Gang-rape in Afghanistan

Below is a report from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan’s website.  It makes me physically ill to read it, so do not take the link if you do not want to know about the gang-rape of a woman in Badakhshan and the treatment of her children, who were witnesses to the event.

Is it this vilification of women and children — this terrorism — that we are reconstructing in Afghanistan?  It seems to me that Canadian participation in this pseudo war on terror has made the situation for the women of that country even worse than before.

Bring our troops home!


Behind the burqas

Thanks to Louise Dulude for bringing this to my attention.  It's an excellent article.

Afghanistan: Behind the burqas

by Tamar Dressler

“I know what they tell you in the West about the situation here,” Sahar Saab sighs despairingly. Saab, an activist with the women’s movement RAWA which operates almost underground in Afghanistan, adds, “They tell you women’s circumstances have improved greatly, but in reality there is no improvement. In the capital, Kabul, and in a few more cities, women even work in government offices, but their numbers are very few, and many dangers still ambush women in the cities. And in the suburbs? For their own safety, women continue to wear burqas. Almost daily, we hear of kidnappings, rape, murder, suicide and disappearance in areas still ruled by the Taliban or the Northern Alliance, and we know there are many more incidents not reported.”

Thus, in fluent English and a businesslike tone, free of criticism or attempts to shake up her listener with horror stories of the type of incidents the movement is trying to eradicate, Saab tells of the lives of women for whom leaving the house is a luxury.

“Officially the situation is better since the international forces arrived, but most of the new laws have not been assimilated. The condition of civilians, especially women and children, has deteriorated. In areas ruled by religious extremists, most women feel only a change for the worse. In the past five years, for example, the number of female suicides has increased significantly. If our situation is so improved – why the increase? We pay the full price of war and poverty.”

Three decades of underground activity

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), founded in Afghanistan in 1977 by a group of educated women led by Meena Keshwar-Kamal, fights for women’s rights, for their assimilation into the political system and the establishment of a democratic regime based on secular principles.

To read the rest of this article, go to:,2506,L-3332234,00.html


Women of Mexico

Check out womanpower at Infoshop!  Feminist photographer Rochelle Gause has posted some absolutely amazing photos taken at the Womens March in Oaxaca on November 19th.  She has also posted an excellent essay about what has happened and is happening in Oaxaca at Infoshop News.

How the Movement Began

Seventy percent of the 3.5 million people who live in the state of Oaxaca are indigenous. Over half live in abject poverty, 35 percent do not have piped water in their homes. You can’t spend a day in Oaxaca City without seeing poor native women with barefoot children in tow who have come from the surrounding villages to try and make money selling gum and cigarettes. Many of the rural communities are empty of men who have fled to the states to try and make money filling the low pay, harsh labor jobs the U.S. economy depends on. The Mexican constitution demands that all children have the same access to education. And yet today in Oaxaca the average person spends only 5.6 years in school, two years less than the national average. The conditions in the rural schools are extremely poor, with a lack of basic infrastructure. Children often come to school hungry, barefoot and are without desks, books and pencils. For the past 26 years Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers has held an annual statewide strike. Some of the demands this year included raises, basic supplies and breakfast for the students. Each year the teachers camp out in the main square of Oaxaca city until an adequate compromise is reached. This year things played out a little different. At 4:30 am on June 14th while teachers and their families were sleeping, 3000 police raided the encampment, a helicopter fired teargas from the sky, cops beat people, burnt their belongings leaving over 100 people injured. The teachers resisted with sticks and rocks, reclaiming the square later the same day. And they have remained ever since.

For additional information, try the following:

"People before profit" (understanding Oaxaca & US economic imperialism)

NAFTA & women in Mexico

"Women Will Not Give Up" (their role in Oaxaca & Palestine)

(also, a nice resource with continuing coverage on women in Oaxaca is

The Problem With Nuclear (Part II)

Here’s the second in the series, The Problem with Nuclear, by Dr. Bill Adamson, retired faculty member, University of Saskatchewan.


Secrecy and Subsidies

              One of the reasons that a nuclear reactor has not been constructed in
America for 30 years is the economics. Nuclear generation is not a self-sustaining industry and does not pay for itself. Uranium mining and nuclear generation began in the secrecy of wartime. The federal government supported uranium mining and provided exports of uranium for the Manhattan Project, and the production of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. (1)

Following this wartime episode, President Eisenhower advocated the “Atoms for Peace” program. In reality it proved a camouflage for the continuation of preparing nuclear weapons by the USA, which resulted in stockpiles of 10,000 Nuclear missiles.(2)

It also initiated a rush by several countries into nuclear generation of power which has resulted in about 430 reactors around the globe. There was great enthusiasm involved.  This was a time when it was heralded by Lewis Strauss that nuclear electricity would be “too cheap to meter.” This proved to be an illusion.

The Federal Government of Canada proceeded to grant subsidies to      Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) for its experimentation and
research projects (Chalk River experimental reactors and laboratories,     and the Pinawa deep rock experimental cavern), and for the   development of the CANDU reactors. Over the years, the AECL was   funded by subsidies quietly approved by Cabinet, which were not  debated or approved by Parliament. It has been calculated that these  subsidies from 1953 to 2002, have totaled $17.5 billion dollars. (3)

Capital Investments
These nuclear reactors are huge, complex machines, which include
massive shielding for the nuclear fission, complicated controls
and robotic equipment, and safety switches and devices. And for cooling purposes, most of the Canadian  CANDU’s were built near the Great Lakes. For instance, reactors at Darlington, Ontario were estimated to take 3 years and $6 billion dollars to build. In reality, they required 12 years and $17 billion to construct. These huge figures are difficult for the average citizen to comprehend.

With the prospect of electricity shortages in the future, Ontario is now proposing to spend $40 billion dollars to build two new reactors at Darlington, and to refurbish half a dozen old reactors, for example:
Pickering A-unit 4- restart–   $1.4 billion
-restart four units–$ 4 billion
Bruce A plants—refurbish units 1 & 2– $4.25 billion (4)
In addition, in 1997, a $1.5 billion loan was issued to the Chinese government so that it could buy a couple of CANDU reactors on a turnkey basis. (5)

Capital  Debt
Ontario’s 20 CANDU’s  were purchased in a nuclear buying spree in the 1960’s and 1970’s by  Ontario Hydro. As a result, the construction of these reactors racked up $38 billion in debt. In 1999, when the provincial government separated Ontario Hydro into five different sections, and distributed some of the $38 billion debt among them, it left $19.4 billion of so-called “stranded debt.” This is a new feature in fiscal accounting! Subsequently, every electrical bill in Ontario contains a “Debt Retirement Charge” (DRC). For a bi-monthly average of 1,800 kilowatts of electricity per household, that comes to $81 per year. (6)
How long do you think it will  take to pay off $19.4 billion? And now Ontario is going to add new debt for its $40 billion worth of proposals for the future!

In 1956, Maurice Strong, then the chairman of Ontario Hydro, said that
“The utility’s existing reactors have proved to be a poor financial investment. The 20 reactors have cost a total $30.8 billion, but they will only produce $18 billion worth of electricity during their lifetime.” He also added, “I believe that nuclear energy, like any other source of energy, need to stand on its own economically… A merger is feasible, and there should not be a continuing need for government subsidy.” (7)

Regarding the spending spree in the USA on nuclear reactors, the first generation of atomic reactors were labeled an “economic debacle,” one that caused electric rates to soar in every part of the nation.  The famous Forbes Magazine made the statement that, “The failure of the U.S. nuclear program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale.” (8)

A recent article in Business Week states that although President Bush and the Utilities are proposing a new round of nuclear plants in the USA, Wall Street is skeptical about investing in a nuclear renaissance. “While smart money is placing multibillion dollar bets on ethanol, wind power, and solar, it is not throwing buckets of cash at nukes.” Bob Simon, staff director of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is quoted as saying, “The real obstacle isn’t the Sierra Club but the 28-year old analysts on Wall Street.” (9)

Nuclear energy is not economical. It is poor business. If President Bush proceeds with his proposals, it sounds like it will be with government subsidies again, that is, money from the taxpayers, not from corporate investors.

Decommissioning  Mysteries
The details above are about the construction and operation of nuclear reactors. No estimates are even available for the decommissioning of these plants. These costs have not been factored into the equation. After 20-30 years these reactors become worn out and unsafe. The pipes corrode and become brittle, the valves deteriorate, the electronics become worn.

After years of nuclear fission, they are tremendously radioactive. They will need to be dismantled by robotic means, and buried deep in the earth. No one has properly estimated the costs, or calculated how they are to be paid. That will be another legacy that we leave to our children and our grandchildren! (10)

We do know that the costs will be extreme. For instance, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (a nuclear weapons plant) near Yakima, Washington, some seven miles from the Columbia River, has a dangerous collection of nuclear wastes. A vitrification plant is being proposed and planned for dealing with these wastes. In 2000 the estimated cost of construction was $4.3 billion, then in May of 2006 it was $11.55 billion, and in September of 2006 it was $12.2 billion.(11)
This was for radioactive wastes, not the highly radioactive machinery and core of nuclear reactors.

Economics of Alternative Sources of Energy
It appears that when the issue of “climate change” came to the attention of people, that it was real and already here, out of alarm and fear there was a stampede to the nuclear option by some people, and by some environmentalists.

However, there are alternative options and alternative economies available for our energy needs in the future. Germany and Denmark have made significant strides in the use of windpower especially, as well as other renewables. It is interesting to learn also that in Germany the windpower facilities are producing 14,000 megawatts (MW),nearly two-thirds of Ontario Power Generation’s entire capacity, including nuclear reactors, coal plants, and Niagara Falls. These decentralized forms of renewable sources of energy also create more jobs in local communities.(12)

Denmark is now producing 3000 megawatts or 20% of the nation’s
electrical needs with windpower. (13)  In California they have brought the cost of windpower down to 4 cents per kilowatt. (14)  The National Energy Board of Canada says that windpower, now costs between $50 and $100 per megawatt/hour (MW/h), and expects that it will be down to $40 per MW/h by 2020. (15)

Fortunately, Saskatchewan has developed wind farms, the Cypress Wind Facility near Gull Lake (16 turbines for a capacity of 22 megawatts), and the Centennial Wind Facility near Rushlake Creek
(83 turbines for a capacity of 150MW), enough to supply 73,000 homes or 5% of the province’s total production.

Alberta also has large windfields at Pincher Creek (100 turbines),Cowley Ridge (72 turbines), Castle River(60 turbines) and six small windfarms. The Federal Government will invest  $900 million in wind projects over the next five years, with the goal of adding 4000MW to Canada’s wind energy capacity. (16)

The Global Wind Energy Council announced that our Canadian wind-generating capacity reached the 1000 MW mark in June, and hopes to reach 9000 MW by 2015. Currently, wind turbines generate 59,000 megawatts globally, enough to power 18 million households. Worlwide revenues jumped from $11 billion (US) in 2004, to $25 billion (US) in 2005. (17)

Moreover, close to 40 million households worldwide now heat their
water with solar panels. Solar panels now cover more than 400,000 rooftops in Japan, Germany, and the United States.(18) Space and time are insufficient here to review the economics of many other additional sources of energy.

The economic features of nuclear power are unsatisfactory. The industry cannot survive on its own without government subsidies. This gives no incentive for private and corporate investors. David Freeman, former head of the California Power Authority, and head of two municipal utilities, stated: “Nuclear power had its chance and failed.
You need huge subsidies before anyone will even talk about it.” (19)

Endnotes—Sources of Information

(1) Robert Bothwell, Eldorado: Canada’s Natural Uranium Co. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1984.
Robert Bothwell, Nuclear: The History of Atomic Energy of Canada,
Ltd., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

(2) Dr. Ronald McCoy, “A Question of Survival,” Interrnational                                                  Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Vancouver, June 26, 2006.  Also, Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer,
New Press, 2006, p. 138.

(3)Dave H. Martin, “Canadian Nuclear Subsidies: Fifty Years of Futile
Funding,” Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout,January 2003.
Also, Henry Koza, Globe and Mail, Jan. 27, 2006.

(4) Gordon Edwards, “Following the Path Backward,” pp. 2, 31
Nuclear Engineering News, October 17, 2005.
Murray Campbell, Globe and Mail, October 2006, p. A7
Eric Reguly, “Nuke Nightmare,” The Report on Business.Globe and
Mail, Sept. 5, 2003.  <>         l

(5) Henry Koza, Globe and Mail, Jan. 27, 2006

(6) Elaine Dewar, Canadian Geographic Magazine, May/June 2005,
Vol. 125, No. 3.
Also, Kimberley Noble, “Power Crunch,” MacLeans, April 23, 2001.

(7) Paul Kaihla, “A Troubled Nuclear Family,” MacLeans, Aug. 7,
1995 ,pp. 24-26

(8) Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Tacoma Park
Washington, Newsletter, Summer 2006.

(9) Adam Aston, “Nuclear Power’s Missing Fuel,” Business Week,
June 29, 2006. Also, Richard Blackwell, “Caught in the Winds of
Change,” Globe and Mail, October 20. 2006, p. B5

(10) “Nuclear Power Dossier:Decommissioning,” <Ecologistonline>
Jan. 6, 2006.

(11) Shannon Dininny, Associated Press, <>
Sept. 8, 2006.
Also, Ralph Vertabedien, ”Errors,Costs Stall Nuclear Waste
Projects,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 4, 2006.

(12) “German Renewables  Producing More Power than Nukes,”
Bundasverband Wind Energic,new energy, Germany: No. 5,
Oct. 2005 (p.9-10)   <;
Also, John Loric, “Clean Energy: Just How Close Are We”?
University of Toronto Magazine, Summer 2005, pp19-25.

(13) National Geographic Magazine, August 2005, p. 19.

(14) Danylo Hawaliahka, “Still Blowin’ in the Wind,” Interview with
Lester Brown, founder of World Watch Institute, MacLeans, May
17, 2004, p. 42.

(15) Paul Hanley, “Some green energy sources can be
competitive,” Saskatoon Star Phoenix, March 28, 2006, p. C4.

(16) Natural Resources Canada News Room, March 16, 2005.
< releases/2005/200512_
e.htm>  Also, Saskatoon Sunday Sun, Jan. 15, 2006,p.30

(17) John Loric, “Out of thin air: scenes from the birth of an
Industry,” Report on Business, The Globe and Mail, November
2006, p.75.

(18) Paul Hanley, “Renewable Energy Investment Soars,”
Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Jan. 3, 2006, p.B2. Also, Richard
Blackwell, “Caught in the winds of change,” Globe and Mail,
Oct. 20, 2006, p. B5

(19) Elizabeth McCarthy, “Experts Say Nukes Create Greenhouse
Impacts.” California Energy Circuit, Nov. 15, 2005 (News
Archives). National Policy Research Institute (NPRI).


The Canada Council for the Arts named the prize winners for the 2006 Governor General’s Literary Awards.  The prize for poetry went to John Pass.  Congrats!

John Pass, Madeira Park (BC), for Stumbling in the Bloom
(Oolichan Books; distributed by University of Toronto Press) (ISBN 0-88982-201-8)

John PassJohh Pass


John Pass, born in Sheffield, England, has lived in Canada since 1953. He has a BA in English from UBC (1969) and teaches at Capilano College. He has written 14 books; his poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies in Canada and abroad. He has won the CIVA Canada Poetry Prize (1988), the Gillian Lowndes Award (2001) and an award from the League of Canadian Poets. The Hour’s Acropolis was short listed for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (1992); Water Stair was also shortlisted for the Livesay Prize (2001) and the Governor General’s Literary Award (2000). John Pass lives in Madeira Park, B.C.

Jury’s comment

John Pass’s poems are luminous meditations engaging us in form and style with emotion, spirit and thought. Stumbling in the Bloom approaches the world’s beauty with awe and tenderness, celebrating all that engulfs and eludes us.

–> Download a high resolution image of the book cover.
–> Download a high resolution image of the author. (Photo : Keith Shaw)

NDP Colonialism in Northern SK

More taxpayer money will oh-so discreetly subsidize the wealthy resource industries — especially uranium mining companies — in our North.  It will also mean the narrow development of a labour force or labour force training imposed on desperate northern communities thereby limiting opportunities for northerners.

This NDP government seems to be creating its own slave labour force to work in uranium mining.

The government needs a complete and total re-adjustment.  It is so far removed from the grassroots of the province’s people.  Were none of them at the peace conference last month?  This initiative might sound good in news bites and campaign literature, but scratch the surface and you will see it as another nail in the coffin of the SK NDP.  Only fools increase investments in oil and gas and uranium mining when the environment is one of the biggest issues of the day!

It’ll be sad to live through the death of another NDP government in SK but I guess nothing was learned in the defeat to Devine’s Tories back in the day…


News Release

November 22, 2006

Advanced Education and Employment – 841


As part of the Province's $52.6 million training announcement, another 650
citizens in northern Saskatchewan will have an opportunity to receive the
training they need.

In total, 2,584 new opportunities have been created in Saskatchewan.

"The Government of Saskatchewan is delivering on its promise to expand
training opportunities to meet the demands of our province's vibrant and
growing industries and businesses," Premier Lorne Calvert said. "These
opportunities provide young people in every corner of the province with an
even brighter future – and more opportunities to learn, grow and prosper right
here at home."

The total training investment in northern Saskatchewan is $4.5 million and
will provide for training opportunities in the following programs this year
(with 10-20 training opportunities per program):

• Basic Education: 12 programs in various locations including Pelican Narrows,
Deschambault, Sandy Bay, Turnor Lake, Jans Bay/Cole Bay, Stony Rapids,
Weyakwin, Grandmothers Bay and Hall Lake;

• Academic Prep – Practical Nursing: 1 program in Pelican Narrows;

• Trades Preparation: 1 program in La Loche;

• Truck Driver Training: 3 programs in Creighton, Buffalo Narrows and La

• Heavy Equipment Operator: 4 to 6 programs in Pinehouse, Southend and at
least one in each of the Western, Eastern, Central and Athabasca regions;

• Diamond Drill Helper: 5 programs in Northern bush camp (location dependent
on industry);

• Diamond Drill/Oil Field Safety: 9 programs in various locations in the
Athabasca, Central and Eastern regions;

• Oil Field Safety: 3 programs in La Loche and Canoe Lake;

• Mineral Exploration: 3 programs in northern mine sites;

• Underground Mining: 1 program in McArthur River; and

• Slasher Certification: 4 programs in La Loche and Dillon, other locations to
be determined.

"By providing 650 training opportunities in the Northern region, including
trades, health care and adult basic education, we're creating the
opportunities our young people need where they need them," Advanced Education
and Employment Minister Pat Atkinson said. "We're drawing a direct path
between the learner and the job, and creating the training opportunities
necessary to bring the two together."

"Northlands College works closely with business, labour and government in
helping build the economy of northern Saskatchewan," Northlands College CEO
Bill McLaughlin said. "The northern economy continues to grow and with that
growth comes an increase in employment opportunities and an ever-increasing
need for a larger skilled labour force. This new investment will contribute
directly to the development of a skilled northern labour force to address
current and emerging demand.

The $52.6 million total represents the greatest investment in training in the
Province's history.


For More Information, Contact:
Christopher Jones-Bonk Advanced Education and Employment Regina Phone: 306-798-3106 Bill McLaughlin Northlands College Air Ronge Phone: 306-425-4273

Plutonium business

Below is a link to a free, downloadable book, The Plutonium Business and the Spread of the Bomb. by Walt Patterson as well as speeches by Patterson.

Walt Patterson, The Plutonium Business +

Once again please excuse this impersonal note. You might like to know
that, thanks to the good offices of Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear
Control Institute in Washington, DC, which holds the copyright, we have
now added the complete text of my book The Plutonium Business and the
Spread of the Bomb to our website archive Walt Patterson On Energy,
<> . You can find the free download at

My most recent speech, at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London on
9 October, was entitled ‘Energy Policy Is Infrastructure Policy’. You
can find it at

<> .

Best wishes – Cheers – Walt Patterson

Walt Patterson
Associate Fellow Chatham House
Little Rushmoor
High Bois Lane
Chesham Bois
Amersham Bucks HP66DQ
Tel. +44 (0) 1494 726748
Mobile +44 (0) 7971 840036
Email <>
Website: Walt Patterson On Energy <>

Endorsing the UN’s recommendation

When I listened to Stephen Lewis’ piece on the women of Africa that was part of Massey Lecture series on CBC’s Ideas I was moved to tears. It seems that others at the United Nations have also been moved and that Canadian women are behind this movement.

Women's Groups in Canada Applaud Call for New United Nations Agency on Women
Ottawa, November 17th 2006 -- Today, a wide range of women's groups in

Canada (see list below) endorsed the recommendation by a high level UN

panel to establish a new independent women-specific agency at the United

Nations. This and other recommendations on UN reform were released by

the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel for UN System-wide Coherence

last week.

The recommendations on women respond to severe criticism from Stephen

Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and women's

organizations from around the globe that the UN is sidelining women'

rights and gender equality goals, and undermining its own effectiveness

by not adequately addressing women's empowerment and human rights.

Groups in Canada commended the contribution of Robert Greenhill,

President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), one

of 15 members of the High-Level Panel. With Greenhill's support, the

Reform Panel also proposed that a new Under-Secretary General should be

established to oversee the agency, and that sufficient resources should

be granted to it.

"The time is long overdue for a women-specific agency at the UN. Now is

the time to show commitment to the human rights of girls and women's

everywhere," said Prabha Khosla, coordinator of the Canadian Committee

on Women and UN Reform.

Women's groups say that the leadership of a new Under-Secretary General

will be essential to the success of a new agency as it will guarantee it

the appropriate influence and provide a voice for women at the UN

decision-making tables.  Groups also support the Panel's recommendation

for an open, transparent and global search for a candidate who has

substantive expertise in gender equality.

"It is now up to Canada and all member states at the United Nations to

adopt these recommendations during the 61st session of the General

Assembly and stick to a process and time frame for implementation,"

added Joanna Kerr, Executive Director, the Association for Women's

Rights in Development (AWID).

Canada must be a key player in ensuring a reasonable budget for the

agency.  The Panel did not recommend one and Canada and other countries

must work together to ensure that there is sufficient funding.  "Through

increasing our international development budget to 0.7% of GNP as we

have promised to do many times, Canada has a unique opportunity to take

leadership on women's equality," said Khosla.

The dual mandate of the new entity, which will include both policy and

country-level functions, will strengthen the effectiveness of the gender

mainstreaming work of other UN agencies, as well as advance women's

rights directly.  For this entity to function as a driving force

throughout the UN system, and for it to better address women's lives at

the country level, the Canadian Committee recommends that every UN

Country Team must include senior-level gender equality experts with

adequate resources and support who can lead the team's efforts to fulfil

and promote UN and government commitments to women's human rights.

A strong and well-resourced institutional accountability mechanism that

enables women's participation and addresses women's rights in the UN's

activities throughout the globe was one of the critical needs presented

to the Coherence Panel.

Groups noted, however, that the recommendations come at a difficult time

for women's groups in Canada. "The federal government has made very

different choices regarding women in Canada.  It has cut the operating

budget of Status of Women Canada, the lead agency for gender equality by

40% and prohibited groups from using federal funds to advocate for

gender equality goals," noted Charlotte Thibault with the Canadian

Feminist Alliance for International Action.


For more information, please contact:

Prabha Khosla, The Canadian Committee on Women and UN Reform 	Tel.:

(416) 925-7414

Charlotte Thibault, FAFIA

Tel.:	(514) 849-6957

Nancy Peckford, FAFIA

Cell.:	(613) 292-7941

The Canadian Committee on Women and UN Reform Action Canada for

Population and Development (ACPD) Association for Women's Rights in

Development (AWID Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

(CAEFS) Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA)

Canadian Women's Health Network (CWHN) City for All Women Initiative

(CAWI) Gays Lesbians of African Descent Grassroots Organizations

Operating Together In Sisterhood Gender Equality Incorporated Harmony

House - Ottawa Indigenous Women's Network Metropolitan Action Committee

on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) National Action

Committee on the Status of Women (NAC-CCA) North York Women's Centre

Older Women's Network Preston/Cherry Brook/Lake Loon/Westphal & Area

Chapter Congress of Black Women of Canada - Nova Scotia Rights &

Democracy Riverdale Immigrant Women's Centre -Toronto South Asian

Women's Centre - Toronto Sudbury Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (SSAC)

Temiksaming Native Women's Support Group The Women's Coordinating

Committee Chile-Canada - Toronto Toronto Women's Call to Action

Transition House Association of Nova Scotia Women and Environments

International Magazine -Editorial Board Women's Counselling Referral and

Education Centre Working Women Community Centre -Toronto Yellowknife

Women's Society Yukon Status of Women Council

NOTE: You can access The Canadian Committee on Women and the UN Reform

(Web site) at

The Problem with Nuclear (Part I)

With renewed talk of Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) up for sale to the private sector, visits to my January post regarding this have spiked. Now that interest in nuclear is hot again I shall begin what will be at least a 2-part piece detailing the problems with nuclear, as written by Dr. Bill Adamson, of the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative.



By Bill Adamson, Retired Faculty Member from the U.of S., Saskatoon. October, 2006


Radiation is something that you cannot touch, or see, or feel. If it comes near you it can damage the DNA of both your body cells and your genetic cells. It may be carcinogenic (causing cancer) or teratogenic (causing abnormalities in a fetus), or mutagenic (causing defective genes to be passed on for several generations). There are three kinds of radiation—beta, gamma, and alpha.


Beta is short lived and low level. Gamma rays are like X-rays, they can penetrate flesh and do damage. Alpha radiation is different, consisting of tiny little, highly charged particles that float in the air. They do not penetrate very much, but if they float into the lung passages of a human or animal, the high charge can damage the chromosomes of the cells.


Uranium Mines and Mills.

The large danger with uranium mining is the release of alpha radiation. The uranium rock or ore is crushed into fine dust and treated with strong chemicals to secure the desired “yellowcake.” Hence, nearly all the radioactivity is released. High grade ores at 21% such as at McArthur River or Cigar Lake, will give off 2,500 becquerels (disintegrations) per second for each gram of ore. That is a lot of radiation!


Modern mines use robotic methods, gravity, and large steel pipes to keep the ore and radiation away from miners and mill workers. Still, workers are needed to repair or to unplug the systems. The workers are required to wear dosimeters to register the amount of radiation received. The companies try to keep the radiation levels low so as to reduce the risks.


However, there is a paradox here. Low levels of radiation are more dangerous than high levels. High exposures will kill cells, so that the body works to replace them. Low exposures damage the chromosomes a little, so that the body has difficulty in repairing them. Then, 10–15 years later, these damaged parts may turn into a cancer. There is a delayed action response! After the mine is closed, and the company moved away, then a worker may contract cancer. Many long-range studies have shown that uranium workers are prone to three times the normal rates of cancer, and low levels doses of radiation are very destructive(1).


For instance, an epidemiological study by John Hopkins University followed up the health of 13,570 workers encompassing 30 years, who had worked for the atomic energy of Canada, Ltd., and some 948 had died of cancer. Yet the company had monitored these workers to make sure that they only received low doses sof radiation! The paradox, the reverse logic is at work! (2). An epidemiological study of 12,000 mine workers over some 20 years was proposed for the Beaverlodge area of Saskatchewan recently, but the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission decided to cancel the project. I think they were afraid of what they would find (3).



Uranium Mine and Mill Tailings

The tailings from seven different current mines are being placed in the JEB pit, under water to confine the radioactivity. This is a huge pit, four football fields wide, and thirty stories deep. Along with the uranium there is a lot of radium in the ore rock. It is very radioactive and disintegrates gradually into thirteen other substances—like thorium which has a half-life of 75,400 years (i.e. in that time it will become half disintegrated), and radium which has a half-life of 1600 years.


Most of the radium is separated out from the uranium in the mill process, and goes into the tailings pond. The Cluff Lake mine, now closed, left behind 2.6 million cubic metres of tailings (4). In the JEB pit, by 2006, there are approximately 790,073 cubic metres, corresponding to about 830,800 dry tonnes of radioactive tailings (5).

Currently, there are water pumps encircling this JEB pit to keep the ground water from flowing into the Fox Creek water system just 150 metres away. The tailings are something akin to toothpaste. The question is: ”How long will the pumps keep working”? Governments change every four or five years, and in a few years the mining companies will move away. So, Saskatchewan will have the legacy of a huge pool of radioactive sludge ready to poison our northern waterways, if extreme vigilance is not maintained for thousands of years! This danger is nearly as bad as the burnt fuel from nuclear reactors, which scientists do not know what to do with after 60 years of research.


Fabrication of Fuel Pellets

Uranium (U) has molecules which can be separated by chemical processes to form various types of uranium. These processes of fabricating fuel pellets also release radioactivity. The fabricating factories also require large amounts of electrical energy in the first place, before the uranium fuel pellets generate any new energy.


For instance, uranium is transposed in Saskatchewan into yellowcake (U3O8). The yellowcake is taken to Blind River, Ontario, where it is refined to UO3, an intermediate product. This is trucked to Port Hope, Ontario where the UO3 is converted to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), and also into natural uranium dioxide (UO2), which is an enriched form used in making the fuel bundles for CANDU reactors.


The hexafluoride is shipped to the USA to be enriched for use in light water reactors. This process requires the use of chlorofluorcarbons (CFC’s). The CFC’s are banned in Canada, and are 1000 to 2000 times more damaging to the ozone layer than carbon gases. So, the preparation of nuclear fuel pellets in the USA cannot be rightfully claimed to be “clean” Moreover, a by-product of this enrichment process is depleted uranium (U-238) which is used to make bombs and ammunition, and which also sprays radioactive particles wherever it explodes. Each year Saskatchewan exports 4000 tonnes of uranium to the USA. Over the last 50 years the USA has accumulated 500,000 tonnes of this depleted uranium (6).


Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear reactors are huge, complex machines used to control nuclear fission. With the splitting of atoms they create tremendous energy and heat, used to boil water and to make steam and to turn large generators that produce electricity. There are 20 of them in Canada, 104 in the USA, and 430 in the whole world. They are generally built near a lake or river to secure water for cooling purposes. Many of the Canadian reactors are built along the Great Lakes. During the summer of 2006, France had to close down several of its reactors during a heat wave and drought, because the hot water was dangerously hot for the health of the nearby rivers. Recently, it has been found that the tritium levels in the waters of the Great Lakes have been rising (7).


These reactors produce electricity, but they also give off carbon-14, tritium, and plutonium -239. Carbon-14 has a radioactive half-life of 5730 years, and tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years. These reactors do not give off carbon-dioxide gases, but they certainly cannot be designated as “clean” or “green.”


The core of the reactor, where the nuclear fission takes place, is terribly hot and radioactive. After the splitting of atoms, some 200 deadly radioactive elements remain—uranium -238 with a half-life of 710,000 years, iodine-129 with a half-life of 15.8 million years, and plutonium with a half-life of 24,400 years (8).


These powerful machines are capable of producing electricity, but they are also vulnerable to malfunction, human error, or terrorist attacks. The partial melt-down at Three Mile Island spread much radioactivity in the region. The journalist, Harvey Wasserman, writes that there has not been a proper accounting of the damaged animals, sick children, and premature deaths of adults in that region (9).


The explosion and meltdown at Chernobyl reveals the potential danger in these reactors. The area for 30 kilometers around that city was totally devastated by the high radiation released. Some 50,000 people fled the area. Some 140,000 square kilometers of farmland were contaminated in Belarus and Ukraine. It is predicted that there will be 270,000 cases of cancer arising from the radioactive fallout, of which some 93,000 will be fatal. A huge concrete sarcophagus was built over the demolished reactor plant to lessen the spread of radioactivity.


However, clouds of radioactive articles were carried on the air currents over the countryside. Over the first two days this radioactivity floated as far north as Sweden and Finland (April 26-28, 1986). On the next four days it floated over Germany, France and Britain. Over the next seven days it floated southward and east over Ukraine, Turkey, and Greece. This is shown on an interactive map on the internet by Der Spiegel International (10). Even today, farmers in Wales have to test their sheep for radioactivity before they can sell them to market (11).


High Level Nuclear Waste

The spent fuel from nuclear reactors is extremely radioactive and dangerous to all living things. It contains

some 200 deadly radioactive elements as byproducts of the fission process, such as uranium, cesium, strontium, and iodine. They are radioactive for thousands and thousands of years, for longer than recorded human history. The half-life of Plutonium-239 is 24,390 years, and for Plutonium-242 the half-life is 387,000 years.


Currently, much of these wastes are stored on site near reactors, in pools of water for cooling, and some older wastes in dry storage. Over the last 60 years some 225 million tonnes have been accumulated in the world, some 34,000 tonnes in Canada alone(12).


Scientists have hoped to dispose of these wastes in deep rock caverns. However, deep gold mines in Yellowknife, Thompson, Sudbury, and Matagami, as well as in Europe, as well as in the experimental deep rock shaft at Pinawa, Manitoba, reveal brine water under extreme pressure underlying crystalline rock generally, and the Canadian Shield in particular. We are reminded of this fact by the major flood in the McArthur mine in Saskatchewan in 2005. Back in 1987, the research of two geologists, P.Fritz and S.K. Frape had made this fact clear, but their research has been ignored by the mining companies and the governments in Canada (13).


Atomic energy of Canada Ltd., (AECL) spent 15 years and $700 million dollars developing a plan for deep rock disposal. For 8 years the Seaborn Commission held hearings and gathered evidence, but decided in 1998 that the plan for such long lasting wastes was not satisfactory or socially acceptable.


The federal Government of Canada stepped in to give the problem back to the owners of the reactors under the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. The government gave instructions to the NWMO to select one of three options:

  1. Deep geological disposal.

  2. Storage at nuclear reactor sites.

  3. Centralized storage either above or below ground


After three years the NWMO came up with a plan named “Adaptive Phased Management,” wherein they recommended that all three of the options be used in stages, taking lots of time, up to 300 years if necessary, and spending money as necessary up to $24billion dollars! (14).


Depleted Uranium

When uranium yellowcake (U3O8) is processed into U-235 for reactors, then it leaves a by-product of U-238 which is known as depleted uranium(DU). Over the years of enrichment the USA has accumulated some 700,000 tonnes of this material. The military found that it could be used to harden bullets and bombs, and to be very pyrophoric. So, a shell will slice through the steel wall of a tank and immediately burst into flames. With the explosion it sends a shower of radioactive particles into the region, thereby getting into the dust and water of the area. Following the Gulf War (1991), children playing around the burned out tanks and machines were radiated causing leukemia and thyroid cancers and sickness.


These special munitions and bombs were used in Yugoslavia (1990’s—34 tons). In Afghanistan (2002—800 tons), and in the Gulf War (2003—800 tons). Again they were used in the Iraq War in March and April of 2003. In the “shock and awe” campaign of 2003, some 1500 bombs and missiles were dropped on Baghdad and region, and 300.000 rounds of DU ammunition were fired by A-10 warplanes.


Meanwhile, a special set of radiation filters had been set up in Aldermaston, England, at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). A report by Dr. Chris Busby stated that within 7 to 9 days after the bombardment of the Baghdad region, higher levels of uranium radiation were picked up at the five sites in Berkshire, England, some 2400 miles away. He believes that uranium aerosols were dispersed in the atmosphere and blown across Europe. Hence, the increase of radiation levels in this globe of ours (14).


After 14 years, the USA Dept. of Veteran Affairs reports that over 518,000 Gulf-War veterans are now on medical disability, although some 7,039 had been wounded on the battlefield. Many babies, since born to the veterans, have shown birth defects. Many children and adults in the region of the Gulf War have suffered leukemia and various illnesses.


The USA has seven factories manufacturing depleted uranium ammunition at Paducah, Ohio; Portsmouth, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tennesee; Aerojet Ordnance at Downey, Calif.; Honeywell at Hopkins, Minnesota; and Alliant Techsystems in Edina, Minnesota. Many planes, helicopters, tanks, ships, and missiles use this radioactive material (15). A Japanese physicist, Dr. Katsumaa Yakasaki, has estimated that the radiation fallout from weapons testing and the use of depleted uranium munitions, amounts to the fallout from 400,000 Nagasaki bombs (16).


The USA has an annual military budget of $500 billion, and continues the possession of 10,000 nuclear warheads, while Russia has some 7000 nuclear weapons, with some 4000 of them on high alert. Each warhead is capable of totally destroying any of the largest cities of the world, and a nuclear war would destroy our civilization. These are the situations into which Saskatchewan exports more and more uranium.


End Notes—Sources of Information


  1. Chemical Measures, Smoking, Radon Exposure and Lung Cancer Among Elliot Lake Miners,” by Finkelstein and Kusiak, Ontario Ministry of Labour, May 1995, pp. i, 1,8.


  1. Components and Modifiers of the Healthy Worker Effect,” by Howe, Chiarelli, and Lindsay. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 128, No. 6, 1986, p. 10.


  1. News Release, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, June 18, 2004.


  1. Comprehensive Study Report, Cluff Lake Decommissioning Project, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Dec. 2003, Section 6, pp. 6-13.


  1. Letter from Kevin Scissons, Director of CNSC Office in Saskatoon, Sept. 28, 2006.


  1. Why Nuclear Power Cannot be a Major Energy Source,“ by David Fleming. <www.>

Dublin, Ireland, April 2006, p. 3.







7. (E-Mail from Club Sierra of Canada– <> 2006.p.1.

European Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy,” by Julio Godoy, July 28, 2006. <>

Proposed nuclear solution to energy crisis pollutes debate,” by Adam Ma’amt, CCPA Monitor, Dec. 05-Jan. 06, p.11. Also, “Following the Path Backwards,” by Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CNNR). May 2005, pp. iv, 17.


(8) Sierra Club, e-mail article. 2006. p. 1.


(9) “Chernobyl kills while bought ex-Greenpeace shills,” by Harvey Wasserman, The Free Press Speaking the Truth to Power, April 29, 2006, p.2. <>


(10) Spiegel International-Online, April 24, 2006, Interactive Map. http://www.Spiegel,de/international/Spiegel/0,1518,41


(11) “Tried, tested and failed,” by Chris Hune. The Guardian, June 20, 2006.


(12) Cited above, Fleming, “Why Nuclear Power Cannot…p.5.

Also, Briefing Paper #3, March 2005. Canadian Nuclear Association.


(13) P. Fritz and S.K. Frape, eds., Saline Waters and Gases in Crystalline Rocks. Geological Association of Canada, Special Paper 33, 1987, chap. 3


(14) “UK Radiation Jump blamed on Iraq shells,” by Mark Gould and Jon Angoed-Thomas, The Sunday Times, Feb. 19, 2006. Also, “From Battlefield in the Middle East: Depleted Uranium Measured in British Atmosphere,” by Leuren Moret, Global Research, March 2, 2006. Also, “Occasional Paper on Depleted Uranium,” by Chris Busby and Saorise Morgan, Green Audit: Aberstwyth, January 1, 2006.

Also, “Nuclear Depleted Uranium is WMD,” bu Leuren Moret, aug. 29, 2006.

Also, “The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War,” by Leuren Moret, Global Research, July 2004. pp. 5,8,10,11,14.


(15) “Canada Playing Our Part in the Business of War,” Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, Ottawa.

Press for Conversion,” Issue # 52, October 2003.


(16) “ A Question of Survival,” by Dr. Ronald McCoy. President of International Physicians for the Prevention of War, Speech in Vancouver, June 26, 2006.

Also, “The Terrible and Rapidly Increasing Danger of a Nuclear Holocaust,” by Mel Hurtig. Speech given at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, August 9, 2006. <>

Also, Cited above, Leuren Moret, “From the Battlefields of the Middle East…, “p. 4.






Letting go of prejudice

I have to admit to a long-held prejudice against Catholic women.  But some in my women’s singing circle, including a nun and a couple of Catholic Women’s Leaguers, as well as these women are challenging me to let go of that outdated idea.

The Dominican sisters, Ardeth Platte, 70, Carol Gilbert, 59, and Jackie Hudson, 72, had come to town in yet another attempt to fulfill the gnarliest part of the sentences imposed on them by U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn when they were convicted of damaging government property and obstructing the national defense in 2003.

They are trying to pay off $3,082 in restitution to the U.S. Air Force – in canned goods.

They are collecting food for military families on public assistance.

Hudson brought pork and beans to represent the pork-barrel nature of the military-industrial complex, and a can of corn “because this case has been so corny from the beginning.”

Platte delivered canned clams – saying the American people have “clammed up long enough. It’s time to speak truth to power” – and a tin of beef stew. “With the massive numbers of people who have been killed in this war, I don’t want to stew over this any longer.”

Gilbert selected sweet peas – “To give peas a chance” – and cream of mushroom soup, representing the radiation cloud from a nuclear bomb, a weapon that has been used by only one country in the world, she said – the U.S.

“This is a grace-filled holy action,” said Gilbert. “Our conscience doesn’t allow us to participate in war by providing any money for bombs or violence.”

Holy actions indeed! Like I said, enough to make one reassess one’s prejudices.

Thanks to Sheroes for the lead.