Trapped by History: Lingenfelter on Nuclear

This landed in my Inbox today so I decided to share it here. Very good unravelling of what pronuker Lingenfelter is really saying when he says what he does.

Trapped by History: Lingenfelter on Nuclear

By Jim Harding, Ph.D.

Leadership candidate for the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party (NDP), Dwain Lingenfelter, came out with his nuclear power policy proposal on March 10, 2009. As he wants to become premier of our fair province it’s in the public interest to look closely at his statement. In a nutshell it’s a superficial document showing no fundamental insight into the history or makeup of the nuclear industry or its sustainable energy alternatives.

Ignoring Nuclear Weapons

Lingenfelter says that the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and NDP have supported the export of uranium “For nearly fifty years”, and then adamantly declares “I support that policy.” I realize the role of hyperbole in politics, but does Lingenfelter really know what he’s saying? Uranium has actually been exported from Saskatchewan for 55 years and all of it from its startup in 1953 until the end of the 1960s went for the production of nuclear weapons. Some estimate that Uranium City, along with Elliot Lake in Ontario, contributed the uranium for one-third of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.[i] So is Lingenfelter saying he supports the nuclear arms race, acknowledged by scientists and clergy alike to be a threat to the survival of humankind and the evolutionary web of which we are a part?

Furthermore, all this uranium mining for nuclear weapons was done in secret, totally outside political processes of transparency and accountability. Lingenfelter ends his nuclear power policy proposal saying, “These decisions (about nuclear power in Saskatchewan) cannot be made without full, public input and understanding”. Sounds good, but all past decisions that got us into this nuclear mess, which Lingenfelter implies he supports, were made without any public input and understanding. No CCF or NDP convention ever supported Saskatchewan uranium going into nuclear weapons; in fact Tommy Douglas was willing to speak at Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) rallies held at the height of the Cold War. So why does Lingenfelter want to associate himself with the completely undemocratic and secretive practices involved in the military origins of uranium mining here?

Without looking back honestly and somewhat shamefully at this legacy, as did Tommy Douglas when I last spoke to him about this, we remain trapped by history. But Lingenfelter, nevertheless, wants to barge on. Wanting to affirm political continuity he notes that past NDP Premier Calvert (belatedly) supported uranium refining in Saskatchewan, and, again Lingenfelter declares, “I support that decision as well.”

Apparently there’s going to be no reflection to learn any lessons from history, e.g from the failure of the previous Blakeney NDP government to get a uranium refinery at the Mennonite community of Warman in 1980. This plan failed because of massive cross-party and grass-roots opposition and the refusal of the proponent Eldorado Nuclear (privatized into Cameco in 1988) to undertake an acceptable social impact analysis, which was to include “interpretation of the concept of stewardship and the extent and depth to which this concept occurs locally, the degree to which it may serve to bind the community, and the impact of the refinery particularly with respect to radioactive waste disposal.”[ii]

Hedging on the Nuclear Renaissance

Lingenfelter tries to normalize the nuclear industry by saying 31 countries use nuclear power and highlighting some of the countries that most depend upon it. What he doesn’t mention is that the role of nuclear power has slipped from 18% to 14% of global electrical capacity since 2005, and that his examples of France and Japan don’t at all show that, as he says, “ many highly developed countries rely heavily on nuclear energy.” France accounts for nearly half (47%) of all of Western Europe’s nuclear power, and Japan accounts for 50% of all nuclear power in Asia. These countries are actually the exception to the rule, which is to move towards more non-nuclear and renewable energy sources.[iii] And both France and Japan are paying a price for their heavy reliance on nuclear. Japan had to shut 7 of its nuclear plants down after they were damaged during a 2007 earthquake.[iv] France’s nuclear reactor corporation, Areva, is facing a multi-billion dollar damage suit due to huge cost-overruns and failure to meet its construction schedule where it is building a reactor in Finland.[v] Areva is the only company of the three that Bruce Power says it is considering to build nuclear plants in Saskatchewan which is actually involved in building the promised “new, improved” generation of nuclear power plants. Scarry!

Lingenfelter doesn’t seem to embrace the industry-created myth of there being a “nuclear renaissance”,[vi] but he doesn’t want to have “a closed mind toward nuclear power.” (I’ll show later, from previous statements by him on the topic, that he actually does have a closed mind regarding nuclear power, i.e. being pronuclear regardless of the consequences or positive alternatives.) As a way to promote nuclear power he downplays the potential of renewable energy, commenting that “even the EU, whose member countries are global leaders in the area of renewable energy, envision producing only 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.”

Lingenfelter seems unaware of global trends. Once transportation and heating, along with the electrical sector, are retooled for sustainability, this will push renewable energy well past 20% of total energy. Globally, renewable electrical capacity surpassed nuclear in 2005 and is already at 20% of electrical capacity and rising. The United Nation Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change projected that at best nuclear would hold at 16-18% of global electrical capacity by 2030, whereas renewables would double from 18-35% by then.[vii] These projections are already outdated with the role of nuclear declining, the steep rate of growth in wind power and energy efficiency, and the solar revolution still to come. In 2007 three countries (China, Spain and the U.S.) each created more wind power capacity than nuclear power created worldwide.[viii]

Lingenfelter’s critique of the potential of renewables is not made in good faith, for, under several NDP governments with which he was associated there was no concerted effort to convert to sustainable, renewable energy. Even now, after the Calvert NDP finally dipped its toe into the renewable energy stream, only 3% of our electricity comes from wind. We are still behind Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.[ix] Southern Saskatchewan is one of the highest inland potential wind power areas in Canada. If we had the wind capacity now on-stream or planned in Alberta we would already get 20% of our electricity from just this one renewable source.[x] We’d be a world leader. The NDP, from Blakeney to Romanow to Calvert, was apparently too trapped by history to have such foresight.

However, “better late than never”! And there’s also co-generation, biomass, small hydro, and most vital, energy efficiency and demand-side management (DSM), all of which the NDP, with its fixation on enlarging the non-renewable export economy over the decades, has mostly ignored, and which Lingenfelter doesn’t seriously explore. I encourage him and other NDP candidates to look at the Pembina Institute’s study, done in Alberta, where Lingenfelter has resided for some years, which shows two renewable energy scenarios. One (pale green) shows how renewable energy and efficiency could meet all new electrical demand in that province. The other (aggressive green) shows how the 70% of electricity provided by coal plants could be provided by renewable energy and efficiency over 20 years.[xi] With less electricity provided by coal plants, and a much smaller grid, Saskatchewan’s conversion to renewable energy would likely be easier.

It would, of course, be a wonder if Lingenfelter has not internalized the worldview of the non-renewable energy corporate sub-culture that is so pervasive in places like Calgary and Huston, and profits so hugely from their heavily subsidized resource-extraction and transmission megaprojects. By downplaying renewable energy Lingenfelter is ensuring continued dependence on “conventional” energy, by which he means large thermal plants fueled by non-renewables. And it’s common for those who support nuclear to say it has to be part of the energy mix. This is deceptive and needs careful scrutiny. If Bruce Power built one or two 1,000 MW nuclear plants on the North Saskatchewan River there’d be no possibility of a mix of conventional and renewable energy. We would remain trapped by history. Bruce Power supports the continuation of coal, which is now responsible for 57% of Saskatchewan’s electrical capacity.[xii] If you added 1,000-2,000 MW of nuclear on to our relatively small grid (now 3,500 MW) you’d make us all totally dependent on these two toxic, water-devouring thermal energy systems. These are major contributors to climate change and/or radioactive contamination of the planet. You’d squeeze out the potential for a sustainable mix from renewable sources. And everyone on the grid would be even more vulnerable due to nuclear power’s track-record of unreliability and its history of public-bailouts for atrocious construction and refurbishing cost-overruns.

Optics and Electioneering

Lingenfelter’s statement is more about optics and election strategy than a thoughtful, forward-looking energy policy. He must know from the polls that with more informed public debate starting to occur, support for nuclear power is starting to decline. Women were already against nuclear power in the Regina Leader Post poll of May 2008. More opposed nuclear power than supported it (40.5% to 38%) when the question referred to citing such a plant at Lake Diefenbaker. And in that poll only 25% supported a private corporation like BP undertaking an electrical generating mega-project. Fourty (40) percent thought SaskPower should call the shots.[xiii] Only a minority (45% in Bruce Power poll[xiv], and 38% in Prince Albert poll[xv]) have bought the promotional myth that “nuclear is clean”, which suggests the green-washing of nuclear hasn’t been very effective. We may soon be adding “nuclear is clean” to the list of failed nuclear promotional slogans, such as “too cheap to meter” and “the peaceful atom”.

Lingenfelter knows of the swelling grass-roots concern about how the Sask Party and Bruce Power are trying to manufacture consent for nuclear power in the province. He knows that many people across the province, including within the Sask Party base of support where the NDP must win seats if it is ever to win back government, are getting perturbed about Premier Walls’ cozy relationship with nuclear corporations. He may even sense that this could be the Sask Party’s Achilles Heel. And, he knows that with his contestants for NDP leadership already positioning for this controversy, which will almost certainly shape the outcome of the next provincial election, he must be more visible on the matter.

So what does Lingenfelter propose? He proposes a “blue ribbon panel of independent experts, showing the people of Saskatchewan that such a (nuclear) project could be sustainable, from both the financial and environmental perspective.” But sustainability is about inter-generational justice. It is not sustainability to leave a long-lived radioactive waste stream, and toxic nuclear plants for future decommissioning, while proliferating weapons fuel and technology. And we’ve already seen how past NDP-appointed inquiries have been used to legitimize pronuclear policy, similar to the Sask Party’s flawed Uranium Development Partnership.[xvi]

Does Lingenfelter really want Saskatchewan to be another guinea pig for the nuclear industry? There is a lot of economically-opportunistic talk of us having to add-value to uranium because it is here. Wind, solar, biomass, and small hydro are all here too. And these can be harnessed without ecologically-destructive uranium mining, increasing the probability of catastrophic nuclear accidents, or creating a radioactive waste stream as a burden for our future kin. So let’s break from our destructive history and, yes, add some value to these renewable resources. And let’s do this based on human values that are committed to protecting and restoring environmental health, and reducing the risks of global warming and nuclear proliferation, as well as achieving cost-effectiveness.

History Haunts Us

Lingenfelter titled his nuclear power policy proposal “Failing the People – The Wall Government and Nuclear Power.” We don’t want to be cannon-fodder for any politicians. So before we get carried away over Lingenfelter’s critique of the Sask Party’s really bad process we should review his own declarations on the subject. Speaking to the Saskatoon Business Association in 2005, while Vice President of Nexen Oil, Lingenfelter criticized the Calvert NDP government for allowing “mining of uranium for use in reactors throughout the world, but then take a position that it is too dangerous to use fuel and to deal with the waste locally.” He then went on to promote Saskatchewan as a “champion” of nuclear power, “promoting our province as a potential source of clean nuclear power and seeking active investment.”[xvii] This sounds strangely similar to what Brad Wall is now doing, with his ministers having also bought in, hook line and sinker, with the green-washing of nuclear. And Wall’s government is actively seeking investment deals with AECL, Bruce Power, Cameco, and Areva; any nuclear corporation it can find.

Lingenfelter went further in 2005 than Wall does now by promoting Saskatchewan as a site for a nuclear waste facility, which is something both AECL and Cameco have endlessly pushed. However, the most stunning thing about Lingenfelter’s nuclear power policy proposal is that there is no mention, whatsoever, of the accumulating nuclear waste problem that will plague our future kin. Again, not willing to embrace the challenges of sustainability, or face the collective errors in our history, Lingenfelter seems destined to repeat them. Not mentioning nuclear wastes will not make them go away.

Polls are selectively drawn on by the nuclear industry and pronuclear politicians in the Sask Party and NDP alike. What is not mentioned by Premier Wall or his nuclear backers, or by Lingenfelter, is that Saskatchewan people are opposed to taking nuclear wastes from elsewhere (Ontario, United States, France, etc.). The findings on this from a 2008 poll done for the Regina Leader Post are very revealing, with 32% strongly opposed to a nuclear waste facility compared to only 16% strongly in favour. Overall 48% oppose a nuclear facility compared to 44% in favour, and the opposition is more forthright. Those strongly opposed to a nuclear facility are also a larger group than those who strongly supported a uranium refinery. (This support for a uranium refinery is consistently used to try to legitimize expanding the nuclear fuel system here.) And youth between 18-34 years “are most opposed” to a nuclear waste facility in Saskatchewan.[xviii] It’s also noteworthy that 50% of those polled in Prince Albert picked “waste disposal” as the “main drawback” of Bruce Power’s proposed nuclear plants. This concern was fairly consistent across all demographic groups.[xix]

The governments of Manitoba and Quebec have already passed legislation banning nuclear wastes from elsewhere, and based on the polling here it is highly likely that Saskatchewan people would support such legislation. Ontario, with almost all the nuclear power plants in Canada, would then have to seriously start to confront its nuclear waste problem, rather than relying on some future political fix, such as shipping it to us, which is what we have in store if we allow Brad Wall’s ill-conceived nuclear plan to proceed. Having to face the consequences of our actions is always required to bring about more responsible behavior.

Making History

The kind of leadership we all hope we get from the Obama Presidency sizes up history and uses reason and compassion to alter course. Lingenfelter is trapped in a history he won’t honestly explore. His nuclear power policy proposal is about political jockeying, not about using judgment and leadership to make things better. It’s not about helping Saskatchewan make the needed transition from being the second highest per capita Canadian source of GHGs, the main global source of the nuclear fuel system and all its radioactive wastes, and, yes, a continued link to nuclear weapons through the Depleted Uranium (DU) chain.[xx]

It is time to change the course of history, not layer on even more rhetoric to try to ignore its lessons. With an all-time low membership (e.g. only 5,000) the Saskatchewan NDP is now in deep crisis. The unsustainable, non-renewable resource extraction mind-set that Lingenfelter wants to salvage is a big part of the problem. Some may think that the party can find a new direction by electing a young, more progressive, non-nuclear leader. And the NDP leadership contest will certainly be news-catching until it’s over in June. Then what will all the progressives who have joined the NDP, to elect someone other than Lingenfelter, do? Will they stay on, as have many who have fought and lost these battles in the past?[xxi] Will they close ranks around “Link” to elect “the lesser evil”, and thereby muzzle themselves on the nuclear power controversy? Will they, once again, reject nuclear power here but continue to support exporting uranium to become radioactive toxic waste in reactors elsewhere? Or will they recognize that this turning of direction, so that we aren’t trapped by history, will have to come from a larger, grass-roots, coalition-building process that is non-partisan in the narrow sense of loyalty to political institutions and ideologies?

Lingenfelter isn’t alone in not knowing Saskatchewan’s nuclear history. When a friend of mine was doing graduate research in past NDP Premier Woodrow Lloyd’s archives, he came upon a 50-page booklet issued in 1946 for the adult study-action groups animated by the newly elected CCF government’s Adult Education Division.[xxii] This division had previously issued study booklets on such topics as Co-operative Farming, Women’s Role, Family Welfare, Good Health, Community Housing, Community Organizing and Rural Electrification. The one my friend found was called “Atomic Future”.[xxiii]

It begins by saying that atomic power will bring us “a new world, glorious beyond our dreams…we can use atoms to make our climate warmer. We can make Spring come a month earlier and Autumn a month later. In fact we can make our Prairies as warm as California if we wanted to.” It reads like socialist science fiction. There is no “biosphere”, no “ecosystems” or “habitats” anywhere in the 50 pages. The planet is all for us, to exploit for our purposes. Such anthropocentric and technocratic thinking was widespread in the early CCF and continues on in the NDP. And the “social gospel” vision of exploiting resources under public (and then private) control for creating plenty was pronuclear from the start. When I read this booklet many things fell into place, including how past NDP Premier Blakeney, who spearheaded the expansion of the uranium industry, could be so narrow minded about public ownership of uranium mining, with no apparent regard for the fact that uranium is a long-lived radioactive toxic heavy metal[xxiv] which has only two purposes: to build thermonuclear or radiological weapons, or to produce electricity that could be produced cheaper through much safer means without increasing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation while creating a long-lived radioactive toxic waste stream.[xxv]

The naïve nuclear vision has turned into a nightmare, and it has run its course. History gets very messy when people hang on to undiscerning, inherited beliefs. Look at what happened with the Presidency of George Bush in this regard. I’m not saying that Lingenfelter, or any of the others in the NDP who cling to a history they won’t explore, can’t change worldviews. Millions of people across the planet are probably in the process of doing this daily, especially since the capitalist financial meltdown. But this change can’t happen without honest reflection and reevaluation, of which there is no sign in Lingenfelter’s nuclear power policy proposal.

But there are signs of such reevaluation in every community in Saskatchewan. And it is happening across political and religious lines. So let’s get on with the challenge of moving towards a sustainable society. We have a special moral responsibility when it comes to phasing-out the nuclear industry. And we will be working in the spirit of those who laid the ground for Medicare. It will be an interesting and tumultuous journey.

March 26, 2009



Endnotes

[i] See Carole Giangrande, “Saskatchewan Uranium and the Weapons Link”, The Nuclear North: The People, the Regions and the Arms Race, Toronto: Anansi, 1983, chapter III.

[ii] Quoted by Mervyn Norton, “Nuclear Debate worth close look”, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, March 19, 2009

[iii] See “2008 World Nuclear Industry Status Report”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov./Dec. 2008.

[iv] It’s ironic that the heat in the mountain range where this occurred could provide much geothermal energy to supply Japan’s electrical needs. Mind set is everything!

[v] See Jim Harding, “Public Cost of Nuclear Power High”, Special to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, March 6, 2009.

[vi] See Jim Harding, “Is There Really A Nuclear Revival?”, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, 2009.

[vii] UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, 2007.

[viii] See Amory Lovins, The Nuclear Illusion, Rocky Mountain Institute, 2008 for details on worldwide growth of renewables.

[ix] Canada currently has 2,246 MW of wind capacity, about one-tenth that of Germany.

[x] 800 MW on a 3,500 MW grid.

[xi] “Greening the Grid: Powering Alberta’s Future With Renewable Energy”, Pembina Institute, 2008.

[xii] See “Saskatchewan 2020: Clean Energy. New Opportunity” – Report on Bruce Power’s Feasibility Study, Nov. 2008, p. 17.

[xiii] “Uranium Refinery and a Nuclear Power Plant and Related Issues”, Sigma Analytics, May 2008.

[xiv] “Saskatchewan 2020”, p. 13.

[xv] See “Public Opinion Poll To determine Support for Attracting Bruce Power To Develop in The Prince Albert Region”, DEMAR Consulting Associates INC, March 12, 2009. The methodology of this poll is fundamentally flawed and the design greenwashes nuclear power.

[xvi] See historical details “Uranium Blowback” and “Dark Side of Nuclear Politics”, in Canada’s Deadly Secret, 2007, chapter 4 and 14.

[xvii] See Jim Harding, Canada’s Deadly Secret, p. 226-27

[xviii] See Jim Harding, “Beneath Saskatchewan’s Nuclear Poll”, Prairie Messenger, March 5, 2008.

[xix] Public Opinion Poll, p. 11

[xx] DU (U238) left from Saskatchewan uranium enriched abroad remains available for military purposes in spite of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) being signed by Canada. See Canada’s Deadly Secret, pp. 253-55.

[xxi] Remember that during its period in opposition, specifically from 1983-1991, the NDP party policy was for phasing out uranium mining. (See Canada’s Deadly Secret, pp. 59-62.) Now, again in opposition, its policy supports expanding into uranium refining.

[xxii] There is some irony about this as I was raised in Saskatchewan because my father Bill Harding returned here from Alberta in 1946 to be Assistant Director of Adult Education.

[xxiii] Dyson Carter, Atomic Future. Study-Action Outline No 6, Regina: King’s Printer, 1946.

[xxiv] Uranium takes 4.5 billion years to decay into lead, which is still a toxic heavy metal.

[xxv] Medical isotopes can be created without using nuclear reactors, in fact, this is being encouraged since reactors like the NRU, which is still making medical isotopes at Chalk River, produce weapons-grade uranium as a byproduct.

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A kinder, gentler nuker: Lingenfelter

Here it is, the rationalization for uranium mining but hey, Link says there’ll be no nuke reactor until a “blue ribbon panel” approves it!

Blue ribbon panel? WTF is that?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between NDP types and SaskParty types.

No nukes in SK! Uranium kills!

A Policy Proposal by Dwain Lingenfelter
March 10th, 2009

Failing the People — The Wall Government and Nuclear Power

For nearly fifty years, the policy of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the New Democratic Party has been to support the mining of Saskatchewan uranium and the export of that uranium to other jurisdictions around the world to be used for nuclear power generation. I support that policy. A few years ago the Calvert government decided that it would pursue opportunities for value-added refining of uranium within our province, and I support that decision as well.

Today thirty one countries around the world use nuclear energy to generate electricity, many using uranium mined in Saskatchewan. Many highly developed countries such as France (75%), Finland (27%), The United Kingdom (20%), and Japan (27.5%) rely heavily on nuclear energy to generate power.

I make these points to emphasize that neither I nor the New Democratic Party enter the debate about our energy future with a closed mind toward nuclear power or any other potential energy source. It is clear to me that Saskatchewan will need a renewed commitment to energy conservation and a mix of both renewable and conventional energy sources to meet our energy needs in the immediate future. Even the European Union, whose member countries are global leaders in the area of renewable energy, envision producing only 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Therefore, while renewable energy options such as solar, wind, geo-thermal, and biomass are an important part of Saskatchewan’s future energy plans, some conventional generation of electricity will remain necessary for the foreseeable future.

However, I do not support the construction of a nuclear reactor to generate power within Saskatchewan’s borders unless a public, transparent study has been conducted by a blue ribbon panel of independent experts, showing the people of Saskatchewan that such a project could be sustainable, from both the financial and environmental perspective. This blue ribbon panel would hold public hearings around the province so that every citizen could have their say on the future of electrical generation in Saskatchewan. The panel would explore the costs and benefits of nuclear power compared to both renewable energy options and conventional electrical generation sources such as coal, natural gas and hydro. The energy options we choose for the next twenty years will impact everything from our provincial finances to our economic growth, from our population’s health to our quality of life. These decisions cannot be made without full, public input and understanding.

The Wall government has refused to let the people of Saskatchewan help plan their own energy future. It has stumbled and bumbled into a flawed process that clearly favours a single new energy source, provided by a single, private sector player, while freezing out the people of Saskatchewan.

Much of the Wall government’s information about the nuclear power option has been based on a feasibility study commissioned by the very company that proposes to build the nuclear power plant. This is a little like commissioning General Motors to ask if you really need to buy a new car.

The Wall government’s special committee reviewing the nuclear option, the $3 Million Uranium Development Partnership, has conducted its work behind closed doors, is dominated by nuclear proponents and has a limited mandate by the government’s own admission to “make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based value-added opportunities in the uranium industry”. Where is the comprehensive, even-handed, public review of all the energy options available to the people of Saskatchewan?

Meanwhile, the Wall government is negotiating in private with a single private sector company (Bruce Power) about the potential for a Saskatchewan-based nuclear reactor. How can we trust the Wall government to negotiate such a complex agreement on our behalf, when this same government mishandled the annual purchase of natural gas supplies for SaskEnergy customers this winter, requiring us all to pay $55 Million more than necessary for natural gas?

Even worse, the power company owned by the people of the province, SaskPower, has been reduced to an observer’s role in these closed-door discussions. Meanwhile, Bruce Power has been running extensive advertising in favour of nuclear power throughout Northwestern Saskatchewan, where they say they would like to locate a nuclear power reactor. In the Lloydminster area, local farmers have been visited by Land Agents working on behalf of Bruce Power. These agents are attempting to take out options on land in the area, while trying to swear local landowners to secrecy. Why would this type of activity be underway if the Wall government truly intended to have a public, comprehensive review of all the energy options open to Saskatchewan people?

As the Bishops of the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches in Saskatchewan said in a joint statement recently: “It is critical that any recommendations be made only after full and open consultation with the people of this province.”

This is just one more reason why Saskatchewan people want public hearings, full transparency and widespread public involvement, before any deals or Letters of Understanding are signed with any potential supplier of new power generation.

I see much more support across the province for additional conservation measures before any new power generation is decided upon. While we have made strides in this area in recent years, there is much more that can and should be done. I also see growing support for building renewable power generation (wind, solar, geo-thermal and biomass) in Saskatchewan communities, perhaps producing up to 10 megawatts of power each, and selling their excess generation to SaskPower. If the provincial government supported renewable power generation of this size in 30 communities across the province, we would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for power generation, empower local communities to build a greener future, and still provide SaskPower with the additional generating capacity needed to serve our growing economy over the next few years.

The Wall government is failing the people of Saskatchewan by refusing to have a comprehensive, public review of our future energy needs. Energy decisions are too important for politicians alone. We must find ways to involve all the people of the province in making these decisions.

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.

The Enemies Within: Feminist Activism in the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party

Oh, oooh, oooooooooooooh!  This is gonna be good!  Not to mention long overdue!  But will the SK NDP learn from it?  Don’t hold your breath!

The Enemies Within: Feminist Activism in the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party

March 19, 3:30 p.m. CL 408, University of Regina

Feminist activists inside political parties play an important role in ensuring that equality issues remain on the party’s agenda. After the Saskatchewan NDP formed government in 1991, equality advocates at the party level suffered from what Iris Marion Young refers to as “internal exclusion.” The rise of neoliberalism has contributed toward a political climate that legitimates intolerance of and hostility toward equality claims. Indeed, despite the NDP’s espoused commitment to egalitarian principles, interviews with 12 members of the NDP women’s committee reveal that the party culture is hostile to internal feminist critiques of party policies and processes. This lecture problematizes inclusion strategies and argues that the Saskatchewan NDP ought to be more open to internal dissent and more receptive to critiques of power relations if it is to adequately address the lived realities of Saskatchewan women.

Jenn Ruddy is a Sessional Lecturer in the Political Science department. She received a SSHRC scholarship for her MA thesis, “From Policy Advisors to the Enemies Within: Feminist Activism in the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, 1982-2006.”

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.

Commentary: SK Budget

The Sask Indymedia Collective has a number of commentaries on the recent provincial budget posted at Act Up in Sask

Larry Hubich of the Sask Federation of Labour notes a couple of decent things, namely, the cap on drug costs for seniors and plans to get more workers to stay in SK.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that the government is not doing enough to ensure that all of SK’s people benefit from the economic prosperity of the province.

The Sask Government and General Employees Union welcomes the extra money that will go into highways but says more is needed in the community service sector, particularly for the front-line workers at Community Resources, Child Welfare and the Social Assistance Plan.

That last one pretty much sums up why the NDP are poised to lose the next election in SK.  The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  The NDP government in SK has done so little in the area of social programming and support that they are being spurned by their own.  But that’s what happens when those who were once progressives adopt a neoconservative economic agenda.

SK Budget ’07: Update to A Missed Opportunity

The Sask Arts Alliance has provided the following regarding monies to the arts in today’s budget. It’s almost as though the NDP want to lose the next election…

 

SAA Logo

March 22, 2007

2007 – 2008 Provincial Budget

Hon. Andrew Thomson tabled the 2007 – 2008 Provincial Budget: Making Life Better in the legislature today. In a pre-budget briefing, Culture, Youth and Recreation Minister Glenn Hagel spoke about his Department within the context of the Government key priorities: Keeping the Strong Economy Growing, Making Saskatchewan an Even Better Place for Young People, Increasing Access to Health Care for Saskatchewan Families and Seniors, and Building Highways and Infrastructure to Secure Growth.

On the positive side, government is introducing supplementary eye care benefits and enhanced drug coverage for lower income workers (which we presume includes independent contractors). A Saskatchewan First procurement policy was adopted and Sask. Property Management Corporation will allocate 0.5% of capital costs to public art in public buildings. Minister Hagel again committed to bring the Status of the Artist Amendment Act to the spring legislature. The Building Communities Program for new construction, sustainable development and rehabilitation of community-created recreational and cultural infrastructure should also offer opportunities for arts organizations.

Overall though, the budget fell far short of expectations, particularly considering that Saskatchewan is experiencing great prosperity. Given recent government initiatives such as the Music Industry Review and Status of the Artist legislation, it appeared that Government recognized the value of the sector, and understood the demands it faced in terms of both increased costs and increased expectations to meet Government priorities. However, although there are increases in some areas, none are substantial enough to address the long-term pressures facing the arts sector let alone to provide for sustainable development. The Saskatchewan Arts Board allocation is far short of its needs (about 10% of their new money will be earmarked to address this year’s collective agreement and pay equity for their own staff). The Cultural Industries Development Council is still suffering from cuts to its funding that occurred in 2004, and Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation funding is so limited it is losing ground in its efforts to save our heritage.

Although disheartened with today’s budget results, its is a step, albeit a very small one, forward and Saskatchewan Arts Alliance remains committed to work on your behalf for sustainability of the sector.

Following are excerpts from the Culture, Youth and Recreation Estimates. 

Arts Related Estimates With Comparison to 2006-07 Estimates (in thousands of dollars)

Links to all budget documents can be found at http://www.gov.sk.ca/budget0708.