Radioactive Wall in SK

It seems Premier Wall is eager to increase activity in the uranium industry, according to his year-end interview with the Regina Leader Post

It will be a little different, because we are — I am — excited about uranium as part of that story, and value-added opportunities. And I know the NDP, they were just never very comfortable, they’re very conflicted by this, the party itself. So we never have done a good job of making the case nationally or internationally about what uranium means, economically and environmentally.

This is an important piece. I’ve asked ministry officials for some numbers and, I can tell you, the amount of greenhouse gasses displaced by our uranium, which is used to power plants, is a pretty important number. It’s near half a billion tones of GhGs. That message needs to get out in the context of the whole discussion about greenhouse gasses.

It seems, also, that Mr. Wall doesn’t get — or is willfully ignorant of — the fact that nuclear power is not a quick fix to our climate crisis. In fact, those who are wise about uranium say that nuclear power is a Con trick. Nuclear energy is of practically no significance to humanity’s energy needs.

Nuclear Power is a Con Trick

In order to claim more importance for nuclear power, the nuclear industry repeatedly overstates nuclear energy’s share of electricity generation. If one examines closely what contribution nuclear energy makes to total worldwide energy consumption, it becomes evident that nuclear power is of practically no significance for mankind’s energy needs. In 2001, nuclear electricity supplied only 2.3 percent of worldwide energy needs. Renewable energy’s contribution to world energy supply is already significantly greater. The human race can easily do without nuclear power’s marginal contribution. The risks of nuclear accidents, production of highly radioactive waste and the costs necessary for its disposal, bear no rational relationship to the slight short-term gain in energy that nuclear power provides. Nuclear power is both hazardous and superfluous.

So, Mr. Wall, do your homework!

 

Fiacco Lies on a Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & an Inland Port

Veering ever-so slightly off my no nukes agenda to slip in an I told you so.  Mayor Fiacco would not reveal the plans for this before the municipal election and now that he is safely back in office he can reveal his real plan.  Today P’n’P learns of the plan for a Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port which is part of the NAFTA Highway, the Security and Prosperity Agreement, the ecological devastation called the Tar Sands, and North American Union.

This gateway involves moving the rails from central Regina to the west side where industrial development is taking place and will likely increase dramatically without our approval.  It will increase land and air traffic which means more air and noise pollution.  It will move us closer to BushCo’s & HarperCo’s dreams of not only continental unity but also a continental currency.  At a time when we need to be doing our utmost to curb green house gas emissions, our City is promoting increased consumption and an increased use of fossil fuels!

Thanks for what amounts to lies, Mayor Pat, and for selling us out to the corporatist extremists. We’ll see you at the polls in less than two years.  And we will remember.

Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port

Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port

The Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port, or “Prairie Gateway” is a virtual combination of services and a cluster of numerous transportation, distribution and assembly players working and investing together. This is the best way to maximize the existing transportation assets across an integrated region, with many transportation, production, storage, trans-loading, assembly, product identification and research resources working as a team. This base will draw additional investment, labour and technology as a catalyst for a host of new ancillary business service companies.

What is an Inland Port?

An Inland Port is defined less on the physical aspects of one location and more on the intelligent logistics and coordination of a multitude of services.  It has the following qualities:

  1. Is an organization or coalition made up of key transportation stakeholders
  2. Serves the regional trading area businesses and economy
  3. Facilitates growth for both import and export trade logistics
  4. A mechanism for cooperation, marketing the regions trade processing abilities
  5. Provides national coordination and collaboration among ocean port users

Why Saskatchewan?

Like the Kansas City Smart Port regional model, the Prairie-to-Ports Gateway & Inland Port will be anchored by “connecting” the three major cities of Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina. This will promote regional asset and system optimization. It is proposed that Saskatchewan’s central continental location and lower costs would be of sufficient appeal to attract international investor attention. The high level of cooperation among the principal transportation centres of Saskatchewan, through the tri-cities will generate distinct advantages, including:

  1. Integrate and maximize the unique sub-regional advantages of each community to generate even greater synergies than each community could achieve by working separately;
  2. Provide a value-enhancing alternative to the various less coordinated and smaller scale and scope terminals, hubs or trans-loading sites existing in other parts of Canada;
  3. Foster freight movement productivity through modernization of regulatory reform (i.e. highway road weight limits) and preservation of freight-corridor efficiency on road, rail and air.

US attempt to sneak $25 BILLION in support to nuke industry

From Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews Harvey Wasserman, a no nukes activist in the USA:

The House is set to vote on Tuesday on the $500 billion 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Unveiled on Sunday, the measure covers budgets for all cabinet departments except the Pentagon. It’s expected to pass both houses of Congress this week.

Hidden in the bill is a major energy package that would boost government financing for the nuclear industry. It would provide loan guarantees of up to $25 billion for new nuclear reactors. A massive grassroots campaign forced these taxpayer-financed loans out of the national energy bill earlier this month, but last week Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico slipped them back into the budget vote.

Harvey Wasserman has been at the forefront of raising awareness about the dangers of nuclear power. He helped found the grassroots anti-nuke movement in the early 1970s, advises the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. He’s senior editor of the Ohio-based freepress.org and editor of nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman has also co-authored two books on the 2004 election. They are How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008 and What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election. …

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, we beat Pete Domenici. With Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Keb’ Mo’, Ben Harper, we put out a music video on nukefree.org. We raised 120,000 signatures and presented them to Congress in October. And Domenici was forced to pull these nuke loan guarantees out of the energy bill, but then slipped them back into the appropriations bill.
And the nuclear power industry is a fifty-year proven failure, and they can’t get independent financing to build their own new reactors, which they want to do now. And so, they’ve gone to the government. This is one issue where we’re in agreement with Forbes magazine and the Cato Institute, which is backing the opposition to these loan guarantees, because if nuclear power, after fifty years of huge government subsidies, can’t make it in the marketplace, why should the taxpayers fund another $25 billion worth of reactor construction?

We’re on the brink of a tremendous energy revolution in solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. You know, we’re looking almost at a solartopia of a renewable-based economy, which will be much more controllable at the grassroots, much more democratically oriented. And that’s why the nuclear power industry is desperately holding on here.

Go.  (Interview at about 9:30; text on site)

Nuclear Outlaw: Open discussion

Michael Burns, the CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has resigned. He was the fellow who assured the House of Commons that before the reactor at Chalk Lake was up and running it would be safe.” Now that he’s decided to leave, does it mean that the Chalk River facility is not safe? Nearby residents are wondering if they should leave town.

Harper’s assurances that there will be no nuclear accident are ringing rather hollow right now. I can’t help but wonder if Parliament has been hoodwinked. I wonder if Parliamentarians are feeling the same way. AECL shut itself down. Someone suggested that AECL lied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), saying that the upgrades (a condition of license renewal) had been completed. CNSC kept it shut down because the upgrades had not been completed. Harper blamed the CNSC for keeping it shut down, grilling Linda Keen in the House as though she was wrong for doing the job she is supposed to do.

So, one of my questions is WTF is Harper up to, besides the obvious partisan stuff? The other is, how do we encourage research into alternatives for nuclear isotopes and begin the move away from what could quickly become a nuclear incident on Canadian soil?

Please chime in!

(Go here and here and here and here and here if you are looking for additional information.)

 

Harper consults Homer

 

 

Tar Sands Time Out!

Quite awhile ago, P’n’P reported that even former Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, thought the tar sands development had problems. Recently, P’n’P reported that the tar sands is the biggest industrial project in human history. Even the Brits are getting involved in the biggest environment crime in history!

At Bali this week we have seen our Prime Minister, Steven Harper, and his Minister Responsible for the Environment, John Baird, completely embarrass Canada and Canadians on the world scene by sabotaging climate talks and including representatives of the oil and gas industry in their delegation to the world conference. And now, Mr. Harper is trying to sell nukes as safe! (Like we didn’t see that coming?) P’n’P was feeling pretty depressed yesterday.

Well, today is also a good news day. Today, an action alert from the Sierra Club landed in my inbox. In it, a link to Tar Sands Time Out, a campaign calling for a moratorium on the development of the tar sands, backed up with a whole lot of important information about the tar sands and its impact on people, the environment and other creatures. Also included is a link to detailed action items as well as conclusions from an independent report regarding the tar sands:

Action Alert! Tar Sands are NOT more important than the health and safety of communities in Canada!

A recent health study, peer-reviewed and released to the public late last week shows damming evidence that the governments of Alberta and Canada have been ignoring evidence of toxic contamination on downstream communities.

The report, conducted by Alberta scientist Dr. Kevin P. Timoney draws attention to several areas of deficit in knowledge on contaminants downstream but draws clear conclusions that “people and biota of the Athabasca River Delta and western Lake Athabasca are exposed to higher levels of some contaminants than are those upstream.”

Conclusions drawn from the Timoney study include:

• People most at risk of health effects are those who eat an abundance of food of the land and from the water (wild game and fish);
• Mercury levels in fish used for human consumption present a serious concern. If US EPA standards are applied, all walleye, all female whitefish and ~90% of male whitefish exceed subsistence fisher guidelines for mercury consumption.
• When scientific data and traditional knowledge on fish deformities are considered together, they indicate that rates of fish abnormalities may be higher than expected, may be increasing, and may be related to declines in water quality.
• Overall the primary contaminants of concern may be arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) concentrations of these contaminants already high, appear to be rising.
• Alberta sponsored report on cancer risk due to lifetime arsenic exposure was reviewed and was found to have used questionable statistical methods and assumptions and underestimated levels of arsenic in water and sediment and the fish consumption rate of many Fort Chipewyan residents
• Data on river and Lake Athabasca has become privately held in recent years.
• A peer reviewed epidemiologic and toxicologic study of disease rates and levels of exposure to environmental toxins in communities of the lower Athabasca River is needed.

Well, today P’n’P is taking action. First, we are forgiving Harper and Baird for being human. Everyone makes mistakes. However, forgiving does not equal accepting the mistakes or forgetting. P’n’P will ensure all the country remembers this when the government falls (and may it be blessedly soon!). And now, off to read more about this campaign.

Canada Aglow for Dubya’s GNEP

Deeper and deeper we move into the arms of the failing democracy dubbed the U.S.A. Fools and fascists, all those who make these ridiculous deals!

Canada to join controversial nuclear partnership


OTTAWA – The Conservative government announced today that Canada is joining an international nuclear club that’s drawn fierce criticism from environmentalists.

The unexpected public declaration follows months of stone-walling and denials by government ministers and departmental officials, who refused to comment on Canada’s assessment of the U.S.-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Lots of people who know more than me have expressed grave concerns about this plan.

“Canada is recognized for its commitment to (nuclear) safety and non-proliferation,” Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said in a release.

“By joining this partnership, we are making sure Canada can continue to be an effective advocate for those ideals.”

But we know that nuclear is not safe. Is Bernier unable to read or make sense of this?

The concept would see nuclear energy-using countries and uranium-exporting countries band together to promote and safeguard the industry. But the plan is highly controversial because it proposes re-using nuclear waste, a practice effectively banned in Canada and the United States since the 1970s for security reasons.

So they’re going to break laws or make new ones that contravene the old ones.

As the world’s largest uranium exporter, Canada could be taking on a huge responsibility to deal with nuclear waste from around the world.

“It’s totally undemocratic and unaccountable of this government to take such an enormous decision to re-import nuclear waste into our country without involving Canadians,” said NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen.

An official in Natural Resource Minister Gary Lunn’s office insisted the GNEP model no longer includes repatriating waste.

“There is nothing in the GNEP statement of principles that compels Canada or any other country to take back spent fuel,” Louise Girouard said in an email. “Canada does not import spent fuel and we will not do so.”

And we’re supposed to believe that? You’ve gotta be kidding me!!!

Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada said that sounds like “GNEP Lite” and called it “definitely without question the worst of both worlds” – nuclear proliferation without control of the fuel cycle.

The issue was central to last week’s Australian election, where long-standing prime minister John Howard was turfed from office after signing on to the GNEP without public debate in September.

The technology issue alone is a major headache for Canada.

Internal government documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act suggest AECL’s CANDU technology was shut out of initial GNEP discussions.

Lunn announced Thursday, in concert with the decision to join GNEP, that AECL’s future is up for grabs.

“It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate to the changing marketplace,” Lunn said in the government release.

He announced a review of the Crown corporation.

There’s been talk of selling AECL since June 2006

The sudden embrace of the GNEP marks a sharp reversal for a government that initially refused in September even to say whether it would send officials to an international planning meeting on the partnership.

If you believed for a moment, that the Old Con Government of Canada would not join GNEP, pray, do tell, on what planet do you live?

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.

Lunn’s Costly New Fossil Fuel Plan

Another that almost slipped by the radar: Oil and Nuclear Power: Gary Lunns Costly New Fossil Fuel Plan :: PEJ News :: Stories, Features, Opinion and Analysis :: Peace, Earth & Justice News

Replacing CO2 spewing fossil fuels with radiation emitting nuclear power plants is simply replacing one irresponsible technology with another. The poison will have changed and that is all. The great irony here is that there is only enough viable uranium in the world to keep the industry going for 30 to 40 years which is hardly a sustainable answer to our energy crisis! (See Greenpeace Europe’s wonderful website for all the gory details.)

Gary Lunn and his boss, Stephen Harper, want to use nuclear energy to extract oil from the Alberta Tar Sands (it was cute when they changed the name to ‘oil sands’ to make it sound more valuable). So we are to waste billions on power plants to try get oil to fuel more power plants. To do this we need to build multiple oil pipelines across ecologically sensitive areas out to the most precious and delicate coastal environment you can imagine and ship oil down the coast in numbers we’ve never even imagined before.

Remember this?

“I can see those tankers sailing down, with Alaskan oil all schlurping ‘round
Now take a sip from Trudeau’s cup and leave our coast all fuddled-duddled up!”

That was Rolf Harris singing Vancouver Town in the ‘70s. We need to say No loud and clear in the next election, in fact we need to say no now because those with money and power are not waiting. They will roll right over us if we let them.

Thanks to While the Earth Burns for the lead.

Nuclear Smoke and Mirrors from Alberta to Australia

From the inbox, an essay by Dr. Jim Harding:

 

NUCLEAR SMOKE AND MIRRORS FROM ALBERTA TO AUSTRALIA:

The AECL’s Advanced Candu and Bush’s Global Nuclear Partnership

 

By Jim Harding*

 

A few weeks before Stephen Harper went to the APEC meeting in Australia, ready to discuss George Bush’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), the Energy Alberta Corporation (EAC) in consort with AECL announced its plan to build two Advanced Candu Reactors (ACRs) near Peace River, Alberta. Harper, EAC’s Wayne Henuset and AECL’s mandarins won’t want the public to connect the dots too quickly. Harper’s minority government might not weather a heated controversy over Canada importing nuclear wastes while having a huge unsolved nuclear waste problem of its own. That controversy erupted in the Australian election campaign after the Howard government indicated it would consider buying into Bush’s plan to have supplier countries take back and reprocess spent fuel.

 

The Seaborn Panel, the 9-year federal review of Canada’s nuclear wastes, never investigated Canada importing nuclear wastes, and reprocessing these wasn’t even on its radar screen. Rather, it concluded that deep geologic disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel is not acceptable to the Canadian public and recommended that the management of irradiated fuel be addressed by a body at arms length from the both the nuclear industry and government. Instead, the Chretien government mandated the industry-owned agency, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), to deal with the issue. Under the NWMO’s announced plan, irradiated fuel is to be stored at existing reactor sites for at least a generation, i.e. 30 years, before being moved to a centralized location and possibly being reprocessed before the high-level radioactive residues are buried in a deep geologic repository. Such reprocessing would create a highly radioactive corrosive liquid even more dangerous than the solid spent fuel rods, and the extracted plutonium will remain extraordinarily toxic for over 800 generations.

 

The large nuclear reactors (ACR-1000) that EAC wants to build in Alberta are justified as an environmentally-friendly alternative to the natural gas that is currently used to heat the tar sands. The fact that the tar sands are the dirtiest of all fossil fuels discredits the nuclear industry’s PR about being the clean, magic bullet for averting global warming. That’s bad enough. If it became widely known there was a hidden agenda about an international nuclear waste dump in Canada, then all the hype about clean nuclear energy providing economic development might begin to fall on deaf ears. Besides, the ACR-1000 reactor is only a design on paper and hasn’t been reality tested. Without the $200 million granted to AECL from the Harper government for design work, adding to the $17 billion dollars of subsidies since 1952, there’d be no chance at all of this project ever seeing the light of day. (Such large handouts of federal taxpayer’s money could become a contentious issue, given Alberta’s populist ideology of self-reliance.) Serious design flaws have already been noted by the 2004 Safety Assessment done for the U.S.’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR); most notably the risk of a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA) and core meltdown after a power surge resulting from a large or multiple pipe breakage.

 

AECL’s 180 degree About-Turn

The original Candu designers prided themselves on using heavy water (the “d” in Candu) as a moderator and coolant, so that natural uranium (the “u” in Candu) can be used as fuel. No enrichment of uranium is required. But the new ACRs will use light water as a coolant, and for that reason they will require slightly-enriched uranium (SEU) as a fuel. Why the flip-flop?

 

The basic motivation is to reduce costs, but there is a darker side to what AECL calls the ACR’s “fuel adaptability”. AECL’s Technical Summary for the ARC-1000 says it is “ideally suited to burn other fuels such as mixed oxides (MOX) and thorium.” MOX is a code word for a blend of uranium and plutonium. But “other fuels” can also be used and these include irradiated fuel elements from Light Water Reactors (LWR) such as used in the U.S., France, Japan and elsewhere. According to Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, the ARC-1000 would be able “to make use of the “DUPIC” process, whereby spent LWR nuclear fuel is repackaged and used to fuel a Candu reactor.” The reason for this, he says, is that “the amount of fissile material (U-235 plus plutonium) in spent LWR fuel is more than enough to match” the requirements for SEU.

 

AECL is trying to put a responsible spin on this. It’s scientistic handlers used to assert that due to international safeguards there was no chance of uranium exported for nuclear power being diverted for weapons. Now they’ve created a new argument to market their “peaceful atom.” An AECL paper by nuclear engineer Jeremy Whitlock argues that the new Candu design will provide “unique synergism with LWR technology”, that it “can be used to disposition ex-weapons plutonium”, and, furthermore, that all this will be a “positive contribution to world peace.” The U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) disagrees, saying in its January 2006 statement on Bush’s GNEP, that “all reprocessing technologies are more proliferation-prone than direct disposal” of nuclear wastes. 

 

AECL’s Unparalleled History of Botched Designs

The only advantage of the new Candu would be to the fledgling AECL. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the ARC-1000 to be up and running, for the list of botched AECL designs is lengthy. There was the Organic Cooled Reactor in Manitoba, which was an expensive dead end. There was the Candu Boiling Light Water Reactor in Quebec, which (without even including design costs) was a $126 million disaster. Then there was the Slowpoke Energy System, for which design work cost $45 million, which didn’t work properly. Next came the Candu-3, for which design work cost $75 million, which no one wanted. And the Candu-9, with design costs still secret, which was a no-go in South Korea. More recently AECL built the Maple Reactor at Chalk River, which threatens to become another technological and financial fiasco since the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is refusing to even license it for operation.

 

The Candu industry has been a sinkhole for the Canadian taxpayer. Each Candu reactor built so far has required refurbishing costs equal to the original construction costs after only half of its projected operating life.  And after 50 years in business, AECL has only sold 12 reactors abroad. In 1996, to try to justify its huge taxpayer subsidies, it set a goal of 10 sales by 2006. But only 3 sales occurred, including the Romanian Cernavada plant from a 1980 deal, which required another $328 million Canadian guarantee; and two plants at Qunshin in China that received $1.5 billion in Canadian Account financing. During this decade AECL lost sales to Turkey, Australia and South Korea.  With this dismal record, AECL has done a design flip-flop, turning its back on natural uranium fuel to try to cash in on the worldwide nuclear waste crisis. But we must be on guard. While AECL is opportunistically promoting ACR’s which can use irradiated nuclear fuel from other countries, after 60 years they still haven’t cleaned up their radioactive mess at the Manitoba Whiteshell Lab, and their plan for cleaning up their contaminated Chalk River Lab, costing millions more for the taxpayer, remains obscure.

 

Enter George Bush and his GNEP

Beholding to huge federal subsidies, AECL is also beholding to U.S. President George Bush with his $405 million brainchild, the GNEP. The only thing “global” about this plan is the U.S. pretence to world hegemony, which seems delusional after the Iraq debacle. And the only partners to this proposed “global” plan would be countries already in the nuclear weapons club, along with their uranium suppliers. The agreement would make it mandatory for uranium suppliers to take back spent fuel from reactors abroad. The bargaining chip would be allowing enrichment facilities and nuclear power plants that use spent fuel in these countries. Some chip. We’d get to throw more public money down the nuclear drain, create and store even more dangerous nuclear waste, and have less capital to create truly sustainable, renewable energy systems to avert even more catastrophic climate change.

 

Bush’s plan would be unworkable without the major uranium exporting countries – Canada and Australia – involved. Luckily for Bush, both countries are governed by neo-conservative parties that also oppose Kyoto. Bush is presenting the GNEP as a means to control nuclear proliferation, while making nuclear power available globally, by not allowing enrichment facilities, or spent fuel to remain, that could be used to produce weapons. (This finally admits that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not an effective guarantee against proliferation from nuclear power plants.) The converse of this is that GNEP members would preserve a near monopoly on nuclear technology and weapons. No wonder, in the context of discussing billions living in inhuman conditions, climate change and the potential for nuclear holocaust, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. ElBaradei, in a Sept 03/07 interview with Der Spiegel, said “we are moving rapidly towards an abyss”. With a real sense of urgency, he said that, “in order to seem credible to the nuclear wannabe states we must demand steps towards nuclear disarmament from those who have nuclear weapons – an obligation that is stipulated in the non-proliferation treaty but is not complied with.” He goes on to deplore what he calls “this two-faced approach” since “If practically all nuclear powers are modernizing instead of reducing their arsenals, how can we argue with the non-nuclear states?”

 

More pragmatically, the GNEP would provide “a way out” for the nuclear powers, none of which has any fundamental solution to their own mounting nuclear waste problem. As the world’s major supplier of uranium, Canada, under the GNEP, could be required to take nuclear wastes back from the largest users of nuclear power – the U.S., France and Japan. The elements therefore exist for a dangerous nuclear expansion strategy in Canada. First, a Candu redesign requiring some uranium enrichment that can be used as a justification for importing nuclear wastes to reprocess as fuel, and then the tar sands as a justification for building this new generation of nuclear plants. And, finally, lest we forget, we have the huge Saskatchewan uranium industry supplying the raw material to the nuclear powers, which, under the GNEP, would require that nuclear wastes be brought back to Canada.

 

Nuclear and Kyoto: The Big Disconnect

The first I heard of Canada “repatriating” spent fuel was when AECL and Saskatchewan’s uranium multinational, Cameco, advocated this in the early 1990s. At the time they were both working towards an integrated uranium-nuclear industry. Now Cameco operates the Bruce Candu plants and a uranium refinery in Ontario, and, with a sympathetic Prime Minister from Alberta, AECL is trying to base itself in its north. It seems the AECL and Cameco were flying this trial balloon of us taking back nuclear wastes long before George Bush or Stephen Harper were elected. Could the tail be wagging the dog?

 

It’s no accident that the GNEP is spearheaded in countries refusing to support the Kyoto Accord. Kyoto sets targets for reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs), which mostly come from fossil fuels. However, business and government interests in oil-dependent countries (including countries like Canada, i.e. Alberta, dependent on exporting oil) don’t want anything to slow down their profit and royalty-gushing ventures. Meanwhile efficiency, geothermal, wind and solar electricity are proving to be the most cost-effective ways to quickly lower GHGs, which doesn’t sit well with the nuclear industry’s comeback strategy of stressing itself as the clean alternative to fossil fuels. Furthermore, the 2001 Climate Change Conference in Bonn rejected nuclear as a solution to climate change partly because nuclear will steal capital from the cheaper, less risky, more effective renewable alternatives. So the nuclear industry is primarily looking to the countries outside Kyoto for support. It helped when George Bush’s 2005 Energy Bill gave another $13 billion subsidies to the industry, and a privatized electrical market allowed U.S. nuclear plants to displace “stranded costs” on to the consumer. And it certainly helped AECL when the Harper government, continuing the Liberal practice of bailing out the nuclear industry, provided millions to design the ARC.

 

Harper’s government has tried to low-key its involvement with Bush’s GNEP, but we know from a Canadian Press Access to Information request that his government has been seriously involved in discussions about this since at least March 2006. While his aides, seemingly aware that this issue is politically explosive, tried to downplay the “secret agenda” item at the APEC forum, Natural Resources Minister Lund has been more candid. In reference to reprocessing spent fuel for new Candus, in the September 5, 2007 Globe and Mail, Lund is quoted as saying: “as the technology evolves, it’s something we’ll see”. The next day this was “corrected” and it reported that the Canadian government hadn’t yet decided on supporting such reprocessing. At the end of the APEC meeting, Harper’s Foreign Minister Bernier said that the Canadian government had just about decided about the GNEP. This is more smoke and mirrors, as Harper had already funded the ARC, which AECL promotes as being able to use reprocessed spent fuel, and his government has enthusiastically supported the ARC being built in the tar sands. All this from the man who so righteously attacked the Liberals for being unaccountable for far less consequential and less expensive matters.

 

Meanwhile the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is forthright about its support for enriching uranium and importing nuclear wastes. CNA President Murray Elston even uses the high price of raw uranium as a reason to support nuclear waste as the fuel of future choice. He continues the practice of the CNA providing disinformation to the public, saying in the Sept. 5, 2007 Globe and Mail that, “nuclear military powers have been reprocessing and transporting nuclear waste for years, and have proven it can be done safely.” Plutonium contamination at the U.S. Rocky Flats plant, France’s nuclear conglomerate Areva contaminating the North Sea, radioactive contamination of the Irish Sea along with detectable levels of plutonium in children’s teeth emitted from England’s Windscale/Sellafield reprocessing plant, and various weapons countries losing nuclear weapons grade uranium is apparently “safe” to the CNA.

 

Lessons from AECL’s Saskatchewan Shenanigans

We saw a similar process as what is now happening in Alberta in my home province from 1989-91, when AECL had another private company front the proposed building of a Candu-3 in our North. (AECL also tried but failed to sell its Slowpoke 3 to the University of Saskatchewan at the time.) AECL used every manipulative trick in the book, including inflating energy growth to make us fear we’d freeze in the dark without nuclear power. (They forecast a shortfall of electricity in Saskatchewan by 2000 unless a Candu reactor was built.) They wined and dined local politicians and businessmen on trips to Ontario’s Candus, as they are now doing with Albertans.  And they tried to bribe us – during a slump in the economy – with the economic opportunities of a Candu-3 export industry based in our province. And they made no mention of the huge taxpayers subsidies that made it possible for them to float such grandiose schemes.

 

Under Grant Devine’s Tories, who privatized the uranium crown Cameco, AECL got the public utility Sask Power on side for a while, though their figures never jibed. At one point, as many jobs were promised from constructing one Candu-3 as came in total from the massive Ontario Darlington 8-reactor complex. There was lots of nuclear hype that got favourable coverage by the well-oiled and parochial provincial media. But, as with so many other AECL projects, the Candu-3 was never built, anywhere, as Saskatchewan people and third world countries alike rejected the contrived plan. And we are doing fine in 2007, with no black outs and no nuclear plants; though the Tory-like Sask Party and its Premier-in-waiting Brad Wall seem to think we should have one even if its not needed. We have a few wind farms, and, yes, uranium exports remain the bulk of primary energy production and export. The NDP government which spearheaded uranium expansion in the 1970s publicly opposes nuclear power without wanting to admit that they have been willing and essential pawns in the nuclear expansion strategy, which we now see taking shape with Bush’s GNEP and Harper’s compliance.

 

Saskatchewan and Alberta people are now interlocked in this geo-political drama. We will have to be vigilant about creating a future based on sustainable, renewable energy while phasing out the uranium-nuclear industry; or see both our provinces become the dangerous playground of a nuclear industry that expands by economic bribery and political bailout.

 

* Jim Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies and author of the just released Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System (Fernwood, 2007). 

US Ambassador to Nuclear Alberta?

So, this is a strange little tidbit I have pieced together from an e-mail message and a quick search.

According to Alberta’s XM105 Country, the US Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, is making a visit to northern Alberta — to Whitecourt, Alberta the snowmobile capital of Alberta — which is not too far from Peace River Country where the proposed ACR-1000 nuclear reactors are to be built. In fact, Whitecourt was the preferred site until recently. Apparently, a local backlash started to develop and that led Energy Alberta to choose Peace River as their site instead. And, I’ll bet they couldn’t resist the irony!
According to a no nukes activist, the U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins sounds like he’d love for Canada to sell out to the U.S.! She confirms that Wilkins will be attending a Whitecourt Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wed, 10 Oct. 2007 at 11:30 am at the Traveller’s Cloud Nine Hotel Banquet Room. Tickets cost $15 and are available at the Whitecourt Chamber of Commerce Office located at the Forest Interpretive Centre.

Mr. Wilkins is an ex-army officer who practiced law for 30 years. He is a close personal friend of George Bush and family and is a religious conservative known for his despicable opposition to women’s rights, abortion rights, gay rights, marijuana, pacifism, protecting the environment and the Canadian Softwood lumber industry. In 2001, he engineered a South Carolina legislative resolution that asked the U.S. govt. to enforce trade sanctions against Canada.

One must wonder why the hell he’s going to Whitecourt! Do you think it might be to congratulate them for not being chosen as the place to build a nuclear reactor? I don’t know, but I’d really like to be a fly on the wall at that event. And I really do hope some of my fly friends are there so they can give me a buzz and let me know what happened.