After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton Charity
January 31, 2008
After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton Charity
By JO BECKER and DON VAN NATTA Jr.
Late on Sept. 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra touched down in Almaty, a ruggedly picturesque city in southeast Kazakhstan. Several hundred miles to the west a fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium that could fuel nuclear reactors around the world. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them.
Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.
Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.
The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra, analysts said.
Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month. The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle, an exclusive club of wealthy entrepreneurs in which friendship with the former president has its privileges…
On Dec. 13, when I read Dr. Dale Dewar’s email message in response to my query regarding medical isotopes, the message in which she asked if anyone else smelled a rat, I certainly had no idea just how big the rat actually was!
Well! It is about time the true story about the Chalk River Scandal came out in the mainstream media and in the House of Commons! On Monday, January 28, the French language newspaper, Le Devoir [Google translation] reported that the isotope crisis was manufactured, based on research which included conversations with officials at nuclear reactors in Europe.
Other papers and politicians must have been waiting for something like this because they have jumped on board!
…New Democrat MP Catherine Bell said her own research is consistent with the newspaper’s findings. She said she found European isotope suppliers that were ready and willing to step into the breach.
Moreover, she said, experts told her “there was a shortage but it was not a life and death shortage.”
All of which raises the question: “Was this a manufactured crisis?”
Bell said it appears the government wanted to get rid of Keen. It may also have been trying to protect “the financial position” of MDS Nordion, the private company that supplies the isotopes produced at Chalk River.
“Their bottom line had to be protected as well. If we have to buy these isotopes from somewhere else, then it affects them.”
Remember MDS Nordion was about to face significant financial losses. And the Cons are nothing if they are not friends of business! They’re definitely not friends of civil servants.
Yesterday was Linda Keen’s day before a Parliamentary committee, a day she was able to defend her actions and clarify her (now former) role as President of Canada’s nuclear regulator. Her clarity on the point that it was not her job to either obey the Minister or consider the need for medical isotopes needed to heard!
It seems that Members of Parliament are now beginning to see that they were hoodwinked by the Harperites. Mind you, had any of them or any reporters spoken with the head of nuclear medicine at Yale, they’d have learned a lot sooner that there was no medical isotope crisis and that the Harper government created it to suit its own purposes, whatever those may be.
From the inbox, something Premier Brad Wall might want to think about as he and his minions consider Saskatchewan’s nuclear future. The only way the nuke industry makes money is through government subsidies, i.e. taxpayers’ money. Is this where we want our taxes spent, on an industry that is not economically sustainable?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Michael Mariotte
January 28, 2008
NIRS STATEMENT ON CANCELLATION OF IDAHO NUCLEAR REACTOR
Today, MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company announced that it is cancelling
its plans to build a new nuclear reactor in Payette County, Idaho.
The company cited the poor economics of nuclear power for its decision,
saying that its “due diligence process has led to the conclusion that it
does not make economic sense to pursue the project at this time.”
MidAmerican was planning on Warren Buffett’s Berkshire/Hathaway company to
provide major financing for the project. Buffett is a major owner of
Which leads NIRS to the obvious conclusion: if Warren Buffett cannot figure
out how to make money from a new nuclear reactor, who can?
“This cancellation is the first of the new nuclear era,” said Michael
Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service,
“but it won’t be the last. Even before any new nuclear construction has
begun in the U.S., cost estimates have skyrocketed and are now 300-400%
higher than the industry was saying just two or three years ago.”
“The extraordinary costs of nuclear power, coupled with its irresolvable
safety and radioactive waste problems, killed the first generation of
reactors, and are going to end this second generation as well. But it would
be tragedy if the U.S. wasted any money on new reactors, when resources are
so desperately needed to implement the safer, cheaper, faster, and
sustainable energy sources needed to address the climate crisis,” Mariotte
The 1988 Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision on R. v. Morgentaler, the decision which struck down Canada’s old abortion law, is a document well worth the time it takes to read. It provides the historical context for there being no new abortion law in Canada and it clarifies why men need to keep their laws off women’s bodies.
Chief Justice Brian Dickson, in the Majority Report, said:
Section 251 clearly interferes with a woman’s physical and bodily integrity. Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.
I’m celebrating that part today. And I’m celebrating the part by the late Justice Bertha Wilson who wrote a Minority Report which took the decision of the Majority even further. She said:
This decision is one that will have profound psychological, economic and social consequences for the pregnant woman. The circumstances giving rise to it can be complex and varied and there may be, and usually are, powerful considerations militating in opposite directions. It is a decision that deeply reflects the way the woman thinks about herself and her relationship to others and to society at large. It is not just a medical decision; it is a profound social and ethical one as well. Her response to it will be the response of the whole person.
It is probably impossible for a man to respond, even imaginatively, to such a dilemma not just because it is outside the realm of his personal experience … but because he can relate to it only by objectifying it, thereby eliminating the subjective elements of the female psyche which are at the heart of the dilemma.
So there ya have it! A w00t! for Wilson! A w00t! for Morgentaler! And a w00t! for prochoicers everywhere!
Now let’s get this problem of access to the procedure sorted, please.
Reading the biz pages to find the news on nukes really works.
[A] newly elected provincial government [is] intent on moving the industry forward. The right-leaning Saskatchewan Party is not as fettered by internal conflict over the issue as its left-leaning NDP predecessor, and everything short of the nuclear waste storage idea appears to be back on the table.
“Who knows what opportunities lie ahead in this area for the province?‘‘ Premier Brad Wall said recently. “I believe we can lead in this area, certainly in research and development.‘‘
Saskatchewan first looked at developing the uranium industry in the 1940s and s under then premier Tommy Douglas as a means of diversifying its agricultural economy. In the 1970s the mining industry expanded rapidly thanks to several big finds in the north.
The province enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the industry until people began to question where the uranium was ending up, said Bill Waiser, a historian at the University of Saskatchewan.
“They were beginning to question the morality of it,‘‘ Waiser says. “There are ecological concerns about it and `Are we facilitating the arms race unintentionally?‘‘‘
With a new government in power and a premier who talks about nuclear opportunities every chance he gets, people on both sides of the debate are watching the situation closely.
While the previous NDP government had expressed interest in refining uranium in the province, Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, figures the business-friendly Saskatchewan Party will take a “hard look‘‘ at attracting a company to do it.
“We, particularly, are quite optimistic,‘‘ McLellan says. “Anything that adds value to things that are mined here is great for business.‘‘
Some, like former NDP deputy premier Dwain Lingenfelter, say Saskatchewan‘s wide open spaces make it ideal for every step of the cycle, including power generation and waste storage. While conventional reactors are widely seen as producing too much power for the province‘s needs, Lingenfelter argues Saskatchewan could become a power hub and supply energy to the rest of Canada and the United States.
“The first thing that has to happen is the government in the province has to say to the world that they‘re interested, which hasn‘t happened to this point,‘‘ says Lingenfelter, who is now an utive with the Calgary-based oil company Nexen.
“I think it takes more than governments saying, `Yeah, we are sort of in favour of it, but we will see how it goes.‘‘‘
Wall has expressed interest in research being done around small-scale nuclear reactors that would produce power at a level more suitable to the province‘s needs. He‘s also talked about the idea of developing a research reactor such as the one in Chalk River, Ont., which produces medical isotopes.
Ann Coxworth, with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, acknowledges that the current political situation in the province does not favour the anti-nuclear movement.
From the inbox, the announcement of the anti-awards for “particularly nasty corporate behavior”:
Public Eye Denounces Areva and Glencore, Praises Hess Natur
At the gates of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Berne Declaration (BD) and Pro Natura have once again selected the year’s most irresponsible corporations. The French atomic multinational Areva and the Zug-based natural resources giant Glencore were sentenced this week with an anti-award for particularly nasty corporate behavior. Areva also received the public “worst of” award, determined by online voting. Hess Natur, a German mail-order firm for organic textiles, was the proud winner of the Public Eye Positive Award. In his opening address, National Assembly member Bastien Girod proposed groundbreaking ideas for the state sponsorship of the political consumer.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world once again nominated roughly 40 Swiss and non-Swiss corporations for one of the three Public Eye Awards. The two negative awards stand as examples of all those WEF members and large companies whose social and/or environmental behavior reveals the underbelly of a purely profit-driven globalization. In contrast, the Positive Award honors an exemplary corporate initiative.
The nuclear concern Areva S.A. received the Public Eye Global Award. The French state-owned company mines uranium in northern Niger under scandalous conditions: Mine workers are not informed about health risks, and analysis shows radioactive contamination of air, water and soil. In his address, Almoustapha Alhacen, president of the local organization Aghirin’man that represents those affected, spoke of “suspicious deaths among the workers, caused by radioactive dust and contaminated groundwater.”
The winner of the Public Eye Swiss Award is Glencore. The natural resources group, based in the tax haven of canton Zug, operates with a minimum of transparency and scruples. In Colombia, Glencore’s coal mines have caused massive environmental pollution and health problems for the population. In addition, the top-selling Swiss corporation is extremely hostile towards unions. It was nominated by Funtraenergetica, the local union of the energy and mining sectors. Its lawyer, Sergio Beccera Moreno, spoke in Davos of infringements on the freedom of association, paramilitary training camps on the mine’s property, and permanent social dumping.
Hess Natur received the Public Eye Positive Award for an organic cotton project in Burkina Faso, in collaboration with Swiss aid organization Helvetas. Delphine Zoungrana, responsible for organic farming for the National Union of Burkina Faso Cotton Producers, hopes for “more such initiatives for fair wages and non-toxic agriculture, so that one day all people can live with dignity.”
The Public Eye People’s Award was conferred for the first time. Receiving more than half of the over 10,000 online votes cast, the “winner” of this public ballot was once again Areva, followed by Bayer CropScience and Glencore. The new category and the decisive results show how closely the Public Eye reflects public opinion.
With the Public Eye, the Berne Declaration (BD) and Pro Natura have created – on location every year since 2000 – a counter-discourse to the WEF. Both NGOs are convinced that direct pressure is necessary to bring corporations to act with respect towards humankind and nature. Specifically, the NGOs call for legally-binding international regulations for corporate responsibility.
Further information (including Bastien Girod’s speech) at www.evb.ch/publiceye or from:Oliver Classen, the Berne Declaration, Tel. +41 (0)76 334 25 42, email@example.com
Sonja Ribi, Pro Natura, Tel. +41 (0)79 216 02 06, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon Edwards wrote:
I have been told that this German study was carefully carried out with a very large population living in the vicinity of 16 nuclear power plants. According to my source, there was a statistically significant correlation between cancer/leukemia among children under 5 and their proximity to (or distance from) a nuclear power plant. Moreover, this correlation remained significant when any one nuclear plant was taken away and the other 15 were studied. Thus the results are the strongest ever obtained, and the methodology was, according to all reports, exemplary..
Sat Dec 8, 2007
BERLIN (Reuters) – A German study has found that young children living near nuclear power plants have a significantly higher risk of developing leukemia and other forms of cancer, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.
“Our study confirmed that in Germany a connection has been observed between the distance of a domicile to the nearest nuclear power plant …. and the risk of developing cancer, such as leukemia, before the fifth birthday,” Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper quoted the report as saying.
The newspaper said the study was done by the University of Mainz for Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BFS). A copy of the report was not immediately available.
The researchers found that 37 children within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius of nuclear power plants had developed leukemia between 1980 and 2003, while the statistical average during this time period was 17, the paper said.
The newspaper cited an unnamed radiation protection expert familiar with the study who said its conclusions understated the problem. He said the data showed there was an increased cancer risk for children living within 50 kilometers of a reactor.
Best Canadian Feminist Blog
Best International Feminist Blog
Reproductive Liberty Blog
Best comment thread
The “why the fuck didn’t I say that?” award for most poignant comment
Best Snark Comment
Most Regressive “Progressive”
The Support Bro – Best Post by a male in support of feminists/feminism
From Greenpeace Canada E-news January 2008 this excerpt from Nukes and the human factor featuring Suzanne Rochford, a nuclear expert and former CNSC worker. The mess-up of the AECL/Chalk River situation by the humans, Harper and Lunn, makes the human component at the reactor even more significant.
Suzanne is an industrial engineer and as such she once worked for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a government agency responsible for regulating nuclear energy and the use of radioactive material. Her specialty is the human factor and the design of complex systems to optimize human potential and minimize human error. As well as studying technical topics such as mechanics, she also studied cognitive psychology such as how people perceive and process information and how they react to events.
The safety of nuclear plants can be jeopardized by many complex interacting factors in the system, and there is no doubt in her mind that includes human error. As an example, she points to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in New York State in 1979. She cites human error as a significant factor there. That said she cringes when the blame for a breakdown is laid on humans because all too often when complex systems are designed, human strengths and weaknesses, such as limits in short term memory, are not taken into consideration.
“The mind is not a computer; we are not very good at remembering a lot of detailed data such as long lists of machine part numbers. Humans are, however, very good at matching a complex pattern to a similar one they have previously experienced. ‘You look very much like my Aunt Martha’. This is something that computers struggle to do well. Any complex system – nuclear plants, airplanes and even cars – need to be designed to leverage human strengths while minimizing the use of human weakness.
“The problem with the Three Mile Island accident was you had a lot of things happening at once, which is common in a serious accident. It is rarely just one thing but a whole bunch of things that line up to cause the failure. But all I hear in the media is that it was human error. Ultimately, it was poor consideration of the human in the system. Some engineers would like to take the human outside the system, but that is not realistic,” she says.
Most nuclear power plants have lots of automated and manual safety checks, yet the operator is often not provided with a good overview of what is going on. Remote supervision of a system is very challenging, says Suzanne. “It’s not like riding a bike where you can see what’s ahead of you down the road. In a nuclear plant, the operator views the reactor through a software screen in a control room. The operator can’t actually see for himself.” And this was vital in the Three Mile Island accident, she says, because so many of the system displays were not coordinated but were independent gauges. There were hundreds of different alarms all going off at the same time.
“Some of those alarms were not visible to the operator, and some had been malfunctioning for weeks. This, combined with the fact that they were not designed to enable good “pattern matching” for the operator, resulted in the operator not recognizing the exact nature of the problem,” she says.
Attitudes among engineers changed in a big way after the accident at Chernobyl. They became more cautious and diligent about safety processes, says Suzanne. But again she points to the human error involved in the biggest nuclear accident in the world. The test, which set off the accident, was conducted at three in the morning when people’s performance is at its worst and there was huge political and management pressure to complete the test successfully. This resulted in operators feeling they had to override safety systems to complete the test.
Since Chernobyl, there is now a “strong culture for not interfering with automated shutdowns in Ontario. There is a tendency to let the system shut down and then figure out what went wrong. Before, it was up to the discretion of the operators, who had to consider the high cost involved in lost revenue and getting a nuclear power plant up and running again.
“Could we have an accident like the one at Three Mile Island with lots of bells and whistles going off? Yes we could,” says Suzanne, answering her own question. “You never get zero probability of an accident. There is always some risk and the only thing to do is try to minimize the risk and decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.”
The vision of nuclear power 40 years ago was of cheap energy but that didn’t turn out to be true. In fact, Suzanne confirms, nuclear power is quite expensive. She doesn’t think any more reactors should be built. However, she is not optimistic that they won’t be. She thinks the politicians “see centralized mega projects as sexy and haven’t got their heads around small highly distributed technical solutions, which are typical of renewable energy projects.” And there are always vested interests.
Thanks to Bill Curry for the info.
This man knows of what he speaks. He’s the second generation of Hardings to study SK’s uranium.
Four city tour to reveal uranium’s long-term ecological and health pain for short-term private economic gain
by Lynn Daniluk
OTTAWA – An expert on Saskatchewan’s uranium mining industry will warn people against letting the industry establish itself in the Ottawa River watershed in a 5-day book tour Jan. 22-26, 2008.
“Don’t let the uranium industry set up shop in the Ottawa River watershed,” warned Jim Harding, author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System, on the eve of his 4-city tour.
“Our toxic experience in Saskatchewan puts the lie to the industry’s promise that uranium mining is safe,” Harding said. “Even drilling for core samples in uranium-rich areas releases dangerous radon gases into the atmosphere. The reality is local residents and those downwind and downstream of mines are left to deal with the deadly legacy of increased rates of cancer and other health problems.”
“Radon gas, only one by-product of the uranium decay chain, is known as the second leading cause of lung cancer,” Harding said. “The Mississippi, Ottawa and Rideau River watersheds – and all those who live on or near them – are at risk of radioactive contamination if uranium mining is allowed to proceed.”
Updated to add more from Harding and Deadly Secrets