Depleted Uranium Being Used on Palestinian People

From the Canadian blogger, Eva Bartlett, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, at her blog in Gaza:

He updates me on a BBC report: “the one o’clock news on the local BBC channel interviewed a Norwegian doctor in Gaza who said some of the victims bear traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.”

Press TV interviews, Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian triage medical team member currently in Gaza:

Press TV: What can you tell about the uranium findings?

Dr. Mads Gilbert:The findings about the uranium I cannot tell you much about, but I can tell you that we have clear evidence that the Israelis are using a new type of very high explosive weapons which are called Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) and are made out of a tungsten alloy.

These weapons have an enormous power to explode.

The power of the explosion dissipates very quickly and the strength does not travel long, maybe 10 meters, but those humans who are hit by this explosion, this pressure wave are cut in pieces.

This was first used in Lebanon in 2006, it was used here in Gaza in 2006 and the injuries that we see in Shifa [Hospital] now, many many of them I suspect and we all suspect are the effect of DIME weapons used by the Israelis.

On the long term, these weapons will have a cancer effect on those who survive. They will develop cancer we suspect. There has been very little research on this but some research has been among other places in the United States, which show that these weapons have a high tendency to develop cancer. So they kill and those who survive risk having cancer.

One can’t help but wonder if the uranium came from Saskatchewan, eh?

Here’s an online petition you can sign.

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The Nuclear Link

So, it’s true. Dwayne Lingenfelter, aka Link the —-, is running for leadership of the SK NDP. And he’s about as pro-nuke as they come in these here parts. He and Premier Wall and his 12 male disciples on the Saskatchewan Uranium Development Partnership could have a grand ole circle jerk, dreaming on ways to make Saskatchewan the nuclear energy hub of the continent! So, here’s hoping the Saskatchewan NDP get themselves together and elect someone other than this neoliberal has-been who ran away to work for the Alberta oilpatch.

And here’s some more required reading, about what Saskatchewan’s uranium has done/is doing to the world.

The horror of U.S. depleted uranium in Iraq threatens the world

November 1, 2008

American and British use of DU is a crime against humanity which may, in the eyes of historians, rank with the worst atrocities of all time. War vets who’ve returned from Iraq are sitting on DU death row. All this, a net result of the White House’s reaction to 9/11.

I’m horrified. The people out there — the Iraqis, the media and the troops — risk the most appalling ill health. And the radiation from depleted uranium can travel literally anywhere. It’s going to destroy the lives of thousands of children, all over the world. We all know how far radiation can travel. Radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales and in Britain you sometimes get red dust from the Sahara on your car.

The speaker is not some alarmist doomsayer. He is Dr. Chris Busby, the British radiation expert, Fellow of the University of Liverpool in the Faculty of Medicine and UK representative on the European Committee on Radiation Risk, talking about the best-kept secret of this war: the fact that, by illegally using hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) against Iraq, Britain and America have gravely endangered not only the Iraqis but the whole world.

For these weapons have released deadly, carcinogenic and mutagenic radioactive particles in such abundance that — whipped up by sandstorms and carried on trade winds — there is no corner of the globe they cannot penetrate — including Britain. For the wind has no boundaries and time is on their side: the radioactivity persists for over 4,500,000,000 years and can cause cancer, leukemia, brain damage, kidney failure and extreme birth defects — killing millions of every age for centuries to come. A crime against humanity which main the eyes of historians, rank with the worst atrocities of all time.

Yet, officially, no crime has been committed. For this story is a dirty story in which the facts have been concealed from those who needed them most. It is also a story we need to know if the people of Iraq are to get the medical care they desperately need, and if our troops, returning from Iraq, are no to suffer as terribly as the veterans of other conflicts in which depleted uranium was used.

‘Depleted’ uranium is in many ways a misnomer. For ‘depleted’ sounds weak. The only weak thing about depleted uranium is its price. It is dirt cheap, toxic waste from nuclear power plants and bomb production.

However* uraniuniis one of earth’s heaviest elements and DU packs a Tyson’s punch, smashing through tanks, buildings and bunkers with equal ease, spontaneously catching fire as it does so, and burning people alive.

‘Crispy critters’ is what U.S. servicemen call those unfortunate enough to be close. And, when John Pilger encountered children killed at a greater distance he wrote: “The children’s skin had folded back, like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. I vomited.”

The millions of radioactive uranium oxide particles released when it burns can kill just as surely, but far more terribly. They can even be so tiny they pass through a gas mask, making protection against them impossible. Yet, small is not beautiful. For these invisible killers indiscriminately attack men, women, children and even babies in the womb — and do the gravest harm of all to children and unborn babies.

Doctors in Iraq have estimated that birth defects have increased by 2-6 times, and 3-12 times as many children have developed cancer and leukemia since 1991. Moreover, a report published in The Lancet in 1998 said that as many as 500 children a day are dying from these sequels to war and sanctions and that the death rate for Iraqi children under 5 years of age increased from 23 per 1000 in 1989 to 166 per thousand in 1993.

Overall, cases of lymphoblastic leukemia more than quadrupled with other cancers also increasing “at an alarming rate”. In men, lung, bladder, bronchus, skin and stomach cancers showed the highest increase. In women, the highest increases were in breast and bladder cancer, and non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

On hearing that DU had been used in the Persain Gulf in 1991, the UK Atomic Energy Authority sent the Ministry of Defense a special report on the potential damage to health and the environment. It said that it could cause half a million additional cancer deaths in Iraq over 10 years.

In that war the authorities only admitted to using 320 tons of DU — although the Dutch charity LAKA estimates the true figure is closer to 800 tons. Many times that may have been spread across Iraq by this war. The devastating damage all this DU will do to the health and fertility of the people of Iraq now, and is beyond imagining.

We must also count the many thousands of miscarried babies. Nobody knows how many Iraqis have died in the womb since DU contaminated their world. But it is suggested that troops who were only exposed to DU for the brief period of the war were still excreting uranium in their semen 8 years later and some had 100 times the so-called ‘safe limit’ of uranium in their urine.

The lack of government interest in the plight of veterans of the 1991 war is reflected in a lack of academic research on the impact of DU, but informal research has found a high incidence of birth defects in their children and that the wives of men who served in Iraq have three times more miscarriages than the wives of servicemen who did not go there.

Since DU darkened the land, Iraq has seen birth defects which would break a heart of stone: babies with terribly foreshortened limbs, intestines outside their bodies, huge bulging tumors where their eyes should be, or a single eye-like Cyclops, or without eyes, or without limbs, and even without heads. Significantly, some of the defects are almost unknown outside textbooks showing the babies born near A-bomb test sites in the Pacific.

Doctors report that many women no longer say “Is it a girl or a boy?” but simply, “Is it normal, doctor?” Moreover, this terrible legacy will not end. The genes of their parents may have been damaged forever, and the damaging DU dust is ever present.

What the governments of America and Britain have done to the people of Iraq, they have also done to their own soldiers in both wars. And they have done it knowingly. For the battlefields have been thick with DU and soldiers have had to enter areas heavily contaminated by bombing.

Moreover, their bodies have not only been assaulted by DU but also by a vaccination regime which violated normal protocols — experimental vaccines, nerve agent pills and organophosphate pesticides in their tents.

Yet, though the hazards of DU were known, British and American troops were not warned of its dangers. Nor were they given thorough medical checks on their return — even though identifying it quickly might have made it possible to remove some of it from their body. Then, when a growing number became seriously ill, and should have been sent to top experts in radiation damage and neurotoxins, many were sent to a psychiatrist.

Over 200,000 U.S. – troops who returned from the 1991 war are now invalids with ailments officially attributed to service in Iraq — that’s British government’s failure to assess fully the health of returning troops, or to monitor their health, means no one even knows how many have died or become gravely ill since their return.

However, Persian Gulf veterans’ associations say that, of 40,000 or so fighting fit men and women who saw active service, at least 572 have died prematurely since coming home and 5000 may be ill.

An alarming number are thought to have taken their own lives, unable to bear the torment of the innumerable ailments which have combined to take away their career, their sexuality, their ability to have normal children and even their ability to breathe or walk normally. As one veteran puts it, they are “on DU death row, waiting to die”.

Whatever other factors there may be, some of their illnesses are strikingly similar to those of Iraqis exposed to DU dust. For example, soldiers have also fathered children without eyes. And, in a group of eight servicemen whose babies lack eyes seven are known to have been directly exposed to DU dust.

They too have fathered children with stunted arms and rare abnormalities classically associated with radiation damage. They too seem prone to cancer and leukemia.

Tellingly, so are EU soldiers who served as peacekeepers in the Balkans, where -DU was also used. Their leukemia rate has been so high that several EU governments have protested the use of DU.

Despite all that evidence of the harm done by DU, governments on both sides of the Atlantic have repeatedly claimed that as it emits only ‘low level’ radiation, DU is harmless. Award-winning scientist, Dr. Rosalie Bertell who has led UN medical commissions, has studied ‘low-level’ radiation for 30 years. She has found that uranium oxide particles have more than enough power to harm cells, and describes their pulses of radiation as hitting surrounding cells ‘like flashes of lightning’ again and again in a single second.2

DU radioactivity persists for over 4,500,000,000 years killing millions of every age for centuries to come. This is a crime against humanity which may rank with the worst atrocities of all time,

Like many scientists worldwide who have studied this type of radiation, she has found that such ‘lightning strikes’ can damage DNA and cause cell mutations which lead to cancer.

Moreover, these particles can be taken up by body fluids and travel through the body, damaging more than one organ. To compound all that, Dr. Bertell has found that this particular type of radiation can cause the body’s communication systems to break down, leading to malfunctions in many vital organs of the body and to many medical problems. A striking fact, since many veterans of the first Persian Gulf war suffer from innumerable, seemingly unrelated, ailments.

In addition, recent research by Eric Wright, Professor of Experimental Hematology at Dundee University, and others, has shown two ways in which such radiation can do far more damage than has been thought.

The first is that a cell which seems unharmed by radiation can produce cells with diverse mutations several cell generations later. (And mutations are at the root of cancer and birth defects.) This “radiation- induced genomic instability” is compounded by “the bystander effect” by which cells mutate in unison with others which have been damaged by radiation — rather as birds swoop and turn in unison. Put together, these two mechanisms can greatly increase the damage done by a single source of radiation, such as a DU particle.

Moreover, it is now clear that there are marked genetic differences in the way individuals respond to radiation — with some being far more likely to develop cancer than others. So the fact that some veterans of the first Persian Gulf war seem relatively unharmed by their exposure to DU in no way proves that DU did not damage others.

That the evidence from Iraq and from our troops, as well as the research findings of such experts, has been ignored may be no accident.

A U.S. report, leaked in late 1995, allegedly says, the “potential for health effects from DU exposure is real; however it must be viewed in perspective . . . the financial implications of long-term disability payments and healthcare costs would be excessive.”3

Clearly, with hundreds of thousands gravely ill in Iraq and at least a quarter of a million UK and U.S. troops seriously ill, huge disability claims might be made not only against the governments of Britain and America if the harm done by DU were acknowledged. There might also be huge claims against companies making DU weapons and some of their directors are said to be extremely close to the White House.

How close they are to Downing Street is a matter for speculation, but arms sales make a considerable contribution – to British trade. So the massive whitewashing of DU over the past 12 years, and the way that governments have failed to test returning troops — seemed to disbelieve them, and’ washed their hands of them — may be purely to save money.

The possibility that financial considerations have led the governments of Britain and America to cynically avoid taking responsibility for the harm they have done, not only to the people of Iraq but to their own troops, may seem outlandish.

Yet DU weapons weren’t used by the other side and no other explanation fits the evidence. For, in the days before Britain and America first used DU in war its hazards were no secret.4 One American study in 1990 said DU was “linked to cancer when exposures are internal,

[and to] chemical toxicity-causing kidney damage”. While another openly warned that exposure to these particles under battlefield conditions could lead to cancers of the lung and bone, kidney damage, non-malignant lung disease, neurocognitive disorders, chromosomal damage and birth defects.5

In 1996 and 1997 UN Human Rights Tribunals condemned DU weapons for illegally breaking the Geneva Convention and classed them as “weapons of mass destruction”, “incompatible with international humanitarian and human rights law”. Since then, following leukemia in European peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan (where DU was also used), the EU has twice called for DU weapons to be banned.

Yet, far from banning DU, America and Britain stepped up their denials of the harm from this radioactive dust as more and more troops from the first Persian Gulf war and from action and peacekeeping in the Balkans and Afghanistan have become seriously ill. This is no coincidence.

In 1997, while citing experiments by others in which 84 percent of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium died of cancer of the lungs, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, then Professor of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, was quoted as saying, the “

[U.S. government’s] Veterans Administration asked me to lie about the risks of incorporating depleted uranium in the human body”. He concluded, “uranium does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the biosphere, and denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the deadly isotope uranium, then we are doing disservice to ourselves, disservice to the truth, disservice to God and to all generations who follow”. Not what the authorities wanted to hear and his research was suddenly blocked.

During 12 years of ever-growing British whitewash the authorities have abolished military hospitals, where there could have been specialized research on the effects of DU and where expertise in treating DU victims could have built up.

And, not content with the insult of suggesting the gravely disabling symptoms of Persian Gulf veterans are imaginary, they have refused full pensions to many. For, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the current British House of Commons briefing paper on DU hazards says “it is judged that any radiation effects from possible exposures are extremely unlikely to be a contributory factor to the illnesses currently being experienced by some Persian Gulf war veterans”. Note how over a quarter of a million sick and dying U.S.: and UK vets are called some’.

Britain and America not only used DU in this year’s Iraq war, they dramatically increased its use — from a minimum of 320 tons in the previous war (1991) to a minimum-of 1500 tons in this one (2003).

And this time the use of DU wasn’t limited to anti-tank weapons — as it had largely been in the previous Persian Gulf war — but was extended to the guided missiles, large bunker busters and 2000-pound mega-bombs used in Iraq’s cities. This means that Iraq’s cities have been blanketed in lethal particles — any one of which can cause cancer or deform a child.

In addition, the use of DU in huge bombs, which throw the deadly particles higher and wider in huge plumes of smoke, means that billions of deadly particles have been carried high into the air — again and again and again as the bombs rained down — ready to be swept worldwide by the winds.

The Royal Society has suggested the solution is massive decontamination in Iraq. That could only scratch the surface. For decontamination is hugely expensive and, though it may reduce the risks in some of the worst areas, it cannot fully remove them. For DU is too widespread on land and water. How do you clean up every nook and cranny of a city the size of Baghdad? How can they decontaminate a whole country in which microscopic particles, which cannot be detected with a normal Geiger counter, are spread from border to border? And how can they clean up all the countries downwind of Iraq, and indeed, the world?

So there are only two things we can do to mitigate this crime against humanity. The first is to provide the best possible medical care for the people of Iraq, for our returning troops and for those who served in the last Persian Gulf war and, through that, minimize their suffering. The second is to relegate war, and the production and sale of weapons, to the scrap heap of history- along with slavery and genocide. Then, and only then, will this -crime against humanity be expunged, and the tragic deaths from this war truly bring freedom to the people of Iraq, and of the world.

Britain and America not only used DU in this year’s Iraq war, they dramatically increased its use — from a minimum of 320 tons in the previous war (1991) to a minimum of 1500 tons in this one And this time the use of DU wasn’t limited to anti-tank weapons — as it had largely been in the previous Persian Gulf war — but was extended to-the guided missiles, large bunker busters and 2000 pound mega-bombs used in Iraq’s cities.

An Open Letter to Albertans

This, from the Inbox, an open letter from Dr. Jim Harding, author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System (Fernwood, 2007).

FYI and use. Also please forward to others. Cheers, Jim Harding
Subject: OPEN LETTER TO ALBERTANS

OPEN LETTER TO ALBERTANS – from a Saskatchewan Neighbour

I have just been to speak at community events discussing nuclear power in Peace River, Grand Prairie, Whitecourt, Edmonton and Red Deer, and will soon return to Lethbridge and Calgary. I have learned much about Alberta and its vibrant grass roots and, being there the week before the provincial election, I learned much about your reputation for having a one-party political system. And I learned more about the ecological and human impacts of the tar sands than I reckoned for. It was disappointing to see such a low voter turnout when AB is facing energy and the environmental challenges with such Canada-wide and global implications.

It was a bit like coming home, for I lived in Calgary as a child when my father worked for the Calgary Stampede. I would like to let Albertans know what I learned as I connected the dots on the nuclear controversy in your province.

1. DO THE REASONS GIVEN FOR ALBERTA GOING NUCLEAR MAKE SENSE?
ENERGY ALBERTA

When Energy Alberta Corporation (EAC) floated its trial balloon about building two AECL nuclear power plants near Peace River, it initially said the electricity was for the tar sands. It even said it already had a buyer for 70% of the electricity, a claim it later had to retract. After this PR kafuffle EAC did a 180-degree turnabout and said all its electricity would be sold into the AB grid. Tar sands companies confirmed they didn’t need the electricity, as the potential for co-generating electricity from waste heat in the tar sands (and elsewhere in AB) is largely untapped.
BRUCE POWER ONTARIO

Ontario’s nuclear company Bruce Power has now bought Energy Alberta’s option, meaning money passed hands without any energy being created. Bruce Power is a consortium of the uranium giant Cameco, Trans-Canada Corporation – which is into pipelines, and a few other interests. Bruce Power continues with the claim that nuclear power is needed to make up for a projected shortfall in AB’s electrical supply over the coming decade, although it also says it will explore using excess electricity to produce hydrogen to help process bitumen in the tar sands..

When the more reasonable ways to deal with electrical demand and supply are disclosed (see below), some expect Bruce Power will again shift ground and argue the excess nuclear-generated electricity can be exported into the U.S. market, adding to AB’s lucrative non-renewable energy export economy. The sceptics note that a transmission line to Montana is already in the works.

There are several problems with this export scenario. First, sending electricity along expensive grids for distant end uses is not at all efficient, though it may be profitable for some, perhaps Trans-Canada. The way to conserve electricity and reduce dangerous emissions is to produce it as close to the end use as possible. Second, AB is apparently not ideally located for accessing the larger U.S. grid, which is why we sometimes hear (from those who wish to become the mega-exporters) that Saskatchewan would be a better location to access the “hungry” eastern U.S. market. This would be equally irrational in terms of energy efficiency and environmental preservation. Third, if co-generation from the tar sands and elsewhere were systematically developed it would produce excess electricity for the AB grid. Some are already concerned about the impact of this excess electricity on the provincial market, without even considering adding nuclear.
AREVA FRANCE

The French nuclear state monopoly Areva is also lobbying for nuclear power in AB, especially at Whitecourt. It recently argued that AB needs nuclear power to maintain economic growth from the tar sands when natural gas runs out by 2030. (Sometimes the nuclear industry also tries to make homeowners think they’ll “freeze in the dark” because the tar sands will use up all the natural gas.) The natural gas industry has responded that this is nonsense: that they are working on efficiencies (combined cycle) and, anyway, new gas reserves will come on stream when the price rises. While the National Energy Board (NEB) has created scenarios of Canada having to import natural gas by 2030, this assumes we will continue to be an energy export branch-plant to the U.S. Also, the NEB scenario was created before a recent gas find in B.C.’s Big Horn basin, which is as large as in the whole McKenzie Delta. And remember, natural gas has the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all the fossil fuels and is therefore considered one of the transition fuels to a sustainable society.

2. WILL ALBERTA NEED NUCLEAR POWER BECAUSE OF A COMING SHORTAGE OF ELECTRICITY?

What about the nuclear industry argument that their toxic hardware is needed to address a future shortfall of electrical supply. AB’s electrical grid presently has nearly a 12,000 Megawatt (MW) capacity. (This means it could produce this much electricity if working at 100%). Bruce Power and Areva parrot projections by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) that if the present increases in electrical demand continue there will be a shortfall of 5,000 MW by 2017, and then argue this will necessitate nuclear power.

EFFICIENCY, CO-GENERATION, GEO-THERMAL AND RENEWABLES

The Nuclear Energy Agency projected that 1,000 Gigawatts (GW) of nuclear electricity capacity would be needed in the world by 1990. The actual amount was one-quarter of this, or 260 GW. The nuclear industry regularly inflates future electrical demand as an economic growth strategy, and in the case of Ottawa-owned AECL, as a way to maintain government bailouts. And they are typically wrong, for a shortfall of electrical supply can easily be handled by a four-prong strategy that is much better for the environment and pocket-book. First, energy efficiency and conservation can greatly reduce demand for electricity (demand side management or DSM). Such energy savings can also be designed to reduce the electrical capacity required to meet peak loads. Second, waste heat in AB which can be used to co-generate electricity (especially in the tar sands) is likely the most underused in all of Canada. Third, geo-thermal electricity from all the geological heat along the mountain ranges hasn’t been seriously considered, and it has been suggested that interested parties can’t locate drilling crews because they are all tied up in the tar sands boom. And finally, even if somewhat unintended, AB is already helping lead the way towards a renewable energy path.

Renewable energy capacity in AB is already above 1,600 MW. (This includes 900 MW hydro and nearly 200 MW from biomass). Wind power is already at 545 MW capacity and will soon grow to 1,000 MW, which is equivalent to a large nuclear power plant. Renewables will then be 15% of the AB grid capacity, and only starting. Conservative estimates are that 3,000 MW of wind power is quite realistic. Some estimates go as high as 8,000 MW. By itself wind power could make up any shortfall in AB’s electrical supply, but that will be totally unnecessary if efficiency and co-generation are systematically implemented.

Then there is the potential of decentralized solar electricity. Since Germany decided on a phase-out of nuclear power in 2000 it is phasing in 1,000 MW of solar electricity a year. AB homes, buildings and farms can now be designed to be net producers of electricity that can go back into the public grid. When such an integrated sustainable energy strategy is in place across Canada the dirtiest coal-fired plants can be phased out, and we can accelerate the decommissioning of dangerous nuclear power plants.

3. WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?

Coal presently accounts for nearly half of AB’s electricity capacity (5,840 MW). While coal-fired plants emit the largest amount (45%) of GHGs in AB, planned tar sands’ expansion are likely going to make it AB’s major source of these. In any case, nuclear power is not being promoted in AB to replace coal plants. And nuclear power to expand tar sands production would just perpetuate the major role of heavy oil in creating global warming. Producing heavy oil creates 3 times the GHGs as does conventional oil, and the tar sands are expanding at such a rate that they could produce 3 times today’s GHGs within a decade. These emissions would make AB (and, if developed by then, SK) tar sands the world’s greatest single source of GHGs, outpacing even Harper’s much scaled-down emission reduction targets after he scuttled the Kyoto Accord. It would certainly be ironic if Harper – with his roots in the Reform-Alliance Party backlash to Trudeau’s National Energy Plan – ended up clashing with AB over its growing GHGs.

This all shows the absurdity of the claim that nuclear power is a way to reduce AB’s GHGs. Replacing natural gas with nuclear-generated electricity would somewhat reduce GHGs in the tar sands’ production process. However, if you calculate the GHGs produced all along the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to enriching to nuclear plant construction-decommissioning and nuclear waste management (especially as the grade of uranium-bearing ore starts to lower), the GHGs begin to approach those of the fossil fuels. Co-generation would create similar GHG reductions without creating the additional GHGs along the nuclear fuel system.

Though expanding nuclear is not an answer to global warming, it would increase the radioactive contamination of the planet. This would hardly be fair for the generations to come. And let’s not forget the expansion of nuclear power is linked to nuclear proliferation and the threat of more nuclear weapons being built, tested and used. Depleted uranium (DU) weapons linked to ecological contamination and rising cancer rates have been used in the Middle East since 1991.

Nuclear is far more expensive than the practical and safer alternatives. When pro-nuclear biases are removed from the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) 2005 cost-comparisons, nuclear is closer to 21 cents a kWhr, compared to natural gas and wind costs of around 7-8 cents. Photoelectric (solar) will soon be cost comparative with gas and wind. Co-generation, coming around 4 cents, continues to be the least-cost alternative for reducing GHGs. Energy efficiency that reduces demand for electricity has seven times the “bang for the buck” in reducing GHGs as producing more electricity capacity. So it’s pretty clear which is the responsible way for AB to go.

4. SO WHY IS ALBERTA BEING TARGETED BY THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY?

The Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) remains extremely dependent on federal government handouts and bailouts, and the Harper minority government has substantially increased the level of subsidies over previous Liberal governments. Harper’s 2008 budget provided yet another $300 million in subsidies to the AECL, in part to help it get ready to come to AB. In September 2007 the federal Auditor General estimated it will take more than $1 billion for the AECL to stay in the nuclear research and sales market. It would take $850 million over ten years just to replace, refurbish and clean up the Chalk River infrastructure, and another $400 million (on top of the $300 million already spent) to complete the design work for the reactor (ACR-1000) proposed for AB. Also, two hundred and sixty ($260) million dollars will be required to partly clean up Port Hope, Ontario where nuclear fuel is processed for export and fuel rods are fabricated for Ontario’s Candus. And on and on it will go until this industry is finally phased-out.

THE SASAKATCHEWAN AECL CAPER

You can see the AECL’s dilemma. They desperately need sales to justify these huge costs to the Canadian taxpayer. After decades of subsidies they totally failed to establish a viable export market for their traditional Candu design, the kind built in Ontario. So, in the late 1980s a private consortium called Western Project Development Association (WPDA), not unlike AB’s EAC and also backed by the AECL, came knocking at our door in SK, trying, but failing, to convince us we needed their toxic technology. They told us we’d have a shortfall of electricity, and risk freezing in the dark by 2000, but that they could save us from such a fate with a new 450 MW nuclear reactor (the Candu-3 design). They told us we’d need another such reactor by 2004. And, of course, they told us SK businesses would benefit by creating a Candu-3 export industry that the industrializing-developing world apparently craved. Business and professional groups who thought they’d profit quickly got on side. Seventy-five million dollars later, with not one Candu-3 built anywhere, the AECL left and went back to Ontario to consider their next survival plan. (They also tried to sell us their Slowpoke reactor, which cost us all $45 million to no end.) In 2008 your sceptical SK neighbours continue to get reliable electrical supply and we don’t have any nuclear power plants.

Does this sound familiar?

Having failed in the export market and with this SK caper, the AECL is coming to Canada’s “energy superpower” with a new ploy. Initially using the tar sands to get their foot in the door, they will use federal subsidies, federal-provincial Conservative party connections, and promotions about lucrative economic development within targeted regions and towns (e.g. Peace River, Whitecourt) to try to convince enough AB people that you have no alternative to nuclear power. This is their version of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

The AECL might survive a little longer if this strategy were to work. The Bruce Power consortium would profit. Cameco would increase sales in the uranium bull market. Trans-Canada could benefit from the construction of massive electrical grids, as it already does from natural gas pipelines. Meanwhile SNC-Lavalin in partnership with G.E., and France’s Areva, are waiting in the wings to get a bargain basement deal if (when) Harper privatizes the AECL. And the taxpayer would continue paying extra for any such nuclear expansion and these prospective buy-outs.

5. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BRING THE NUCLEAR WASTE ISSUE INTO THE LIGHT?

As AB people come to understand full costing, and that they are already paying for nuclear through back door subsidies, they will become more sceptical of nuclear power. Realizing that their children will be paying for decommissioning and endless nuclear waste storage, with none of the benefits of electricity, could be the clincher.

Canadians have lots of common sense about nuclear power. Eighty-two (82 %) of us don’t believe nuclear power should expand unless the nuclear waste problem is fully resolved. This involves addressing the threat to future generations from long-lived nuclear wastes (spent fuel): the most toxic of all substances Plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,400 years; Iodine-129 with a half-life of 17 million years; and Carbon-14 with a half-life of 5,600 years, which if leaked would get into the global carbon cycle. (The half-life is how long it takes for half the material to decay into other, also dangerous, radioactive elements.)

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), AECL, Cameco, Bruce Power and the industry-run Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) have engaged in a decade-long “public acceptance” campaign to get Canadians to believe that industry and government will come up with some solution to the accumulating nuclear waste. Trust us again, they say. Their “plan” is about putting the burden of nuclear wastes on the next and then the next generation, as past nuclear proponents have done to us. It is called “adaptive phased management”, which means “no plan.”

THE GLOBAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PLAN (GNEP)

When George Bush created the GNEP in 2006 he was looking for a way to get uranium-producing countries like Canada to take back nuclear wastes. (He also wants to keep a monopoly on nuclear technology, an admission that nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons and that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is ineffectual.) The U.S. nuclear waste program at Yucca Mountain, Nevada is not going well from an economic, political or ecological standpoint. Australia’s neo-conservative Howard government came on side with Bush, but the electorate saw through the hidden agenda and Howard has been defeated and replaced. Now only the Harper government is onside with Bush’s plan, but Harper’s Ministers have been muzzled from talking about this because of its sensitivity with an upcoming federal election. Meanwhile, since the Chalk River medical isotope fiasco, Harper has replaced the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) head with someone who will pre-license and fast-track nuclear power in AB. Apparently, if the regulator stands in the way of profitable energy growth, diminish its authority.

Since Canada (SK) is the major world producer of uranium, we are the main candidates for taking back nuclear wastes under the GNEP. And being the front-end uranium-supplier of both the U.S. and French integrated commercial-military nuclear systems, it is no coincidence that the AECL wants to redesign its reactor so that it can use slightly enriched uranium (SEU) and spent fuel from the U.S. and French light water reactors. It is no accident that both AECL-backed Bruce Power and France’s nuclear giant Areva are knocking on AB’s door in the hope that its energy-driven boom will provide the cover for building a nuclear plant.

While there would be profits to be made, the real bonanza would be creating a technological rationale and location for bringing nuclear wastes to Canada. If a reactor was built on the Peace River or further south there would immediately be a build-up of nuclear wastes on site, and AB would then “qualify” as a place to send nuclear wastes from Ontario, the U.S. and abroad. Bruce Power is building up nuclear wastes at its Ontario reactors for which it has no permanent dump. And Cameco (part of Bruce Power) along with the AECL has been lobbying hard for over a decade for nuclear wastes to be brought back to the northern areas where uranium mining occurs, promoting the deep burial of nuclear wastes in the Cambrian Shield.

The nuclear industry has always expanded incrementally through half-truths and outright lies (e.g. about cancer-causing radiation, wastes, weapons, costs, etc.). Once you address all their promotional falsities you have to look deeper for their motives. In AB’s case it’s mostly about the wastes.

PROTECTING THE PEACE RIVER BASIN

With such plentiful efficiency and renewable energy alternatives and the catastrophic ecological challenges of the tar sands already at hand it’s hard to see why populist AB, with all its suspicions about government bailouts, would want to be cajoled into the nuclear path. Perhaps the real clincher, however, will be water. With the Athabasca River and those downstream already under assault from the tar sands, why would anyone want to risk having the Peace River system and the rich agricultural land of the region contaminated with tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and other radioactive isotopes? It seems unlikely that Lac Cardinal, a shallow and ecologically-important wetlands system that I visited, could handle the cooling of two huge reactors, as proposed by Bruce Power. Heats waves and droughts in France and the U.S. that will get worse with climate change have already forced nuclear plants to shut down or scale down. So much for this being a secure energy system. The reason why Energy Alberta and Bruce Power have not openly targeted the Peace River system for cooling nuclear plants is because this would awaken all those who depend on this amazing, sacred river system and water basin. I am certain that when the Indigenous and Settler people who depend upon the Peace River finally do awaken to the threat, the push towards sustainable energy will ratchet up in AB.

If AB makes the right choice and “votes” for sustainability and the protection of water, air and land, it will play a crucial role in helping Canada move in the right direction. The dangers and challenges of the tar sands clearly haunt the AB conscience. I can’t see why any reasonable and caring person would want to take on the added burdens of another ecologically destructive energy system, when there are such positive and practical alternatives.

So I ask you to please do what is right for future generations and us. Do it for our children and their children, and for the natural eco-systems we are finally learning to understand, respect and protect. Please keep AB nuclear free.

Yours Sincerely, Jim Harding, Ph.D.*

March, 2008

*Author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System (Fernwood, 2007). This is a non-profit publisher and all author royalties go to support local groups working for a sustainable society.

Praying for a toxic end?

This editorial in The Times of India says almost everything that no one in power wants to talk about:

Nuclear energy is toxic
21 Nov 2007, 0001 hrs IST,S H VENKATRAMANI

Amidst the chest-thumping over signing the Indo-US nuclear deal, we have turned a blind eye to the dangers of nuclear energy. We are celebrating our success in persuading the US to rescind its earlier sanctions against India.

The deal will give us access to state-of-the-art nuclear reactor technology. But we have forgotten that there is a very thin line separating nuclear reactor technology and nuclear weapons technology. We need to understand the dangers of using nuclear reactors.

Developed countries, particularly the US, are worried about growing international suspicion that North Korea and Iran are close to making their own nuclear bombs. If countries and sovereign governments cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, we cannot ignore the possible threat of extremists and radical elements accessing nuclear reactor technology and making their own nuclear bombs. The present political crisis in Pakistan, for instance, opens up the possibility of such groups acquiring access to nuclear bombs.

What makes nuclear energy itself so dangerous is that every commercial nuclear reactor produces 400-500 pounds of plutonium in a year, along with other nuclear waste material. Just 10-20 pounds of plutonium is needed to make a bomb. An average nuclear reactor, therefore, produces enough plutonium waste to make 50 nuclear bombs in a year.

Lethally radioactive plutonium thus brings nuclear reactor technology dangerously close to nuclear weapons technology.

 

In Australia, a political candidate is urging voters to:

Pray for more uranium use: Tollner

An election forum in the marginal Top End seat of Solomon has heard that people should be praying Australia sells huge amounts of uranium to China.Incumbent Coalition candidate Dave Tollner used the forum to claim nuclear power is the only way to effectively tackle global warming. He was scathing about any policy that would see Australia reduce its uranium mining.

“We should be praying that China and India take as much of our uranium as possible to reduce their reliance on coal power. The fact is, the only way that we are going to produce ongoing baseload power… is to export as much of our uranium to them as possible.”

Ignorance and greed really do go hand in hand, don’t they?

And, finally, is DU the way out?

Can anything be done to halt the use of these genocidal weapons? Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois and author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, thinks so. He has launched a campaign for a global pact against uranium weapons.

Boyle points out that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices.” Clearly, he says, DU is “analogous” to poison gas.

The government of France is the official depository for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Boyle contends that rather than aiming for an international treaty prohibiting the use of DU, which would probably take years, pressure should be put on every state to submit a letter to the French government to enforce a ban.

“All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists and NGOs in every country to pressure their foreign minister to write to their French counterpart, drawing attention to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17th June 1925, prohibiting uses as above.”

The letter should add that this Protocol is believed to “already prohibit the use in war of depleted uranium ammunition, uranium armor plate and all other uranium weapons.” A request should be made that the letter be circulated to all other High Contracting Parties to the 1925 Protocol and addressed to:

His Excellency,

The Foreign Minister,

Republic of France,

37, Quai d’Orsay,

75351 Paris, France.

Or Fax: 33-1-43-17-4275.

Professor Boyle points out, “As the Land Mines Treaty demonstrates, it is possible for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with at least one sympathetic state, to bring into being an international treaty to address humanitarian concerns.”

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada is the Honourable Maxime Bernier [Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca].

Nuclear Guardianship: We Need to Know

What we need to know as responsible citizens and what we need our politicians, the law-makers, to know

The Nuclear Guardianship Library

is intended to contribute to the political, technical and moral understandings required to keep radioactive materials from further contaminating the biosphere, in order to protect present and future generations.  We hope to provide opportunities for ongoing, in-depth discussion among citizens, specialists, and policy makers on the responsible care of radioactive materials.

The moral issues remain the same.

 Our most enduring legacy to future generations will be the radioactive materials generated over the last fifty years by nuclear power and weapons production, including structures and equipment contaminated at every step of the fuel cycle as well as all categories of waste. The toxicity of these materials, with their proven capacity to cause cancers, immune diseases, birth disorders, and genetic mutation, constitutes an unprecedented and monumental assault on organic life. To safeguard ourselves and future generations, all these contaminants must be kept out of the biosphere now and for thousands of years.

We who are living now, whether “pro-nuclear” or “anti-nuclear,” need to consider together how we are to isolate the radioactive materials we have produced. We need to consider our responsibility for their ongoing containment, and the immediate steps this guardianship requires of us.

A People’s Policy on Radioactive Waste  (Draft July 23, 2002)

PREAMBLE

The amount and danger of long-lasting environmental poisons produced in recent decades is unprecedented in human history. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, policy regarding all levels of radioactive waste has been set by the nuclear industry, the military and governments. Monetary gain, secrecy and militarism have consistently taken precedent over concerns about intergenerational equity, environmental and public health and spiritual well-being.

Any policy regarding nuclear waste must begin with an immediate halt to its production.

Future survival requires that we take full responsibility for nuclear waste and keep it within our sphere of control. Policy decisions must consider the health, safety and habitat of ALL living things and recognize the need for this most dangerous substance to be completely isolated from the environment for as long as it remains hazardous.

Presently, there is no scientifically sound, environmentally just or democratically defined solution to the disposal or storage of radioactive waste. Yet each day approximately ten tons of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) is generated, which is one million times more radioactive than the original fuel. It is insanity to continue to use nuclear reactor technology that benefits only one or two generations while creating poisons that will threaten the next 12,000.

Uranium market looking fragile

I just don’t get how people such as David Berman in the Financial Post can actually say, “the world needs uranium, and lots of it” given all we know about its hazards, the fact that the US nuclear weapons arsenal is huge, that there is no proven safe storage for nuclear waste and that it is not a solution for climate change.

 

But look beyond the most recent gyrations, you will find that the entire global uranium market is looking fragile these days, with many stocks down 50%. Production problems aside, investors have a bigger issue to deal with: Is interest in uranium stocks fizzling?

Yesterday, Uranium One Inc. joined the casualty list when it cut its production estimates for 2008 by 38%. The reason relates to delays at its Kazakhstan mines, where there is a shortage of sulphuric acid used for extracting uranium. The stock (UUU/TSX) fell 17.6% to $10.49, bringing its total loss for the year to 34%.

Leonie Soltay, an analyst at Wellington West Capital Markets, put a brave face on the setback, arguing the delayed production is good for uranium prices, since lower production keeps the supply-and-demand dynamics tight. She also pointed out that the company is becoming a must-have name for investors who want unhedged international uranium production.

“We believe any short-term weakness should be treated as a buying opportunity by long-term investors,” Ms. Soltay said in a note to clients, in which she lowered her price target to $13 from $16.

These stock-price reversals seem strange given that the world needs uranium, and lots of it. According to the World Nuclear Association, planned nuclear power reactors have leapt 37% since the start of the year.


And who is planning these reactors? The uranium industry, of course, as part of its 2002 plan for a nuclear renaissance.

Interesting, isn’t it?