 268km into the Otish Mountains, northeast of the James Bay Cree town of Mistissini. It is in an area without residential communities, but where Vancouver-based Strateco Resources has discovered some of Quebec’s most concentrated uranium deposits.

Finally, here’s another story about Canada’s outrageous and extravagant spending on AECL flowing from the Chalk River Fiasco.

As a result, Ottawa allocated $824-million in the current fiscal year to the problem-plagued nuclear flagship as the government prepares to restructure it and sell its commercial division, according to supplemental estimates released late yesterday.

That’s a 50-per-cent increase from federal spending on AECL in the prior fiscal year. In today’s budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will likely provide hundreds of millions more to support AECL’s operating budget and design work on the advanced Candu reactor and refurbish Chalk River laboratories.

Our tax dollars are being sunk into what the PM himself called a “sinkhole” so that the feds can sell it for next to nothing?  WTF?  It seems that PMS definitely needs to hear from you on this ridiculous, costly venture!  Imagine, were that kind of money to be spent on real green technology…

A stream of nuke news

Grab a coffee or tea.  Find a snack.  Lots of linky news today so this could take a while!

First up:  A Calgary nuke company, Kirrin Resources, is not going to expand its exploration for uranium in Quebec.  That’s good news for Quebec’s citizens.  Not so good for Saskatchewan though.  A few days ago, the company said they’re moving into Saskatchewan.

Kirrin Resources Inc. said it will enter into a 70-30 joint venture with Majesta Resources Inc. on the 36,287-hectare Key Lake Southwest property after agreeing to a deal worth roughly $3.3 million.

Next? A guy who thinks he knows something about nuclear reactors because he once worked at one, is now a nuke promoter.  Read it and weep.

The IFR uses higher energy neutrons — “fast” neutrons — to cause the fuel atoms to split and release their energy. This particular kind of fast reactor can use all the various isotopes of uranium in its fuel load. Therefore, costly enrichment procedures are not needed to make reactor fuel. This reactor also can use the various trans-uranic elements as fuel. This is important. All of the extremely long-lived fission byproducts of pressurized water reactors just happen to be fuel material for this fast neutron reactor.

The non-usable material in used-up IFR fuel has a half life of about 500 years. This is still a long period of time but much more manageable than a period of billions of years. Further, the volume or mass of this material will be considerably less.

It gets better.

Better?  Ya, right!  Where do they find these guys?  How much do they pay them?

More newsHuffPo points to a Mother Jones piece questioning Obama’s recent support for the nuke industry.

The Obama administration has embarked on a high-stakes gamble: devoting billions of dollars to an expansion of nuclear power in the hope of winning Republican votes for a climate bill. But in its eagerness to drum up bipartisan support for one of the hardest sells on Obama’s policy agenda, is the administration turning a blind eye to the financial risk?

Bradford, the former nuclear regulator, observes that if the Georgia reactors alone defaulted, taxpayers could be left with a bill of as much as $8.3 billion. “If the Tea Party folks ever figure that out, the [DOE] building is going to be three floors deep in tea bags,” he says. “This administration desperately needs someone to point out that this emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”

Citizens in the USA ain’t necessarily buying Obama’s nuke dreams.  A US blogger, Greenhoof, calls Obama’s nuke promotion a “greenwashing.” That’s a good word, one I need to consider using more often.  S/he tells it like it is:

President Obama has justified his proposed $55 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors by misrepresenting nuclear reactors as the largest “carbon-free” energy source in the United States.  That’s like saying McDonald’s should be put in charge of a nationwide obesity campaign because it’s the largest restaurant in the U.S. that sells salads.

The argument that nuclear is “carbon-free” conveniently omits the entire process of mining uranium, which produces greenhouse gases, along with other pollutants.  In Virginia, where a study has just been commissioned to determine its safety, uranium is mined in open pits.  This destroys topsoil and increases runoff, which contaminates drinking water with cancer-causing toxins.

More stuff:  Here’s a little tidbit from Australia, another uranium-producing nation with a strong no-nukes movement.

James Neal Blue who helped devise the Predator unmanned aircraft that are in use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is the director of a company that bought the Four Mile uranium mine in Australia. Blue is the chairman of Quasar Resources, which is affiliated with General Atomics, a major United States weapons and nuclear energy corporation. General Atomics reportedly holds $700 million in Pentagon contracts. The Four Mile mine is located next to the Beverly Uranium mine, with is owned by another affiliate of General Atomics.

I guess all those pro-nukers like to play in one big tub, eh?  Here’s more on that Ozzie deal.

More CA news:  A Canadian reporter did the math on the Canadian government’s contribution to the nuclear industry and it’s not good!  “Over two years, we’re talking more than $1.1 billion” being spent, about half of it going to the AECL.  Remember the Chalk River Fiasco?

Oy!

Finally, this, from Kazakhstan:

Leading energy and mining firms from Russia, China, Japan, France and Canada have already invested billions here. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, is seeking to leverage its ore into a larger role in the global nuclear industry and has taken a stake in the U.S.-based nuclear giant Westinghouse.

Only the nation’s fledgling environmental movement has dared object, pointing out that Kazakhstan has yet to recover from its days as the Soviet Union’s main atomic test site.

The Soviets conducted 456 nuclear blasts in northeastern Kazakhstan, more than anyone else anywhere in the world. Much of the region remains contaminated, residents suffer elevated rates of cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, and babies continue to be born with deformities.

“Nothing good can come of the world’s push for nuclear energy, and we should understand this better because of our past,” said Mels Eleusizov, a veteran environmentalist who complains that the uranium industry is shrouded in secrecy, with no independent monitoring.

Indeed, nothing good can come from nukes and nukers, no matter how you wash it.

Sorry for the length.  Lots going on these days…

Harding: After a Decade of Shock and Awe

Here’s Dr. Jim Harding’s latest column. Worth a read.

After a Decade of Shock and Awe

by Jim Harding

It’s common to recap events in decades. We often even adopt decade identities – the rebellious sixties, the greedy eighties, etc. Might we call the first decade of the 21st century the “shock and awe” decade?

The decade is mostly defined by the aftermath of the Sept. 11th 2001 bombing of New York’s Twin Towers. The hysteria generated after this was instrumental in starting two destructive “wars on terrorism”, which trudge on. The Security State has grown along with insurgencies and the politics of fear, none of which are good foundations for building sustainable societies. But much more happened! The decade saw a global economic crisis, devastating natural disasters, extreme storms and deepening of the climate crisis controversy, all of which will shape the coming decade.

BUBBLES AND LIVES BURSTING

Many corporate bubbles burst in the last decade. The S & P 500 lost 25% of their stock value; the dot.com bubble burst as markets plummeted after 9/11. The decade ended when the real estate bubble burst and the world entered the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. While a few got richer, the majority did not. Many people lost jobs and large amounts of their pensions. The trillion dollar and growing debt from the U.S’s ongoing “wars on terrorism” and economic bailouts will continue to destabilize that country. In the 1990’we were talking of the U.S. being the world’s only superpower. This last decade likely ended that.

Those facing natural and climate disasters had more fundamental challenges than securing their retirement. The tsunami that followed from the earthquake off Sumatra on December 24, 2004 left 230,000 persons dead. The May 12, 2008 earthquake at Sichuan, China killed another 70,000. And the May 2, 2008 cyclone in Burma killed 140,000 more. In the west we likely know far more about the August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina which killed about 2,000 persons. As with the Haitian earthquake, which killed 230,000 persons, social position and political marginalization played a major role in shaping vulnerability.

Extreme weather events and the magnitude of storms propelled worldwide support for actions to prevent irreversible climate change. But the politics of fossil fuel dependency and resistance to moving beyond our carbon economy has won out, so far. Greenhouse gases continued to rise during the last decade, and the Canadian government got a deserved international reputation for undermining climate justice. At the same time the shift towards a green economy and support for renewable energy accelerated worldwide, including in Saskatchewan; the climate controversy won’t be on the back-burner for long.

Over the last decade the politics of fear clearly ascended. One-quarter of Americans now believe they are at risk from a terrorist attack, while, realistically, they face greater dangers from their cars. Our moral sense of proportion became even more warped during the past decade. How do we compare the 2,900 innocent civilians who died so tragically in the Twin Towers or those dead or suffering from occupational hazards after intervening in the ordeal, to the many more soldiers and insurgents who have died at war? Or to the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have died from these terrifying wars? Or to the many more who will now live traumatized lives? Or to those forced to eke out an existence on war-poisoned land? The end-justifies-the means mentality of the last decade is simply not sustainable.

MORE OF SAME?

We humans have huge capacity for denial and dissociation. I, too, look forward to World Cup soccer or Canada-U.S. hockey games, and hope that international sports is making us more accepting of human diversity. But I know that sports and entertainment celebrity culture can also blind us from human suffering and glaring inequalities. How quickly beer-drinking Olympic-mania replaced coverage of the millions still grieving and struggling in Haiti! It’s hard not to conclude that achieving sustainability will require a massive resurgence of human spirituality. Perhaps this has been going on underneath all the shock and awe we have collectively experienced and this will continue to blossom in coming years. Perhaps!

For many the election of President Obama was a sign of moderation and hope, but it was premature to present him with a Peace Prize without any track record. Moving towards more peace and security is a challenge to us all. It is heartening that the U.S. and Russia are talking of nuclear weapons reductions, but nuclear proliferation remains a global threat, with the help of the spreading of nuclear technology. It hasn’t helped the cause that, as the British Inquiry on the War on Iraq is now confirming, the US and UK manipulated fears about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to justify their planned invasion of Iraq. All of us can contribute to peace and security by resisting such disinformation campaigns, and demanding more participation and transparency within our democracies. Do we ever need this in Canada now!

The huge changes occurring in the last decade clearly set us up for either more of the same or embracing the needed shift towards sustainability. There will be no tech-fixes in this evolutionary endeavour, but the growth of the internet and other mass communications likely sets the stage for the coming decade. Will the globalizing of communications help us to get a more accurate and compassionate view of the challenges facing humanity? Will this create even more narcissism and attention deficit among those bonding to the new technology market? The last decade vividly shows the challenges to not living in bubbles and to continually enhancing connaection. Perhaps down deep, after all the shock and awe, many will be whispering “enough is enough.” And, like spring winds, whispers can grow.

Next time I’ll explore how population growth affects sustainability.

Originally published in RTown News, February 26, 2010