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…

Nukers lobbied to have Keen fired?

Remember the Chalk River Scandal?  Remember how we got a taste of just how much Harper hates “uppity women”?  Remember how he treated Linda Keen, how he and his cronies fired her for no real reason?

Well, thanks to intrepid reporter, Greg Weston, of Sun Media, P’n’P has learned that

industry insiders say lobbyists had long been trying to get rid of Keen for reasons that had nothing to do with medicine. Their clients were companies that stand to make huge money from the next generation of Canadian nuclear power reactors called the Advanced Candu, or ACR-1000. Rightly or wrongly, it seems, the iron-fisted Keen was getting in the way.

Keen would not agree to conduct a special review of AECL’s new toy design.  But, exit Keen and enter Binder and everything changed!

Almost immediately after Binder took over from Keen, the supposedly independent, quasi-judicial safety commission reversed itself and agreed to conduct a pre-project review of Atomic Energy’s new ACR-1000 reactor design.

Seven months later, the commission concluded its review, finding the new Candu complies with “regulatory requirements and meets the expectations for new nuclear power plants in Canada.”

It’s  like, well, it’s like MAGIC! Or something, eh?

Thanks to BCer in Toronto for pointing me to the article!

So much for journalistic integrity…

The editorial board at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, a CanWest newspaper, published nothing less than a rant on the issue of nuclear power in Saskatchewan, denouncing nuclear-free activists as an “anti-nuke gang,” a “bunch of radicals” who prevented the “dream of developing greater nuclear capacity in the province” from coming to fruition in the 1980’s.

Well, yes, frankly, it is true that the no-nukers did stop the development of a refinery just south of Saskatoon back then. And thank goodness for that! But they didn’t manage to stop the mining of uranium. And they surely did not stop industry from propagandizing throughout the province. In fact, they’ve done it so well that even the daily newspaper is singing the praises of nuclear power, quoting political deviants and corporate friends. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

Then go here and send your letter to the editor. If you need more information about uranium and the nuclear system, feel free to use the search function in the sidebar of P’n’P. We’ve managed to build up quite a collection of info from independent researchers, organizations and informed opinions over our almost two years of blogging.

Oh, and if you’d like a more balanced, though still not thorough, story about the possible reactor check out the CBC’s coverage. It’s report provides various reactions from people who live and vacation at Lake Diefenbaker, where the SaskPower study suggests the reactor might be placed.

The recommendation alarms people like Scott McKenzie, who has been vacationing in the Lake Diefenbaker area for seven years and plans to make it his home.

“It shocks me a little to begin with,” McKenzie said. “One is always worried about a catastrophe, an accident or something like that.”

However, Russ Boyle, who is building a house near the lake, doesn’t share McKenzie’s concerns. In fact, he wouldn’t mind if a nuclear facility was nearby.

I’d venture a guess that if the truth about nuclear power were placed in the hands of the people, there would be no doubt that the majority would oppose it.

I guess that’s what we’ll have to do.

Olympics Sponsor Wants Nuclear Outlaw, AECL

The folks at Native Unity share their grave concerns about the use of weapons grade uranium at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) facility at Chalk River, Ontario, citing a noted Canadian no nukes activist.

Gordon Edwards, of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, raised serious concerns about the “Maple” reactor delays at Chalk River.

“An important aspect of the isotope-production fiasco on Algonquin territory is being ignored. AECL Atomic Energy of Canada Limited uses 95 per cent highly enriched “weapons-grade” uranium HEU to make the main isotope (Molybdenum-99). This can be made using low-enriched uranium LEU which is NOT weapons-usable material, but is more expensive. Somebody wants to make isotopes and bombs cheaply.

He continued, “It’s easier to make a very powerful bomb with weapons-grade uranium like the one dropped on Hiroshima in 1945”. The only stockpile of weapons-grade uranium in Canada is at Chalk River, less than 200 kilometers up the Ottawa River from Canada’s capital. The Canadian public and Members of Parliament are told they are for “essential and life saving” medical isotope production. However, there’s enough there to build two or more atom bombs and the stockpile is increasing.

Why is the Canadian company, MDS Nordion, that sells the isotopes, ordering more of the risky weapons grade uranium from the U.S.? Why do Canada and the U.S. allow this hazardous material to be transported over regular highways, rails and air? The U.S. warns the towns where these materials are being transported. Not in Canada !

.

Prime Minister Harper is considering the privatization of more of AECL.  AREVA’s interest was known 18 months ago, just after Harper took office.  And now it is apparent that a sponsor of the Olympic Games (coming  to Canada in 2010), General Electric, has also expressed its interest.

General Electric Co. might be a suitor if Canada decides to sell a stake in state-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., as Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted this week, a company spokeswoman said.

“If and when the federal government indicates it would like to change its model for AECL, we would be interested in talking,” said Kim Warburton, a spokeswoman for GE Canada, reiterating comments in September by General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt.

Areva SA, one of the world’s biggest builders of nuclear power plants along with GE, may also be among the bidders if the government decided to sell, analysts said. Atomic Energy’s commercial reactor and nuclear services businesses alone may fetch more than C$1 billion ($1 billion), said Catharina Saponar, head of European utilities and energy equity research at Nomura International Plc in London.

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Why our governments and we, the world’s citizens, allow an unethical industry to kill the planet’s ecosystems and creatures so that corporate giants can rake in more profits is completely beyond me!

Fiacco Lies on a Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & an Inland Port

Veering ever-so slightly off my no nukes agenda to slip in an I told you so.  Mayor Fiacco would not reveal the plans for this before the municipal election and now that he is safely back in office he can reveal his real plan.  Today P’n’P learns of the plan for a Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port which is part of the NAFTA Highway, the Security and Prosperity Agreement, the ecological devastation called the Tar Sands, and North American Union.

This gateway involves moving the rails from central Regina to the west side where industrial development is taking place and will likely increase dramatically without our approval.  It will increase land and air traffic which means more air and noise pollution.  It will move us closer to BushCo’s & HarperCo’s dreams of not only continental unity but also a continental currency.  At a time when we need to be doing our utmost to curb green house gas emissions, our City is promoting increased consumption and an increased use of fossil fuels!

Thanks for what amounts to lies, Mayor Pat, and for selling us out to the corporatist extremists. We’ll see you at the polls in less than two years.  And we will remember.

Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port

Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port

The Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port, or “Prairie Gateway” is a virtual combination of services and a cluster of numerous transportation, distribution and assembly players working and investing together. This is the best way to maximize the existing transportation assets across an integrated region, with many transportation, production, storage, trans-loading, assembly, product identification and research resources working as a team. This base will draw additional investment, labour and technology as a catalyst for a host of new ancillary business service companies.

What is an Inland Port?

An Inland Port is defined less on the physical aspects of one location and more on the intelligent logistics and coordination of a multitude of services.  It has the following qualities:

  1. Is an organization or coalition made up of key transportation stakeholders
  2. Serves the regional trading area businesses and economy
  3. Facilitates growth for both import and export trade logistics
  4. A mechanism for cooperation, marketing the regions trade processing abilities
  5. Provides national coordination and collaboration among ocean port users

Why Saskatchewan?

Like the Kansas City Smart Port regional model, the Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port will be anchored by “connecting” the three major cities of Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina. This will promote regional asset and system optimization. It is proposed that Saskatchewan’s central continental location and lower costs would be of sufficient appeal to attract international investor attention. The high level of cooperation among the principal transportation centres of Saskatchewan, through the tri-cities will generate distinct advantages, including:

  1. Integrate and maximize the unique sub-regional advantages of each community to generate even greater synergies than each community could achieve by working separately;
  2. Provide a value-enhancing alternative to the various less coordinated and smaller scale and scope terminals, hubs or trans-loading sites existing in other parts of Canada;
  3. Foster freight movement productivity through modernization of regulatory reform (i.e. highway road weight limits) and preservation of freight-corridor efficiency on road, rail and air.

US attempt to sneak $25 BILLION in support to nuke industry

From Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews Harvey Wasserman, a no nukes activist in the USA:

The House is set to vote on Tuesday on the $500 billion 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Unveiled on Sunday, the measure covers budgets for all cabinet departments except the Pentagon. It’s expected to pass both houses of Congress this week.

Hidden in the bill is a major energy package that would boost government financing for the nuclear industry. It would provide loan guarantees of up to $25 billion for new nuclear reactors. A massive grassroots campaign forced these taxpayer-financed loans out of the national energy bill earlier this month, but last week Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico slipped them back into the budget vote.

Harvey Wasserman has been at the forefront of raising awareness about the dangers of nuclear power. He helped found the grassroots anti-nuke movement in the early 1970s, advises the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. He’s senior editor of the Ohio-based freepress.org and editor of nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman has also co-authored two books on the 2004 election. They are How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008 and What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election. …

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, we beat Pete Domenici. With Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Keb’ Mo’, Ben Harper, we put out a music video on nukefree.org. We raised 120,000 signatures and presented them to Congress in October. And Domenici was forced to pull these nuke loan guarantees out of the energy bill, but then slipped them back into the appropriations bill.
And the nuclear power industry is a fifty-year proven failure, and they can’t get independent financing to build their own new reactors, which they want to do now. And so, they’ve gone to the government. This is one issue where we’re in agreement with Forbes magazine and the Cato Institute, which is backing the opposition to these loan guarantees, because if nuclear power, after fifty years of huge government subsidies, can’t make it in the marketplace, why should the taxpayers fund another $25 billion worth of reactor construction?

We’re on the brink of a tremendous energy revolution in solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. You know, we’re looking almost at a solartopia of a renewable-based economy, which will be much more controllable at the grassroots, much more democratically oriented. And that’s why the nuclear power industry is desperately holding on here.

Go.  (Interview at about 9:30; text on site)

Dillman Will Not Die for Uranium (and I don’t blame her)

From The Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium news that Donna Dillman has ended her hunger strike after 66 days.   Politics’n’Poetry thanks her for her determination and courage in shedding light on the dangers of uranium mining in such a personal way.  Premier McGuinty should carry some shamed for ignoring this issue, especially in light of recent goings-on in the nuclear industry in Canada and around the world.  (And, actually, Donna, you should know  that P’n’P’s blog statistics show that the Government of Ontario has been visiting P’n’P to read up on the Sharbot Lake situation.)

Readers of P’n’P can send their thanks to Donna via this email <uraniumnews@mail.ccamu.ca>.  Tell her, “Well done, sister!”

CCAMU TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS ON URANIUM MINING

DILLMAN TO END HUNGER STRIKE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU) announced today that they would hold public hearings throughout Eastern Ontario in the New Year on the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining.

“We have been asking the government to hold an inquiry into uranium mining and they have failed to respond” said Wolfe Erlichman of CCAMU. “In the absence of action, on behalf of the McGuinty government, we are going to hold a citizen’s inquiry and invite the Premier to attend. We will even go to his home town to accommodate him.”

A number of NGO’s including Greenpeace, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Voice of Women and Sierra Club of Canada have endorsed the hearings or will participate as expert witnesses.

CCAMU will be calling for public and expert submissions to take place at hearings to be held in Kingston, Ottawa and Peterborough in February/March. In response to the hearings Donna Dillman, who has not eaten since October 8th 2007, said she will end her hunger strike.

“I began this hunger strike to shine a light on the problem of uranium mining in eastern Ontario with the hope that Premier McGuinty would call a moratorium on further mining and exploration” said Dillman. “We have not yet got a moratorium but these hearings are a great opportunity to inform and educate Ontarians about some of the detrimental effects of uranium mining and to keep the pressure on the McGuinty government.”

“Donna has made an incredible personal sacrifice in pushing for this moratorium. It is time for the environmental community to take some of the heavy lifting from Donna before she suffers any serious health impacts” said Gideon Foreman Executive Director of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

“These hearing s will be an opportunity to further expose the unfolding economic, health and environmental disaster associated with the global nuclear agenda” said Bruce Cox Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada. “Mr. McGuinty is wrong when he says we need to mine uranium here to keep the lights on. This uranium is bound for export.”

Donna Dillman has not eaten since October 8th, 2007-a full 66 days ago. Ms. Dillman has been calling on Premier McGuinty to announce a moratorium on further mining and exploration in Eastern Ontario until a full public inquiry on the health and environmental impacts of uranium mining can take place.

On Tuesday of this week Ms. Dillman stopped drinking juices and had been surviving solely on water. She ate her first bite of food in front of the supporters who had gathered in MPP Peter Tabuns’ office, just after the press conference held in the Queen’s Park press gallery. Four other women, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, Rita Bijons, Sharon Howarth and Karen Buck, had joined Dillman on her hunger strike this past Tuesday, to show their solidarity. They broke their fast today, just after Dillman ate a small amount of mashed squash. It has been recommended by her health practitioners that she slowly resume a diet of solid food, given the length of time her stomach has been without it.

Contact: Lynn Daniluk
613-267-0539
Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium
uraniumnews@mail.ccamu.ca

Chalk River, Isotopes & AECL

Chalk River is the example for why the nuclear powers that be are not to be trusted, ever. In trying to understand this issue, I called upon professionals who work in the field and have studied the issue. Excerpts from their email messages are below. Some of the language is scientific and medical, so it’s a bit to digest, but it’s worth it to know. All I can say is, this is a nice try by the nuke industry and the Harperites.


It is important to realize that isotopes were being used for diagnosis and therapy long before the discovery of nuclear fission, and that even after the discovery of fission cyclotrons and other types of particle accelerators were widely used to produce isotopes for medical and scientific research purposes.

See for example http://ccnr.org/isotopes.html

But AECL has deliberately worked over the years to create a market for specialized isotopes that are produced in nuclear reactors, chiefly cobalt-60 and molybdenum-99. Cobalt-60 is a “hard” gamma emitter and is used outside the body to irradiate tumours and to sterilize medical instruments, for example. It has a half-life of 5.3 years and so loses about 13% of its inventory in one year through radioactive decay.

http://www.health.qld.gov.au/phs/Documents/ehu/14776.pdf

Molybdenum-99 has a half-life of 66 hours, and it decays into a metastable (short half-life) isotope called technetium-99m (the “m” has to be included) which has a half-life of only 6 hours. The technetium-99m is used internally for many many diagnostic purposes. Tc-99m can easily be attached to various molecules which can then be injected into patients. The gamma rays given off by Tc-99m are a lot “softer” than those from cobalt-60 so they give a good “picture” without giving too high a dose to the patient. Because of its 6-hour half-life, Tc-99m does not pose a long-term radioactive waste problem. The Mo-99 is used as a “cow” which can be “milked” to give Tc-99m over a period of many days. Just a few micrograms of Mo-99 is enough to produce enough Tc-99m to be used to diagnose
10,000 patients. However, the supply of Mo-99 has to be uninterrupted or they will run out of Tc-99m in a short time.

http://www.nrg-nl.com/public/medical/valley/node6.html

The downside to this is that Mo-99 (called “moly” for short) is only produced, now, in a very high-intensity neutron field, which means a nuclear reactor that uses weapons-grade uranium (over 95% enriched!!). AECL’s Maple-1 and Maple-2 reactors were designed specifically to produce Mo-99 using weapons-grade uranium as fuel. NGO’s in the US went to court to stop the shipment of HEU (highly enriched uranium) to Chalk River because there is a US law which is supposed to halt all shipments of weapons-grade materials to other countries. AECL has been told by US authorities that they must develop technologies to produce Mo-99 that do not use HEU; but MDS-Nordion (a private company that markets the Mo-99 that is produced by AECL) shows little sign of taking this seriously. See:

http://www.energyprobe.org/energyprobe/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=4353

“Mr. Malkoske said Nordion never agreed to convert to low-enriched uranium at any cost.

“‘It is not written in stone,’ he says. ‘Technically, it seems feasible to me, but what’s it going to cost to do this? Everytime you add costs you pass that on to the health-care community, you increase the cost of nuclear medicine.

“‘What we said we would do . . . is do a technical and economic feasibility (study) and if it was economically feasible then we would convert. We didn’t say we were going to convert at any cost. That could kill our business.'”

Another problem: in the past, HEU irradiated fuel has been returned to the USA (Savannah River) from Chalk River where it has been recycled into the bomb program (which uses HEU as “driver rods” in plutonium-production reactors to produce the plutonium needed for warheads). So in this sense, Mo-99 is like a piece of candy that is produced as a byproduct of the nuclear weapons business. Without nuclear weapons it would be too expensive to produce the HEU in the first place, and without the cash credit obtained by returning the HEU to the USA the costs become prohibitive also. I am not sure whether this practice of returning the irradiated HEU is still going on.

Yet another problem is that the Maple reactors cannot be operated safely and so they are at least 6 years behind schedule. The reactors do not operate as the AECL designers said they should, and the difference is a matter of safety — instead of being “self-braking” when the power of the reactor is increased, the Maple reactors accelerate in power when any attempt is made to just increase the power a little bit. This makes the reactors too unsafe to operate.

The NRU (National Research Universal) reactor started up in 1957. It was about 10 times more powerful than the earlier NRX (National Research eXperimental) reactor that started up in 1946. The Gov’t of Canada was reluctant to spend the money to build the NRY reactor, but AECL argued that they could help defray the cost be selling plutonium produced in the reactor to the USA. And that’s what they did — sold plutonium that was of course used in the American bomb program. But the main purpose of the NRU was to produce isotopes of various kinds by using ingenious “loops” that would allow you to insert non-radioactive materials into the loops without shutting down the reactor or opening up the core of the reactor so as to irradiate those materials and make them radio-active. The NRU was also used to test various fuels and components of CANDU reactors. But it is 50 years old now and should have been retired years ago. Since the Maple reactors are not running, NRU has had to be the workhorse, delivering the Mo-99 to the market.

Which raises another question: who makes the profits from this?

http://www.aecl.ca/NewsRoom/News/Press-2006/060222.htm

In 1988, the Gov’t of Canada privatized the only really proftable part of AECL’s operations, which was the radio-isotope production. AECL sold Nordion International Inc. (formerly the AECL division known as the Radiochemical Company) to the Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDIC) for eventual privatization. In 1991, CDIC sold Nordion to MDS Health Group Ltd. for $165 million, and it was reported that AECL received $150.5 million from CDIC, and that this “together with interest earned thereon between the dates of receipt and disbursement, has been distributed to the shareholder (i.e. gov’t of Canada) by way of dividends”.

So AECL is responsible for designing and building and operating the reactors to produce the isotopes that MDS-Nordion sells for a profit. This also means that the radwaste and the decommissioning of the reactors is a public responsibility through AECL whereas the profits are a private matter for MDS-Nordion.

As of now, it would be difficult to replace the Mo-99/Tc-99m isotope business with something else, but I believe that if nuclear weapons were phased out the entire isotope business as currently practiced would be unaffordable. In that case I have little doubt that some other more cost-effective isotope production scheme would be found to replace the Mo-99/Tc-99m that the medical people are currently addicted to. I’m not saying this would be easy nor that the replacement is obvious, but I do believe that necessity if the mother of invention.

Dr. Gordon Edwards
President, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

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So, if we then follow the money, the collusion of the industry and the Getting Old Government of Canada doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched, does it?

Does someone else smell a rat? Or at the least supreme stupidity?

While many of us may believe radionuclides in general have been, for all their value, a questionable dead-end for sustainable health care, how can we believe that the only source for Canadian medical radionuclides is a fifty year old nuclear reactor currently operating outside Atomic Energy Control Board safety standards?

Apparently two newer nuclear power plants have been or are in the process of being built over the past ten years but are hampered by cost overruns and safety concerns.

This is an emergency now? Just as the nuclear industry is endeavoring to sell itself as essential to international “green energy”? And is under greater and greater attack from critics to prove itself? (After all, it takes more than twenty years and billions of dollars to begin to produce non-polluting energy – provided we deal with the wastes.) How better to enrage and engage civil society that to get people at the health care end? Especially when we talk about “life-saving” measures?

Chalk River has been a safety concern for years with arguably the most radioactively contaminated site in the world (exceptions may be several sites in Russia).

This is entirely too much like the “anthrax” scare that hit the US Congress after 9/11 albeit on a different scale. Call me paranoid but we are extremely suspicious.

Dale Dewar, BSc, MD, CFPC, FCFP

*****

And, finally, this bit:

Subject: I warned Linda Keen. . .

 

In a document now entitled “Alarm over inexperienced Bruce operator”, a letter from me to CNSC president Linda Keen dated November 19/2002 and found at http://www.energyprobe.org/energyprobe/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=5978

We suggest that CNSC should recognize that no nuclear reactors can be considered acceptably safe, or adequately regulated, if they cannot be taken out of service without thereby creating catastrophic or unacceptable consequences. We believe that recognition of this “obvious truth” would naturally lead CNSC to require minimum reserve levels (planned and actual) and maximum grid shares of nuclear power, or at least maximum grid shares of power provided by essentially identical nuclear reactors. We realize that these activities, like ascertaining the financial solvency of a licensee, would bring CNSC to examine matters that have traditionally not been considered part of a nuclear regulator’s job. But we believe that it is unacceptable not to do so.

At the time, I didn’t even think of the similarly unacceptable situation at NRU, but the principle obviously applies, and it has now come around to bite Ms. Keen and her agency on the behind.

Norman Rubin
Senior Consultant, Borealis Energy Research Association
Director of Nuclear Research and Senior Policy Analyst, Energy Probe

So, ya, like I said earlier, nice try, Steve. ;)

UPDATE: Check out this and this for additional information.

UPDATE 2:  AECL top dog resigns.  (Thanks to The Jurist for the lead.)