It is time to make electric cars a regular occurrence on the streets of Saskatchewan. Purchase prices, however, are still high in comparison to the cheapest of the gas-powered cars but substantial rebates, as high as $7500 are offered in some provinces and many states. Here in Saskatchewan there are currently no rebates and only a limited number of vehicle options are available (something we should endeavour to change). On the other hand, relatively new used vehicles can be purchased in provinces where such rebates exist providing a considerable savings up front. Want to start an electric car revolution here? If there were a small number of people interested in purchasing cars from Quebec, for example, we could have them brought here at a reasonable price.
One of the major direct uses of fossil fuels by individuals is the gas and oil used by our privately owned vehicles. As long as we are addicted to this form of transportation it will be impossible to wean ourselves off this major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. While the long-term solution must be a move towards more walking, biking and better public transportation, the short-term solution is here now in the form of the electric car.
While most of us are familiar with the concept of the typical “hybrid” which powers the car with a combination of a gas engine and electric to try to get the best gas mileage, the very real option of affordable cars available today that can provide all electric transportation for most of our driving needs may not be clear. For people that have little need for travelling long distances there are many options. The plug-in hybrids (in comparison to the “normal hybrids”) all give a substantial range using only the electric drive. The all electrics, such as the Nissan Leaf, are a great option if you never need to go more than about 100km per day. If you want a car that has the option of long distance travel but operates for distances up to 60-70km on straight battery, a car like the Chevrolet Volt is the perfect combination. It differs from the other plug-in hybrids in having only an electric power train; the gas engine is simply a generator which can give you unlimited range beyond that of the battery pack. This means you are not limited by the current lack of widespread fast charging stations.
The advantages of these all electrics and the Volt are many. The efficiency of the electric motor over the internal combustion engine is large, a normal transmission is not needed, and there are very few moving parts in the long-lived electric engine. This results in not only fuel savings but lower repair costs. The major cost will be in eventually replacing the battery pack. Hopefully battery technology will continue to improve (current rate of 14%/year) and cost will continue to drop. My calculations suggest I may save over $20,000 in operational costs if I keep my Volt for 10 years. This is almost two thirds of the cost of the car!
If we are to address the issue of climate change, the current all-electric and plug-in hybrids offer a bridging possibility but only if enough of us embrace it. Here in Saskatchewan where much of our electricity is produced by burning coal, the savings in GHG emissions are negligible unless you have your own wind or solar array and are already driving a fuel efficient car. Hopefully this situation will improve radically over the coming decades. The point is, while there is the possibility of producing electricity without the use of fossil fuels, the internal combustion engine is dependant on them. Other benefits of the electric car that are possible include the use of the batteries in each car as a storage for electricity produced by wind or photovoltaics, currently a major hurdle for moving towards sustainable energy sources.
We have had our Volt for a year now and I must say it is the most satisfying car I have ever owned. It has a lifetime average of 2.25L/100km of actual gas usage and can provide 60-70km on an overnight charge of about 13 KW which is provided by our solar array. On straight gas on long trips it still gets nearly 6L/100km. It does fine even in the depths of winter although giving up a bit of battery range. Until the electrics are better understood by the general public and are commonly seen on the road, the gas car will remain the predominant form of personal vehicle. Consider an electric or plug-in hybrid for your next vehicle and help us move to a sustainable energy future. The electric car revolution will not take place until we reach a critical percentage of cars on the road allowing the general public will see them as a real alternative.
Editor’s Note: To give the reader an idea of where used Chevy Volts are available and for what price, here’s what the Auto Trader has listed as of April 10, 2015
From Hiroshima to Fukishima to You: A Primer on Radiation and Health by Dr. Dale Dewar and Florian Oelck explores what has been happening to us and our environment since the nuclear age began.
Written from a physician’s perspective, the book provides clear and accurate information about radiation so that we can all make informed choices.
What is radiation? Where do we encounter it? What are the benefits and risks? How do we develop a responsible future around the uses and abuses of radioactivity?
Dr. Dale Dewar is associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and former Executive Director of Physicians for Global Survival. She worked for short periods in Inuvik NWT and Churchill Manitoba, and worked in Ile-a-la-Crosse as a physician and in Saskatoon as Director of Northern Medical Services and has been an active member of the International Committee of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada.
Book Description: The bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, brought radiation to international attention but the exact nature of what had been unleashed was still unclear to most. The 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant again made headlines with estimates of fatalities ranging from 4000 to almost a million deaths. By the time of the shocking 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant social media meant governments and corporations no longer had a monopoly over the release of information, but transparency remains low on the agenda.
Meanwhile, few physicians give thought to the delayed health effects of radiation. It has been the bold physician who has challenged the potential overuse of chest X-rays, CT scanning, or PET scans. This book provides clear and accurate information about radiation so that we can all make informed choices.
The current debate around Saskatchewan hosting a nuclear waste dump is not new, we have been here before. At this page from our old web site, you will find some historical articles on the great nuclear waste debate from the 1990’s.
This Executive Summary of the report introduced the possibility of “very profitable opportunities to lease uranium fuel” which meant uranium could be sold for a premium price with an agreement to have the purchaser send its nuclear waste back to Saskatchewan for burial. Reports still exist of northern residents being told they have an ethical and moral obligation to “take it back”, as if uranium and nuclear waste were the same substance.
Establishing a nuclear waste site in Saskatchewan has been, and remains, a goal of the industry in our province for decades and this history is important for citizens to understand. Please note – these are old newspaper clippings which have been scanned, so not all are of top quality, all are legible.
Early in March, Briarpatch magazine received documents from the Northern Village of Pinehouse, in partial compliance with one of two Freedom of Information requests filed a year ago. Pinehouse is an isolated village of just under 1,400 people, 80 per cent of whom are Cree speaking. The community is located about 500 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
The released documents primarily relate to the dealings of the Pinehouse leadership with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a federally mandated consortium designated “to assume responsibility for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.” In recent years, NWMO has focused on finding a “willing host community” for a radioactive waste depository in more remote, northern regions over the Canadian Shield rock formations whose stability is desired for deep geologic waste storage.
As we’ll see, the correspondence between NWMO and the Village of Pinehouse in northern Saskatchewan sheds important light on the tactics NWMO uses when seeking hosts for Canada’s nuclear waste.
Between 2010 and 2013, NWMO pumped over $471,000 into Pinehouse coffers trying to convince residents that nuclear waste would be the answer to the community’s poverty and associated social problems. On August 12, 2010, the press announced that “Local leaders in Pinehouse are exploring the idea of hosting a nuclear waste storage site. Métis Nation–Saskatchewan area director Louis Gardiner was part of a delegation from the community that met with Nuclear Waste Management Organization officials in Toronto earlier this week.”
Five Pinehouse leaders had visited NWMO facilities in Ontario that month, at NWMO expense, to scope out the possibilities. Following discussions among NWMO, the Village, and Kineepik Métis Local Inc., a formal agreement was about to be signed. (Kineepik Métis Local Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation established in 2007, not a registered local of the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, as its name seems to imply.)
Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan addressed the news report a few weeks later, confirming that NWMO was being invited to the village to discuss the idea. As MBC Network Radio reported, the mayor stressed that “the ‘learn more’ opportunity does not commit the village or Métis local to any further steps.”
In fact, when Pinehouse leaders agreed to engage in NWMO’s “Learn More” program, they were committing to a major undertaking to promote NWMO’s agenda until at least June 30, 2011 (subsequently renewed several times more) with an initial outlay of $128,000 from NWMO.
On November 30, 2011 the Village and Kineepik Métis Local Inc. submitted a comprehensive approach to NWMO, in which Vince Natomagan, the mayor’s cousin and Kineepik Métis Local Inc.’s key proponent of the scheme, would “be the lead contact for Pinehouse as it relates to the NWMO initial screening and subsequent phases/events.”
Further, the document stressed, “It is also strongly suggested that Phillip Tinker be designated Elder for the [same] purposes … All inquiries from the community (and outside the community) will be directed to Vince Natomagan and Phillip Tinker.” Tinker was an admired community Elder, who recently passed away in 2013.
Unknown to most Pinehouse residents, the funds allocated to the Village by NWMO were largely dedicated to salaries for Vince Natomagan, Phillip Tinker, and Glen McCallum (a local Métis Nation leader). A budget for 2011 submitted to NWMO in February indicates that Vince Natomagan was receiving a monthly salary of $5,441, Tinker $3,001, and McCallum $2,601, paid from a NWMO fund set up within the Village accounts.
“The fox in the hen house”
Having the target community engage in a “Community Sustainability Visioning” process is integral to NWMO’s “Learn More” program. A community “Vision Statement” drafted in December 2010 by Vince Natomagan is difficult to reconcile with the role of NWMO, which is nowhere mentioned in it:
“Pinehouse will grow and prosper as a healthy, self-determined, self-sustaining northern community that is united and takes pride in our Aboriginal culture and traditions through sharing and caring. We are reclaiming our community through a holistic approach and promoting identity, culture, values, and beliefs.”
NWMO, Vince Natomagan, and their fellow planners required a clandestine approach. Already, suspicions had been growing in the community about what was afoot. On November 10, Vince Natomagan wrote to NWMO president Kenneth Nash: “We have taken the lead in northern Saskatchewan by opening the door for the NWMO; and we have taken some ‘hits’ from some tree hugger mentalities within our own community, our region and in the province (by virtue of blogs and media attention). They dare label us as ‘economic blackmail’ but we view it differently.”
The next step taken by NWMO’s Pinehouse contingent was to plan an ambitious “Northern Saskatchewan Elders Gathering” in June 2011 as part of the Community Sustainability Visioning process. It was anticipated that about 700 people from Pinehouse and other northern communities would attend. Besides demonstrations of traditional spirituality and lifestyles, there would be corporate information booths set up so that Indigenous youth could learn about job opportunities in industrial sectors like nuclear and uranium.
Included among the exhibits of future employers would, of course, be Nuclear Waste Management Organization. The total budget proposed for the Elders Gathering was $347,000, of which the local leaders suggested NWMO contribute $232,000. NWMO gave the matter due consideration and offered a more modest $40,000.
As the event date approached, a serious disagreement arose when NWMO’s Aboriginal Relations director Pat Patton wrote to mayor Mike Natomagan on May 24, 2011. “We will discuss with you the [nuclear waste repository] project in light of the community’s vision which has now been completed and submitted to NWMO on May 11th.” Patton also asked if a meeting could be set up at the Elders Gathering with the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan regional director, who had “indicated an interest in understanding in more detail how the APM [Adaptive Phase Management] site selection process [would] evolve.”
Immediately recognizing the inherent political pitfalls, Vince Natomagan responded on behalf of the Village and Kineepik Métis Local Inc.: “I will not be setting up this meeting due to the fact that I am co-ordinating the Gathering. (The ‘tree-huggers’ are just waiting for me to make a perceived ‘mistake’ to which I will not do).”
The email continues: “You asked if ‘the APM project aligns with the community vision.’ How in the world can the leadership of Pinehouse assume if the NWMO project is ‘in-line’ with the vision when we’ve strictly and clearly told the apprehensive community members that ‘the visioning process has nothing to do with the NWMO project? That’s like telling the fox in the hen house to ‘not engage’ the chickens!”
Apparently, the Pinehouse leaders did not want the public to know the direct relation between NWMO and the visioning process, or indeed that the Community Sustainability Visioning process had in fact already been completed and submitted to NWMO on May 11. The input received at the Elders Gathering would be irrelevant to the entire process.
Nevertheless, “the fox in the hen house” was in the process of being exposed. Early in May the Pinehouse leadership had hosted a healing circle at Muskwa Lake to discuss youth substance abuse and suicide. According to a Media Co-op report by journalist Sandra Cuffe:
“Halfway through the talking circle, one of the facilitators wrote ‘NWMO’ on the chart and ‘Duty To Consult’ right under it. And this was shortly after Vince Natomagan had joined the talking circle. He had come in with a briefcase and with some paperwork that he spread out on the table,” said [Max] Morin. “The red flags went up right away.”
“Ten elders from Pinehouse left immediately, he said. Others walked out soon after learning what NWMO stood for and that the local facilitators were advocating for a nuclear waste repository in the area.”
Elders and other leaders from northwest Saskatchewan now realized that direct action was required. Within days the Committee for Future Generations was formed and the 7000 Generations Walk Against Nuclear Waste from Pinehouse to the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina was organized for that summer. From that point onwards, every move that NWMO and the Pinehouse leaders made was closely scrutinized. In a March 2012 email to NWMO, mayor Mike Natomagan recalled that “Virtually all other local & regional initiatives we undertook were looked at as suspect.”
But the money kept flowing from NWMO to Pinehouse Village and Kineepik: $216,322 in 2011 and $216,132 in 2012. A financial statement submitted to NWMO in June 2012 indicates that Vince Natomagan was still getting a bi-weekly salary of $2,538 and Métis Nation leader Glen McCallum, $1,484. NWMO continued to disseminate one-sided information on the benefits of the project, and any contrary voices to the proposal were strongly discouraged.
When in November 2011 one Pinehouse resident suggested that a more independent source of information be brought to the community to speak, NWMO and the Village council declined the two names put forward. Ultimately, Dr. Gordon Edwards, a respected authority on the dangers of nuclear waste, came to Pinehouse and his expenses were paid privately.
“It will backfire big time”
Early in 2013 the relationship between NWMO and the Pinehouse leadership was beginning to fray. As the various stages in NWMO’s Adaptive Phase Management process moved along, community resistance continued to mount. NWMO tried to garner more support throughout the region. (English River First Nation, 100 km away, was also being considered as a nuclear waste site.) A NWMO initiative to fund “Learn More” opportunities in a handful of other communities brought a strong reaction from Vince Natomagan:
“About 3 weeks ago, your colleague Pat Patton introduced a new ‘program’ for $60,000 for each northern region of the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan. What is this ‘pool of money’ supposed to do? The NWMO is throwing a penny to a million dollar problem, and it will backfire big time. As Executive Director of Kineepik Métis Local Inc, I’m very much sensing that the board of directors of this vibrant Métis Local are not interested in this idiotic shortfall. It is rather quite a patronizing gesture from the NWMO … The NWMO needs to appreciate our internal and regional challenges. Selling your oil is tearing us apart.”
Documentation beyond May 2013 was outside the time frame in Briarpatch’s FOI requests, but we can report that by the end of 2013 NWMO had decided to discontinue its active consideration of Pinehouse as a potential radioactive waste site. While NWMO determined that Pinehouse (and nearby English River First Nation) did not meet the minimum conditions to continue in its screening process for the nuclear waste repository, as a golden handshake, NWMO agreed to “provide $400,000 to each community upon its establishment of a Community Well-Being Reserve Fund.”
One more Saskatchewan community, Creighton, is still under consideration for a nuclear waste site.
For three years, from 2010 – 2013, The Nuclear Waste Management Organization vigorously promoted its agenda to locate a radioactive waste repository in the Pinehouse region. By pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into that effort, NWMO and its paid local agents succeeded in sowing deep divisions among the local residents, who were torn between genuine, long-term environmental concerns and the promises of short-term, boom-town economic growth offered by the nuclear industry.
Briarpatch continues to demand a full response to its Freedom of Information requests, filed with the Village of Pinehouse in April 2013. In light of how the Pinehouse leadership has collaborated with NWMO, we are interested to learn more about the dealings of the Village and Kineepik Métis Local Inc. with the uranium companies Cameco and Areva, with whom a Collaboration Agreement was signed in December 2012.
At present, two legal cases have been filed in an effort to obtain full accountability and transparency from the Village. We will keep our readers informed as these cases move through the courts in coming months.
D’Arcy Hande, a retired archivist and historian, has keenly followed the uranium industry’s activity in Saskatchewan since the Saskatchewan Party government launched the Uranium Development Partnership in 2008. A long-time opponent of the promotion of nuclear power as sustainable energy, he paid close attention to the negotiation of the collaboration agreement between Cameco and Areva and the Village of Pinehouse, and interviewed many of the agreement’s foremost opponents in Pinehouse. In June 2013, he joined 38 other plaintiffs in challenging the agreement at the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is not a government panel or an independent third party organization. It is run by the nuclear power industry. They have orchestrated the process with communities like Creighton so that it completely controls the agenda – timelines, deadlines & information flow.
Potential host communities owe it to themselves to obtain as much objective and science-based information from independent sources as possible. The decision to proceed or not must be very carefully weighed because of the huge potential risks. The impacts of radioactive contamination would be felt for many centuries.
• This project would not be the economic driver promised by NWMO – it is not like a long term extractive mining venture. The range of jobs indicated by NWMO suggests that competition for these jobs would be national, maybe international. There would be no long term job security for the people of Creighton. In fact the perceived stigma of a nuclear waste dump would negatively impact future tourism, fishing, hunting and vacationing. If it is going to be such an economic boon, why are large cities in Ontario not competing for it?
• When it comes to toxic waste no community is an island unto itself. Towns and RM’s share rivers, aquifers, weather systems, and transportation networks. If a nuclear waste dump is built in Creighton, tens of thousands of truckloads of hazardous radiotoxic material will be travelling to Saskatchewan through Manitoba from nuclear reactors in Central Canada and elsewhere. Statistically speaking, accidents are bound to happen. Countless communities would be put at risk.
• Saskatchewan and Manitoba are globally important food producing areas. Any accident in waste transportation or storage would negatively affect future safety of local food and water supplies as well as sales of Canada’s food crops to the world. Why would we risk our food and water security?
• There are serious scientific deficiencies in the NWMO geologic disposal concept that are not noted in their promotional material, but have been identified in other studies ( see Links…) Extensive drilling & excavating would compromise the integrity of the surrounding rock. Resulting fracturing and faulting will create faster routes for radionuclide escape.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) published data and graphs showing how the decay heat from buried high-level nuclear waste will heat the underground rock formations for 50,000 years (thermal pulse). Prolonged heat and chemical reactions will exacerbate damage to containers and the surrounding rock.
• The proposed nuclear waste containment technology is highly speculative –technically, the containers cannot be assured to last as long as the waste is toxic, at least 100,000 years. The computer models used by the NWMO cannot accurately predict the long timescales required. Science simply cannot make such extremely complex long range predictions.
• The waste consists of so called “spent” fuel bundles which are actually millions of times more radioactive and deadly than the fuel bundles were before being irradiated in nuclear reactor cores. They contain more than 200 fission and activation products, most of them highly radioactive materials not found in nature. These are known to cause cancer, immune system damage, genetic defects in offspring and other serious health problems.
• There are sound alternative options for managing high-level radioactive waste. One responsible and viable option gaining acceptance, currently by over 200 organizations, is Hardened On Site Storage (HOSS), with Rolling Stewardship, located on or near reactor sites.
The USA has tried 8 times to site a nuclear waste repository and has failed all 8 times. Germany recently revealed that the Asse Mine, an underground storage facility for nuclear waste, has filed completely and is leaking badly.
Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment in Manitoba did ALL the Canadian field research on Deep Geologic Disposal. Then In 1987 the Manitoba Legislature passed a law forbidding the disposal of high-level nuclear waste in the province. In 2008 the Quebec National Assembly passed a motion, unanimously with no abstentions, banning the storage in Quebec of nuclear waste from other provinces.
Creighton Saskatchewan is being targeted
Let’s not become North America’s nuclear garbage dump!
The NWMO proposal is a massive gamble.
It could mean radioactive contamination of the whole area. If it’s safe, why not leave it where it is?
It’s not worth the risk.
The danger of radioactivity will remain forever –long after the money and jobs run out.
Help spread the word about this public meeting on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 in Flin Flon, Manitoba. This handout is currently in PDF format, it will appear here as an article very soon. In the meantime, you can download the PDF and the poster to share and post.
Prominent Canadian Human Rights lawyer says environmentalists, and Canadians at large, have the right to advocate for environmental protection, and says there needs to be more free speech, not less, on economic development projects that threaten environmental sustainability in Canada.
Here is a collection of interviews on CBC about the changes to environmental assessment review in Canada, and the attempts to silence critics.