Nuclear Energy’s Dirty Secrets

August 8th, 2007 - by admin

Jim Harding / The Leader-Post & Alfred Lambremont Webre, JD, Med – 2007-08-08 22:48:20

Nuclear Energy’s Dirty Secrets
Jim Harding / The Leader-Post

(August 08, 2007) — It’s astonishing that the Canadian Nuclear Association is allowed to falsely advertise nuclear energy as “clean.” Pro-nukes want us to believe nuclear energy, in contrast to coal, doesn’t produce greenhouse gases (GHGs).

This is nonsense. From mining to milling to enrichment, from reactor construction to decommissioning, nuclear uses vast amounts of fossil fuels. Expansion of nuclear power would involve mining lower-grade ore; this would require even more fossil fuels.

And consider this: all Saskatchewan uranium exported to its biggest customer — the US — is enriched by two dirty coal plants in Kentucky.

That nuclear energy is being promoted for the production of Alberta’s heavy oil should put to rest the nonsensical view it is a magic bullet for solving global warming.

And there is nothing “clean” about the radiation — of which there is no safe level — that nuclear spreads, from uranium tailings to reactor wastes. Plutonium remains toxic for 800 generations.

Then, there is the undeniable weapons connection. Depleted uranium from enriched Saskatchewan uranium is raw material for the US military. DU bullets have been used in several war zones since 1991 and are responsible for escalating birth deformities and childhood cancers in Iraq.

Some business leaders are ignoring all this for short-term economic benefits. “Out of sight, out of mind” for the bottom line. Let’s not let them forget that uranium is a non-renewable resource, and will run out not long after oil. So we might as well make the full transition to sustainable energy right now without creating toxic wastes for our children’s children. That’s the right thing to do!

What about the economics? Besides not being clean, nuclear is not cheap. Several studies (e.g., New Scientist) found the true costs of nuclear are underestimated by a factor of three. If the huge subsidies going to nuclear were removed, the cost of electricity from nuclear plants would rise 300 per cent.

To reduce GHGs to avert cataclysmic climate change, we need to quickly shift to conservation and no-or-low-carbon energy sources. This means using all the renewables — wind, solar, tidal, etc. Even without a level playing field, wind and co-generation (using waste heat for electricity) are already the least-cost options to coal.

We must stop nuclear from robbing the scarce capital needed to make the conversion to renewables. Building a uranium refinery here is not the responsible thing to do. If Saskatchewan’s NDP government and opposition parties got their heads out of the sand and stopped being blinded by the quick buck, we could play a positive role in the necessary conversion to sustainable energy.

It seems the broader population must act to bring this about.

Jim Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies and author of the forthcoming book Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System.

The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007
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Canada’s Role in Depleted Uranium Weapons Worldwide
Alfred Lambremont Webre, JD, Med

The Government of Canada is in non-compliance with the statutes and regulations of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), prohibiting the use of Canadian uranium in depleted uranium (DU) weapons. Moreover, Canada has a bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement with the US, under which uranium exports to the US may only be used for peaceful purposes, and not in weapons.

This includes “control over the high enrichment of Canadian uranium and subsequent storage and use of the highly enriched uranium,” a Foreign Affairs document states. The same rules that apply to uranium apply to depleted uranium, according to the CNSC.

DU weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction under international law. Thus Canada may be complicit in the US use of weapons of mass destruction in the 1991 Iraq war I, the 1998 Balkans war, the 2001 war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 Iraq war II, where the British medical journal Lancet estimates that one million civilians have died. In each of these wars, it is likely that depleted uranium in the DU weapons used by the US and the UK comes from Canadian uranium exported to the US and processed in US enrichment plants into depleted uranium and subsequently manufactured into DU weapons.

Depleted uranium is the uranium by-product that remains after the removal of the isotope U-235 during the enrichment process. For every ton of enriched U-235 uranium for the nuclear weapons and nuclear power industries, seven tons of depleted uranium containing the U-238 isotope are made for the munitions, DU weapons, and military armor industries. “Depleted uranium” is a marketing term of the nuclear industry.

U-238 depleted uranium was originally discovered as a poison gas weapon of mass destruction during World War II by the Manhattan Project, at the same time as the atomic bomb and Agent Orange. Because DU is pyrophoric, it bursts into high-temperature decomposition upon impact with military armour, releasing nanoparticles of ionizing radiation that contaminate all living things and the environment with deadly radiation with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

The public military excuse for the use of DU munitions, bombs and kinetic penetrators is that DU is heavy and easily penetrates military armour and other targets. The covert strategic military use of DU munitions, smart bombs, and cruise missiles is radiation contamination of terrain, and low level nuclear war against enemy troops, civilian populations, and all unprotected military troops, for purposes of depopulation.

DU Weapons & War Crimes
After 3 years of investigation by 60 expert witnesses and jurists at a cost of $1 million raised by Japanese citizens, the International Criminal Tribunal For Afghanistan at Tokyo on March 10, 2004 found President George W. Bush guilty of the war crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons by US forces in the 2001 war against Afghanistan.

Experts agree that a substantial portion of the depleted uranium in the DU weapons used by the US in Afghanistan came from Canadian uranium. Had the Tokyo Tribunal been diligent, it could have found Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who resigned as Prime Minister on December 12, 2003, guilty as an accessory to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, for failing to enforce Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulations, and the Canada-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, both of which prohibit Canadian uranium from being used in DU weapons.

Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) says, “Canada may have the policy, but it’s not enforced. The Canadian government is taking directions and orders from the nuclear industry… “The uranium industry has a vested interest in ensuring its depleted uranium waste makes a profit and is not just left in storage. That’s why some of Canada’s depleted uranium is ending up in weapons, Edwards says. “The Canadian government can’t even think for themselves.”

Depleted Uranium in Hawaii
The depleted uranium that has contaminated the Hawaiian Islands with deadly radiation most probably has a Canadian uranium source. It is highly probably that the depleted uranium in DU munitions fired at bases on the Big Island and at military bases on Oahu, and in the nuclear weapons stored at Pearl Harbour is derived from Canadian uranium, exported to the US and processed into enriched uranium and DU.

Public Health Effects of DU Weapons
The public health and environmental effects of the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons can be considered per se violations of the war crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The demonstrated public health effects of depleted uranium (DU) weapons include: diabetes, cancer, birth defects, chronic diseases caused by neurological and neuromuscular radiation damage, mitochondrial diseases (chronic fatigue syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, heart and brain disorders), global DNA damage in men’s sperm, infertility in women, learning disabilities (such as autism and dyslexia), mental illness, infant mortality and low birth weights, increase in death rates and decrease in birth rates.

The Prime Minister Stonewalls
So far, the Conservative government and the Liberal opposition have failed to take a public position on Canada’s failure to stop the illegal use of its uranium in DU weapons. Stephen Harper refused to allow any Conservative MPs to appear on a June 13, 2007 North American radio special programme on the Canadian DU issue.

Despite repeated conversations with Stephane Dion’s personal press attaché and attempts to reach Liberal MP and Foreign Affairs critic Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal Party chose not to send a representative to the Canadian DU radio programme. Liberal MP Dr. Keith Martin, MD, a physician and former Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Defence in the Paul Martin Government, appeared on a radio programme on the Canadian DU issue and stated that in his opinion, there were no adverse public health consequences to the use of DU weapons.

By contrast, at a May 12, 2007 Uranium-free BC Forum at the Brilliant Centre in Castlegar, BC, NDP MP Alex Atamanenko (Southern Interior) publicly stated he was opposed to the use of Canadian uranium in DU weapons. Atamanenko seeks Canadian legislation banning DU weapons, as Belgium has passed. On the June 13, 2007 Canadian DU radio programme, Atamanenko publicly committed to question the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on why Canada was not enforcing its regulations and treaty obligations against the use of its uranium in DU weapons.

Connie Fogal, Leader of the Canadian Action Party, which passed a resolution in support of Canadian legislation outlawing DU weapons, committed to work against the use of Canadian DU in American weapons. Adriane Carr, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada likewise committed to demand enforcement of Canada’s prohibitions against use of its uranium in DU weapons.

What path is Canada taking?
Unbeknownst to the public, the Government of Canada seems to have strayed into aiding and abetting the serious war crimes of DU-induced genocide and crimes against humanity. By contrast, British Columbia has maintained a moratorium on uranium mining since the 1970s. There is substantial community support for a permanent ban on uranium exploration and mining in BC, as the recent Uranium-free BC Forum in Castlegar suggested. The detrimental impacts of uranium exploration and mining on public health and the environment is the driving force behind the ban.

Under the guise of combating climate change, the nuclear industry, led by the Bush Administration, is now promoting nuclear power plants to the tiger economies of India, China, Japan, and South Korea. Because of ionizing radiation and the nuclear waste issue, this amounts to a low level nuclear war against these populations. NASA recently reported vast uranium deposits in Khazakhstan and Afghanistan. Khazakhstan is expected to out-produce Canada (now the world’s top producer) in uranium production within 12 years.

One might rationally ask: Why not ban uranium exploration and mining in BC, and organize collectively to secure a uranium exploration and mining ban in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec? The public policy reasons for the ban on uranium exploration and mining in the rest of Canada – public heath and environment – are equally valid throughout Canada, as they are in BC.

Let’s sunset our Canadian uranium industry. That is a practical way to save the health of Canadians, the environment, and innocent victims worldwide.

Alfred Lambremont Webre, JD, MEd is the International Director of the Institute for Cooperation in Space (ICIS), and a Judge on the Kuala Lumpur International War Crimes Tribunal. Alfred can be reached at
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