Nuclear Madness

Regular readers of Politics’n’Poetry will know that earlier this week I learned that Premier Calvert met with WalMart’s friend, Hutchison Whampoa on his trip to China last year. Today I became curious as to why The Alberta Energy Company Limited aka EnCana, the Alberta government, and Husky Oil (sorry, lost that one) had been doing visiting my website. Everything later crystalized in my Inbox. A message referenced a Financial Post story (which, unfortunately, is available only to subscribers):

N word no longer shunned in oilpatch
Jon Harding, Financial PostSeptember 23, 2006 – BANFF , ALTA. – Oilsands companies in Alberta are warming to the idea of nuclear power as a source for their massive energy needs, says the head of one of the world’s largest nuclear power facilities.

As well, Duncan Hawthorne, president of Bruce Power LP, which operates the Bruce nuclear facility west of Toronto, said looming political change at the top in Alberta could tip the scales towards the nuclear cause.

The head of the Canadian Nuclear Association revealed he met quietly this summer with a group of executives from Canada ‘s oilpatch.

The National Post and Calgary Herald are among the sponsors of the annual forum.

The meeting in Calgary , a nuclear “myth-busting” session, was arranged by a law firm whose clients include some of the largest oilsands players.

Oilsands companies, particularly those recovering their crude using thermal technologies, generate huge amounts of steam, which they pump underground to soften the bitumen so it can flow. Companies that mine tar sands also use hot water and steam in early-stage upgrading processes.

So far, companies have used expensive natural gas to make the steam, but with natural gas prices rising from historical norms and predicted to swing wildly in the future, alternatives are being looked at, Mr. Hawthorne said.

Calgary-based Energy Alberta Corp., a private company backed by the chairman and founder of Precision Drilling Trust, Hank Swartout, recently emerged with a goal to market the Candu reactor to oilsands players.

Potential customers with big in-situ oilsands plans include EnCana Corp., Total SA and Husky Energy Inc.

It’s oh-so interesting to me that Hutchison Whampoa is a huge multi-national and just happens to be the parent company of Husky Energy Inc.

Another of today’s messages contained an interesting piece about NASA’s plans to transport plutonium to Mars. Maybe the NASA visitor was checking if I’d seen this, as reported in the September 28 online edition of Florida Today:

Nuclear fuel for Mars rover raises little concern


COCOA – A power generator that uses plutonium dioxide would give

a 2009 Mars rover more freedom to explore questions about life

and water on the red planet, NASA officials said in a hearing


In two sessions at the Florida Solar Energy Center on Wednesday,

they gave the public a chance to comment on a draft statement on

the potential dangers of a launch accident. The Mars Science

Laboratory would ride a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket from Cape


Less than a half percent of launches would have the potential to release radiological material, they said.

“The risks from this mission would be low,” said Mark Dahl, NASA program executive for the mission.

They received only one comment during the afternoon session, from engineering consultant John Martin of Indialantic.

“This thing seems to be super safe as far as actually releasing any kind of radiation,” he said. “I hardly see any possibility.”

Seems to be super safe? That’s supposed to reassure us? Now I don’t know about you, but any risk is cause for more than a little concern. According to an email message from Russell Hoffman, an ardent no-nukes researcher and activist:

NASA’s RTG’s are incredibly dangerous...the plutonium they have already releasedhas killed, and continues to kill, human beings throughout the planet.

One estimate I heard is that as many as a million people could be condemned to die, or have died

already, from ONE previous NASA Pu failure (Gofman). Another estimate, by a pro-nuker, is

that males in the Northern Hemisphere piss out about a million atoms of Pu every day from that

one accident. NASA misunderstands totally, the dangers of the radioactive aerosol fumes their accidents create.

And sure, they now have containments for the Pu, they didn’t used to. But these containments are

paper-thin and not really all that good. There are numerous accident scenarios where they will

breach. Furthermore they reduce the efficiency of the devices, requiring carrying MORE Pu for

the same mission! So an accident with, say, a 10% release of 25 pounds (total) of Pu can be as

bad as a full release of a much smaller quantity of Pu, which was delivering the exact same

electrical output! (The release amount in the 1964 accident was 2.1 pounds.)

For more information, read Hoffman’s essay about low-level radiation and water.

So all is cleared up on the Politics’n’Poetry front.

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