Updated: Wall deflecting for Harper?

Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan, steps into the uranium issue at an interesting time.  He’s off to the First Minister’s meeting, having completely changed his tune on equalization.

The media and national politicians have their eyes directed towards the Harper government’s most recent attack on the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Linda Keen. The attacks, both in the House in December and in the correspondence made available to the media, are unfounded. They are personal and partisan and based on an issue which the Harperites continue to convolute and obfuscate. Keen’s letter to Lunn notes that a special meeting with Lunn took place after a conference call and Minister Lunn stormed out partway through. The formal directive on which Mr. Lunn bases his attack, was received by the CNSC after the issue appeared on the Order Paper in the House. How could Keen have possibly acted earlier, especially when there are laws dictating how she must act? Isn’t it obvious, then, that the attack on Ms Keen comes because she refused to bend the law and succumb to the will of the Harperites? Oh, and did I remember to mention that the meeting was about the MDS-Nordion million-dollar medical isotopes issue?

Today, the federal Liberals call for Lunn’s head on a platter and question the release of a report on AECL which was delivered to the government in September 2007. And, also today, the new premier of SK pulls a Ralph (as in Klein) and demonstrates how little he knows about the nuclear fuel cycle. From CBC Sask:

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall wants the province to get some environmental credit for the uranium it mines, but an environmental group is highly skeptical.

Wall argued Tuesday that nuclear power offsets the amount of fossil fuels burned in the world.

Say what?

Most people who have thoroughly researched the nuclear fuel cycle will have to acknowledge that huge amounts of GHGs are emitted at every stage of that cycle, from cradle to grave — and there is no grave for radioactive waste! It often moves from storage facility to storage facility.

I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Wall is able to pay his staff so very well because of kickbacks from the pro-nuke lobby? Granted, Mr. Wall’s staff are new to this government thing and will, of course, support Mr. Wall’s partisan agenda. And memories of the Devine regime remind SK-dwellers that, in the right wing world, partisan politics and the lining of one’s own pockets trumps morals any day. I wish I could pull from my memory each and every one of the issues on which Devine and Mulroney colluded and obfuscated. Are we seeing history repeat itself?

Mr. Wall would be well advised to acknowledge that the supply of uranium is limited to only a few short boom years. We need to look ahead, beyond short-term gain, to the future of our children’s children. So, instead of wasting time and energy on a backwards and dying industry, why not invest in something modern like a solar power plant to produce energy? The USA and Spain are already there. We could be in on the leading edge, especially with our sunny days!

These plants focus sunlight onto pipes which carry a ”hot oil,” Therminol 66. One class of solar collectors raises the temperature of the oil to 345 degrees Celsius (650 Fahrenheit). A large thermal reservoir can store a large amount of solar energy, enough for two weeks. The oil is never burned, however; it is continually recirculated though the pipes and the storage containers. The heat drives steam generators and turbines in order to generate electricity. Variations can be used with fibre optics to light buildings and heat water. Though it wasn’t the case a decade ago, there is now a lot of expertise and experience on solar power plants, enough to safely and economically put the hoped-for nuclear renaissance to its grave, once and for all. Solar is an industry waiting to grow!

Wake up and turn on the lights, Mr. Wall, this is the 21st century, after all.

UPDATE: (with thanks to ReWind.It at Bread’n’Roses.) The CBC reports that the recent isotope crisis has moved the US government to explore alternatives to obtaining medical isotopes from Canada:

The National Academy of Science, a group of scientists based in Washington that advises Congress on a number of issues, has been asked to consider four questions — all relating to the supply of medical isotopes, and whether the U.S. should consider producing its own.

DOTmed.com reports that it goes a little deeper than just Chalk River:

At the request of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, the National Academies have begun a year-long review of the state-of-the-science in nuclear medicine. This study results from the uncertainty about future federal funding for nuclear medicine research that accompanied the drastic reduction in support for the Medical Applications and Measurement Sciences (MAMS) program that had been supported by the Department of Energy for decades. The MAMS program was virtually eliminated in the Administration’s 2006 budget and was again not included in the 2007 proposal.

Experts at the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have been asked to provide findings and make recommendations around four issues having to do with nuclear medicine:

* future needs for radiopharmaceutical development for the diagnosis and treatment of human disease,
* future needs for computational and instrument development for more precise localization of radiotracers in normal and aberrant cell physiologies,
* national impediments to the efficient entry of promising new radiopharmaceutical compounds into clinical feasibility studies and strategies to overcome them and
* impacts of shortages of isotopes and highly trained radiochemists on nuclear medicine research, and short- and long-term strategies to alleviate these shortages if they exist.

No wonder the Harperites are all worked up! Their buddies might end up going elsewhere for medical isotopes.

UPDATE 2: Jason Kenney’s been shooting off his mouth, thinking  he knows something.  There was no crisis, Jason!  But I guess this tells us something about the sorry state the Harper government is in on the issue.  POGGE has the stuff.

I missed that the Auditor General’s report on AECL had been released.  (Damned real world! Or was it the Obama /Clinton thing?)  According to this report, Minister Lunn may well have known  months agothat the reactor at Chalk River was experiencing difficulties.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn may have known in September that the Chalk River reactor needed improvements to protect public safety, months before it was shut down, according to an auditor general report released Tuesday.

Auditor general Sheila Fraser said she presented a report on Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) to the corporation’s board on Sept. 5, 2007.

The cover page of the audit says: “We would like to draw your attention to a significant deficiency related to the unresolved strategic challenges that the Corporation faces … it is our view that this report contains information that should be brought to the attention of the Minister of Natural Resources. Accordingly, following consultation with the Board, we will be forwarding a copy of the report to the Minister.”

The report goes on to highlight “three strategic challenges” AECL faced, including “the replacement of aging facilities at Chalk River Laboratories (CRL).”

Never a dull moment in the nuke world, is there?

Linda Keen: What it means to Stand Up for Canada

ReWind.It, over at Bread’n’Roses, POGGE and the good Dr. Dawg have pretty much covered the new piece in the ongoing saga of the AECL’s Chalk River nuclear reactor. And, though I congratulate Ms Keen on her willingness to Stand Up for Canada and speak out regarding unfair treatment from Minister Lunn in her role as President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, I cannot let it go unnoticed that  Canada’s nuclear regulator has lacked perfection in its role of protecting the safety of Canadians from the nuclear fuel cycle.

I cannot help but wonder if, as with every single thing the Harper regime has done, that this is also a calculated response to their bungling of the Chalk River fiasco. What makes me think this is this statement by Keen:

I would therefore ask you to carefully consider the significant chilling effect your recent actions could have on the practices and decisions of other tribunals who are responsible for important work on behalf of Canadians.

It sends a definite message. And, you can call me paranoid, if you like, but I don’t trust our Steve, the wannabe dictator, one bit.

ETA: Impolitical’s contribution. And to fix the link to POGGE.

Chalk River: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

At the urging of our Prime Minister, Parliament thought itself wiser than those appointed to ensure the safety of Canadians, and reopened the Chalk River nuclear reactor.  Since then, according to Impolitical’s detailed description, two earthquakes have occurred near the Chalk River nuclear facility.

Contrary to what Harper has said, Chalk River is a nuclear disaster waiting to happen.  Perhaps Parliament’s first order of business when it reconvenes later this month should be to heed the advice of its nuclear regulator and shut down the AECL facility at Chalk River until all repairs have been completed.

Or, maybe it’s that Harper wants some kind of disaster to occur.  It might give him the edge he so desperately needs in order to proceed whole-heartedly with programs and policies in line with those enacted by his buddy Dubya post-9/11.

To ImpoliticalNow.

My Obama bubble burst

Well, my bubble about Obama burst. Backtracking to catch up on what’s been said in the Democratic Party’s campaign for leadership, I listened to comments about nuclear power. Obama could stand to learn a bit from that lovely Edwards fella who seems entirely on top of the issue. See for yourself:

 

Obama completely bumbled on that one. Sigh. Too bad he doesn’t see the nukers as part of the oil and gas cabal. It was too good to be true, eh? I guess he could still be friends with Tommy Douglas, though, especially given what the SK NDP did with uranium.

This was the moment

I don’t watch television, but I almost wish I had caught this one live.  (What would I do without YouTube?)  I found two glorious nuggets in Barack Obama‘s victory speech after the Iowa Caucus on Thursday night.  The first:

I’ll be a President who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.  And I’ll be a President who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home, who restores our moral standing, who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century — common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

OK, so that probably qualifies as six or eight.  Wow!  A US presidential possibility talking about the tyranny of oil, the threats of nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty?  w00t!  Not surprising this dude won!  I hope he has excellent security around him because the KKK can’t be too happy about it.

Here’s the second shining nugget:

Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.  Hope is what I saw…Hope is what led me here today…

After he won the SK election in November 2007, Brad Wall shouted,  Hope beats fear! Hope beats fear!  I cringed when I heard that language.  Hope doesn’t beat anything.  It’s scientifically wrong.  And, there was certainly no evidence contrary to a definitive Sask Party win before the SK election in November.

Obama understands hope.  Hope is something we can have and hold.  We can dare to choose it.  We can choose to find the courage to work towards that for which we hope.  We can use that courage to make change in our personal and public lives.  Tommy Douglas knew about that, too.  It’s evident in his epitaph, Courage my Friends, ’tis not too late to make a better world.  I think Barak and Tommy would be buds were the times different.

I don’t know if Barack Obama is the right guy to lead the Democrats to victory.  My sense is he’s a good guy, a little less radical than I would want.  But he could pull the vote from where it’s never been pulled and the USA is long overdue for a black president.  Here’s his full victory speech, if you’re interested.

 

With thanks to that bastard logician with three t’s, mattt, for the nudge.

Nuke News

Lots to keep tabs on.  Little time for it until all and sundry are back to work/school.

From WNN:

Operation resumes at Rabbit Lake
03 January 2008

Cameco announced on 2 January that normal mining activities had been resumed following flooding in late 2007 at its Eagle Point mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. The company announced on 28 November that underground activities at the mine, part of the Rabbit Lake uranium operation, had been suspended as a precautionary measure when the mine experienced an increase of water flow at a time when the capacity of the surface water-handling system was also temporarily reduced due to an equipment upgrade. Cameco said that operations had resumed “well ahead of schedule”, after sealing off the source of the water inflow. An old exploration drill hole was identified as the source of the water inflow. The hole was plugged by installing an inflatable packer. Cameco said that it will install a permanent plug and grout a substantial length of the drill hole with cement to replace the inflatable packer in the next couple of weeks.

No mention of ecological issues.  Hmm…what’s in the Financial Post:

Cameco resumes Rabbit Lake operations faster than expected
Posted: January 03, 2008, 1:31 PM by Peter Koven

Uranium miner Cameco Corp. has been besieged by operational problems in the last couple of years, but there was some good news Wednesday. The company said its Rabbit Lake mine in Saskatchewan is up and running after water inflow problems forced a closure in November. That was a faster clean-up than expected.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Fraser Phillips reduced his 2008 production estimate on Cameco after the closure was first announced, and assumed no first quarter production from Rabbit Lake. But now that operations are up and running, milling operations and uranium production are expected to resume later this quarter, slightly ahead of his expectations.

Despite the company’s well-documented problems, Mr. Phillips noted that Cameco “remains the leader” in the uranium industry, with the largest and highest quality assets. “However, continuing delays and uncertainty around Cigar Lake are cause for concern.

 

Hmm…Cameco is not a  miner, it is a corporation, but nice try NP/FP, to personalize the mega-polluting inanimate thing.   Doesn’t seem to be any mention of environmental issues in this piece, either.

Will anyone report on that so we can know the full story?

Uranium peak in 2025. Why bother?

Uranium’s energy peak is 2025.  Why are we wasting time even talking about this as an option for reducing GHGs, especially when the construction of reactors creates GHGs at every stage of the process and the costs are enormous?  Furthermore, the radioactive waste problem has not been addressed and the mining of uranium leaves ecological devastation in its wake.  Let’s get off this thought-train!

Here’s help.  Dr. David Fleming, an independent writer in the fields of energy, environment, economics, etc. has developed a handy booklet, The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy.  The first page lists good reasons to stay away from nuclear energy:


NUCLEAR ENERGY
In Brief
1. The world’s endowment of uranium ore is now so depleted that the
nuclear industry will never, from its own resources, be able to
generate the energy it needs to clear up its own backlog of waste.
2. It is essential that the waste should be made safe and placed in
permanent storage. High-level wastes, in their temporary storage
facilities, have to be managed and kept cool to prevent fire and
leaks which would otherwise contaminate large areas.
3. Shortages of uranium – and the lack of realistic alternatives –
leading to interruptions in supply, can be expected to start in the
middle years of the decade 2010-2019, and to deepen thereafter.
4. The task of disposing finally of the waste could not, therefore, now
be completed using only energy generated by the nuclear industry,
even if the whole of the industry’s output were to be devoted to it.
In order to deal with its waste, the industry will need to be a major
net user of energy, almost all of it from fossil fuels.
5. Every stage in the nuclear process, except fission, produces carbon
dioxide. As the richest ores are used up, emissions will rise.

6. Uranium enrichment uses large volumes of uranium hexafluoride,
a halogenated compound (HC). Other HCs are also used in the
nuclear life-cycle. HCs are greenhouse gases with global warming
potentials ranging up to 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide.

7. An independent audit should now review these findings. The
quality of available data is poor, and totally inadequate in relation
to the importance of the nuclear question. The audit should set
out an energy-budget which establishes how much energy will be
needed to make all nuclear waste safe, and where it will come
from. It should also supply a briefing on the consequences of the
worldwide waste backlog being abandoned untreated.

8. There is no single solution to the coming energy gap. What is
needed is a speedy programme of Lean Energy, comprising: (1)
energy conservation and efficiency; (2) structural change in
patterns of energy-use and land-use; and (3) renewable energy; all
within (4) a framework for managing the energy descent, such as
Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs).

Download it here.