Why Are You Ducking The Nuclear Question?
There is something surreal about this election, for none of you has
had to fundamentally justify your pronuclear policies. Saskatchewan
is now the major front-end uranium supplier of the global nuclear system,
and this issue demands public scrutiny.
Last year Premier
Calvert travelled to France to get support from Areva to build a
refinery here. Saskatchewan exports all its
uranium, and some argue a refinery would add value before export, and
strengthen the provincial economy. Meanwhile, Calvert is on record
as opposing nuclear power here, and in this election has highlighted
a commitment to expand non-polluting renewable energy use at home.
What’s good for the goose (us) is, apparently, not good for the
gander (those who import uranium from us).
and Brad Wall haven’t pointed out this huge disconnect,
perhaps because they wish to hide their own. In the televised leaders’ debate
about the future political direction of the province there was not
one mention of “uranium” or “nuclear”, even
when directly asked a question about global warming.
Sask Party literature quotes the Suzuki Foundation that Saskatchewan
has the highest per capita greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Canada. Yet Mr.
Wall won’t come out and say whether or not he supports nuclear
power replacing coal plants here. And Mr. Wall doesn’t quote
Suzuki on how heavy oil development in the tar sands (which all of
you want to further develop in Saskatchewan) is soon to become the
world’s largest single source of GHGs?
As the leaders of your parties you are letting each other off the
hook on nuclear and energy policy. This is patently irresponsible in
view of the Saskatchewan economy becoming more dependent on the production
of non-renewable energy that contributes to radioactive contamination
and global warming. That the media has not asked you the hard questions
is disconcerting. So let us ask you a few.
Is Nuclear Sustainable?
Any short-term economic spin-offs from a uranium refinery would depend
on the continuation of billions in public subsidies that have kept
the nuclear industry afloat. Without these subsidies the market cost
of nuclear would likely triple. Despite this help nuclear is quickly
losing ground to renewable energy sources, which already produce
more electricity globally than nuclear. Aren’t you concerned
that our growing dependency on a non-renewable energy economy will
cripple our future?
All of you acknowledge
the need for a sustainable economy, yet seem unwilling to evaluate
pronuclear policies in those terms. The
IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) estimates at today’s
low usage, where nuclear provides only 16% of electricity and 3% of
primary energy worldwide, uranium reserves would run out in 85 years.
Meanwhile, each job from nuclear costs one million or more dollars
How do you justify diverting scarce capital into a costly uranium
refinery, or nuclear power plant, when there is such urgency to create
truly sustainable, non-polluting, renewable energy systems to avert
catastrophic climate change? Especially when these sustainable alternatives
are cheaper, create far more and much safer employment, and can get
on-stream quickly enough to make a difference?
We are not picking
on Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is not alone in having a huge economic
sustainability. Even though asbestos has
proven to be highly carcinogenic, and is continuing to kill thousands
of people exposed to it, the world’s largest asbestos mine in
Quebec has not yet been shut down. Short-term economics there, too,
dwarf human health, the environment and morality. The consequences
of spreading radioactivity from uranium and nuclear across the planet
are, of course, far more devastating, and include the added dangers
of catastrophic nuclear reactor accidents and the spread of radiation
Is Nuclear Environmentally Healthy?
You all seem to have accepted some version of the nuclear industry
propaganda that it provides the “clean” magic bullet
for global warming. But the nuclear fuel system contributes to GHGs.
Saskatchewan uranium is enriched at two dirty coal plants in Kentucky,
and let’s not forget the huge quantities of energy used in
uranium mining. For example, the Globe and Mail reports that the
Cigar Lake mine requires the largest cement plant in Saskatchewan
to try to stabilize its underground tunnels.
The private nuclear
plants proposed for Alberta will be used to enhance the production
oil, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. The
Battleford area is most likely being targeted for a uranium refinery
because of potential demand in the tar sands. We ask you in all sincerity:
what does this proposed twinning of nuclear and heavy oil say about
the nuclear industry’s “environmental ticket”?
The new Candu design proposed for Alberta would use reprocessed spent
reactor fuel (nuclear waste). This would increase the pressure to make
Northern Saskatchewan and/or Alberta an international nuclear waste
dump. Again, as with uranium mining, it would primarily be Indigenous
land that would be sacrificed for this military-industrial venture.
What is your position on Saskatchewan becoming a nuclear waste dump?
We hope each of
you has reflected on the more-than-disturbing fact that the plutonium
nuclear wastes is toxic for at least 8000 generations - which
is five times the period it took humans to migrate from North Africa
around the whole planet. The continued production of nuclear wastes
in return for small economic payoffs today places unjustified burdens
on future generations. Please tell us: in what sense can expansion
of this industry be considered the moral, let alone sustainable path
How is promoting
nuclear as “clean” more credible than
tobacco industry’s claims that its product was benign? The Canadian
Nuclear Association (CNA) has publicly stated that harm from low-level
radiation has not been proven; meanwhile the U.S. Surgeon General now
considers low-level radiation from radon gas to be the second leading
cause of cancer after smoking. Uranium mine tailings will release radon
into the larger environment for millennia. Is appeasing the corporate
community blinding you to these vital matters of worker and public
The August 13th
reported a study that found that children 9 and under, living near
nuclear facilities were 24% more likely to
die of leukemia. (This study, reviewing 17 studies, covering 136 nuclear
sites in 7 countries, including Canada, was published in the European
Journal of Cancer Care.) The International Society of Doctors for the
Environment (ISDE), representing 100,000 doctors from 40 countries,
recently endorsed a non-nuclear energy policy in part due to the risks
that nuclear presents for human health. The doctors are, of course,
concerned about the prospects of huge radiation releases from future
nuclear meltdowns like Chernobyl and the risks from nuclear proliferation
that come with any expansion of the nuclear industry.
You are so willing to debate the pros and cons of a universal drug
plan. Why are you not willing to debate the implications of nuclear
expansion for the life or death of children? With all your talk of
health promotion averting rising healthcare costs, how do you justify
supporting what is clearly a cancer causing industry?
Is Nuclear Peaceful?
Lastly, why is it that you never discuss nuclear weapons when you support
uranium mining and nuclear expansion? Each of you may prefer to hide
behind the outdated notion that uranium from Saskatchewan is only
used for “peaceful purposes.” Can we consider such a
toxic cancer-causing substance as uranium to be “peaceful” in
About 85% of the
uranium exported to the U.S. remains available for use in weapons
enrichment process that creates reactor fuel.
This depleted uranium (DU) is used to produce nuclear bombs and other
DU weapons that are presently killing civilians in the Middle East.
Each of the 300,000 uranium bullets fired during the U.S. “Shock
and Awe” invasion of Iraq likely had a bit of Saskatchewan within
it. The extremely carcinogenic uranium aerosols from these exploding
bullets are now in the air and on the land virtually forever, and are
already responsible for vast increases in birth deformations and childhood
cancers in the region. How does this violence of the so-called peaceful
atom truly make you feel?
All of you, we
are sure, would endorse human rights. Are you aware that it is a
and a crime against humanity to make and use
weapons that indiscriminately kill civilians? It is no longer possible
to hide behind the reassuring rhetoric of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
so, we ask: what is your position on Saskatchewan uranium being a major
source for these horrendous uranium weapons? Be honest. Do you believe
that the end justifies the means: that short-term economic benefits
of uranium here justify spreading radiation and cancer across other
Can you turn your heart and head away from such suffering, and from
our complicity in it? Do you really support economic growth at any
cost? Do you place short-term benefits and votes here, above concerns
for global impacts and future effects? Surely if the labour movement
is willing to make the sacrifices to make the conversion to sustainable
jobs, business should also be willing to come on side. But where is
the political leadership on the necessity for such conversion? Why
are you not raising these vital questions? Do you think the continuation
of political amnesia is really good for our wellbeing and for our democracy?
Or for our grandchildren, who will reap the burdens of inaction on
preventing radioactive contamination and climate change?
We are looking for some sign that those of you wanting to lead our
Province actually care about what the nuclear and uranium industry
is doing to people and the planet, and about getting serious about
averting cataclysmic climate change. This is too big an issue for you
to duck during this election. So, why the general silence on these
vital issues of sustainable energy, environmental and human health,
and the travesties of radioactive war? Have we so lost our way, and
become so amorally parochial, that such considerations no longer matter
enough to be raised and debated during an election in our province?
We are sure many others would also like a detailed and heartfelt response.
Bill Adamson, retired Professor of Pastoral Theology, past President
of St. Andrews Theological College, University of Saskatchewan, member
of the Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church.
Dale Dewar, Associate Professor, College of Medicine, University of
Saskatchewan; past President, Physicians for Global Survival.
Jim Harding, retired Professor of Environmental and Justice studies;
author of “Canada’s Deadly Secret”, past Councillor,
City of Regina.
Jim Penna, retired Professor of Philosophy, Saint Thomas More College,
University of Saskatchewan; past Trustee, Saskatoon Separate School
Dick Peters, Regional Coordinator, for KAIROS Prairies North Region,
Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
Michael Poellet, Ph.D., for Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational
Graham Simpson, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Agriculture, University
of Saskatchewan; past Board member, Saskatchewan Council for International
Sylvia Thompson, retired United Church of Canada Diaconal Minister,
for Saskatchewan Non-Nuclear Clearing House (SNNCH).
Karen Weingeist, concerned citizen, for Coalition for a Clean Green
Dave Weir, for Regina Non-Nuclear Network.
Contacts: Jim Harding (306) 332-4492, Jim Penna (306) 373-0309 or
Dave Weir (306)352-3195