Clean Green Saskatchewan

The Challenges Of Achieving A Nuclear Waste Ban

Posted Sun, 02/20/2011 – 00:00

I don’t believe it would be good for Saskatchewan to “host” a nuclear waste dump. And there are indications that most Saskatchewan people feel the same way. Past polls have shown widespread opposition to bringing nuclear wastes here, and 80% of those participating in the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) consultations in 2009 opposed a nuclear dump. But we know that popular democracy doesn’t necessarily win out in these David and Goliath conflicts. So what are the main challenges those wanting a nuclear waste ban will face?

In early February I was asked to speak on a nuclear waste ban at community forums in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and La Ronge. It was no surprise that fifty people came out in La Ronge and that Prince Albert had an even larger meeting than Saskatoon. It would take 18,000 truckloads to move existing and future radioactive high-level wastes (mainly from Ontario) to a northern Saskatchewan dump, and these would all be going nearby Prince Albert and La Ronge, day in and day out, for decades.

I wanted to present information that the broad public will not be getting from the industry’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). Most people for example have no idea about the magnitude of the transportation that would be required to move 3.6 million fuel bundles across Canada. If people only hear the well-financed, one-sided industry view, there is no possibility of informed consent. And we know industry can be quite skilled at end-running democracy. I also wanted to listen and learn, and I heard a lot of passionate views, especially about the dilemmas facing northern communities. After this trip I am much clearer about what those wanting a nuclear waste ban are up against.

HIDING BEHIND GEOLOGY

The industry argues that caverns dug deep in the Canadian Shield is the safest way to store and ultimately dispose of nuclear wastes. It has been pushing this position since the late 1970s, when AECL, which makes the Candu reactors that create nuclear wastes, started to promote it. The Canadian Shield covers most of Canada, from northern Saskatchewan to the Maritimes, and nuclear wastes are mostly produced in southern Ontario, which is in the Canadian Shield. So why is the NWMO even here? We don’t have nuclear plants, and each time government or industry tries to float a nuclear power plant here, like Bruce Power’s proposal to build two reactors on the North Saskatchewan River, the projects get rejected for a combination of good economic and ecological reasons.

The only reason the nuclear industry is targeting Saskatchewan is because the idea of a nuclear dump has already been rejected elsewhere. AECL found no takers in Ontario in the late 1970s and Manitoba passed a nuclear waste ban in 1987. The NWMO’s recent negotiations with town councils in Ear Falls and Ignace, Ontario, got kiboshed when local people threw the mayors and councils out in the 2010 fall elections. And Quebec has a regulation banning importation of nuclear wastes from other provinces. The industry doesn’t want us to know that the Seaborn inquiry from 1991-98 concluded Canadians did not support geological disposal. Those who see personal-business benefits from having a nuclear dump in northern Saskatchewan argue that since the Canadian Shield here has been stable for so long, it is a safe place to put these wastes. This can sound convincing. But geology is not a predictive science. While knowledge about past geology can provide some foresight about possible future events, it can’t predict them or their timelines. And common sense gets sacrificed in the industry’s promotions. The presumed stability of the rock formation would itself be compromised by the proposed massive drilling and excavation project. The movement of underground water would alter dramatically. The long-term heat and constantly changing, and not necessarily reducing, radioactivity in the nuclear wastes could further compromise the rock. The way the industry promotes its case is a bit like how the pharmaceutical industry downplays adverse side-effects while promoting its lucrative products. The adverse effects of a nuclear dump would however linger forever.

NUCLEAR SPIN-DOCTORS

It is foolish to downplay the role that self-interest plays in these promotions. Who would most benefit from such a massive excavation project? The NWMO throws around figures like $24 billon to leave the impression that there would be an explosion of opportunities in places like the Métis community of Pinehouse or the First Nations one at English River/Patunak. Yet few jobs would actually be created on-site and there would be considerable risk to the jobs in the local land-based economy? Most of the economic benefits of such a capital-intensive project would involve the production and transport of the thousands of nuclear waste canisters, the drilling and heavy equipment companies, and geological and engineering consultants. And lots of this talk about benefits remains spin, for the NWMO only has a few billon dollars in the bank. The NWMO’s campaign is being run at the level of perception, not hard or comparative economics. When full-costing is done, this mega-project looks more and more absurd. However, economic spin can work and those who favour a nuclear waste ban will have to directly challenge this spin and support northerners in their quest for sustainable alternatives.

INCREMENTAL EXPANSION

The nuclear industry’s incremental expansion presents an even more difficult challenge. Even though the impacts come from the whole nuclear fuel system, from uranium mining and refining to nuclear plants, it is never assessed as a whole. The cumulative effects get ignored.

Thankfully the broader public is catching on. In late 2010 seventy municipalities and First Nations along the Great Lakes opposed Bruce Power shipping radioactive boilers from its Ontario nuclear reactors to Sweden. Even though the regulatory body, the CNSC, predictably approved Bruce Power’s plan, opposition remains strong. There is great concern that this plan will set a precedent for transporting nuclear wastes, and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of transporting high-level radioactive wastes across Canada en route to a nuclear dump in Saskatchewan’s north.

The industry downplays this bigger picture. Short-term benefits are targeted at economically-vulnerable communities, which is why the NWMO is shopping around Saskatchewan’s north. An objective, retroactive analysis is helpful. For example, uranium mine expansion in the late 1970s was promoted as bringing unprecedented economic benefits to northerners. Yet after the expansion of the uranium industry over three decades, northern Saskatchewan remains in the same position, as Canada’s second poorest region. The main legacy of uranium mining will be long-term radioactive tailings.

THINKING AHEAD

To win a nuclear waste ban we’ll have to learn from the past and better think ahead. The motive for the industry creating a central storage area has always included retrieving nuclear wastes to get plutonium. If a northern community agreed to host Ontario’s nuclear wastes, then the north would become the only realistic site for a nuclear waste reprocessing plant. Reprocessing is banned in the U.S. and elsewhere because it is extremely costly, involves extensive radioactive contamination and increases the risk of weapons proliferation. If a nuclear dump is created here, the north would be well on its way to becoming the nuclear waste industrial corridor for Canada and perhaps even for the U.S., which has no viable nuclear waste plan. Is that what we want for northern Saskatchewan?

Next time I’ll look at the role colonial mentality is playing in the nuclear waste controversy.

Radiating Posters–A collection of posters from the global movement against nuclear power

Posted Fri, 10/08/2010 – 20:48

The book Radiating Posters is a visual compilation of 40 years of global struggle against nuclear energy – more than 600 full-colour posters from 45 countries created between 1970 and 2011. The book reflects the richness of the multi-cultural heritage of the nuclear free movement – it could also serve as an excellent source of inspiration for poster designers.

‘Radiating posters’ will be an important tool in showing the rich history of the anti-nuclear movement and by doing so spreading the anti-nuclear message.

Never before such a large collection of anti-nuclear posters was brought together, or, for that matter, of any other societal issue, of so many countries, cultures and of such a long period.

This book truly is an homage to the richness of the cultural heritage of the anti-nuclear power movement and could be a source of inspiration for anyone deciding to design a poster.

‘Radiating posters’ is published by WISE Amsterdam and Laka Foundation.

Includes posters from Saskatchewan groups: Saskatoon Citizens for a Non-Nuclear Society, the Inter-Church Uranium Committee, Clean Green Regina, Pokebusters Citizens Coalition & Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan. Representing the art of David Geary, Greg Land, Lia Sunshine ter Heide & Richard Vickarious.

Now available in Saskatchewan at:

  • Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan (see below for ordering details)
    phone: (306) 653-1686
    email: cleangreensask@yahoo.ca
  • Turning The Tide Bookstore
    525-11th Street East, Saskatoon, SK.
    phone: (306) 955-3070
    email: inquiry@turning.ca
  • University of Saskatchewan Bookstore
    Marquis Hall, 97 Campus Drive Saskatoon, SK.
    www.uofsbookstore.com
    phone: (306) 966-4468

The Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan is selling Radiating Posters for $27.00 each.

Call Karen (306) 653-1686 to make arrangements to buy & pick up your copy(s)

To have books mailed to you, please use our PayPal account ( see button on bottom of this page). Under “Add special instructions to the seller” tab, indicate you are making a donation for a book, and include the following postage rates in the amount:

  • For 1 – 3 copies, add $10.00 to the price of the book(s). (Example: 2 books @ $27.00 = $54.00 + $10.00 postage = $64.00)
  • For 4 – 6 copies, add $12.50 to the price of the books. (Example: 5 books @ $27.00 = $135.00 + $12.50 postage = $147.50)

After you have placed your order, please contact us with your contact information including your full name, mailing address and phone number, and we will mail your books.

Northern community divided over nuclear waste question

Posted Fri, 10/08/2010 – 20:40

The Northern Village of Pinehouse is located in an idyllic setting on the shores of Pinehouse Lake, amid the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan. Behind its apparent tranquility however, the issue of nuclear waste is dividing the community.

Pinehouse, along with English River First Nation and Creighton, is one of three Saskatchewan communities currently being considered for the site of a centralized deep geological repository for all of Canada’s nuclear waste.

The aboriginal and Métis community of more than 1,000 people is located roughly halfway between Meadow Lake, about 250 km to the south, and Key Lake, the site of the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine, about 225 km to the north.

The village first came to the attention of Canadians in the late 1970s when the CBC program The Fifth Estate profiled it in a scathing documentary about its alcoholism problem, calling Pinehouse “the drinking capital of northern Saskatchewan.”

Since then, the community has worked hard to overcome that image, and despite continued poverty, there are also signs of more recent prosperity.

Big changes came to Pinehouse with the opening of the Key Lake mine in the early 1980s, and later other uranium mines in places like McArthur River. The mining was controversial at the time, and some residents still oppose it, but uranium mining has already made Pinehouse part of the nuclear economy.

“People are very used to that,” says Vince Natomagan, one of the community leaders now urging the village to take a close look at nuclear waste. “If it wasn’t for Cameco, or the mining in general, we’d be absolutely impoverished.”

Cameco Corporation, the main owner of Key Lake, brings millions of dollars annually into Pinehouse, says Natomagan, executive director of Kineepik Métis Local.

But Natomagan’s views aren’t universally shared in the community, with some opposing the mining, and many wanting no part of Pinehouse becoming the site of a nuclear waste repository.

Throughout the village, many houses are plastered with hand-made signs reading: “Say no to nuclear waste.”

Village resident Fred Pederson, 70, says he’s the one who made the signs and stirred up opposition to the nuclear waste proposal.

“I’m maybe 500 per cent against it,” says Pederson. “I’ve been fighting since day one.”

Pederson says he and other members of the Committee for Future Generations have collected names on a petition opposing the plan from about 60 per cent of the community.

He and his friend John Smerk were among the original six from Pinehouse to organize against the proposal.

Pederson claims that more people in the community would sign the petition, but they are afraid to because their livelihoods are connected to Pinehouse Business North, the economic development corporation closely tied to the village leadership.

Pederson is worried about the dangers of nuclear waste, but he also believes the village leadership is acting in its own economic interests and not the interests of the community. Nor is he impressed by the answers he’s received from representatives of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).

“They circle around the questions,” says Pederson. “They’ve got a fancy way of avoiding the questions.”

What would he ask?

“We want them to bring this nuclear waste in their hands or stick it in their pockets,” he says. “Bring it to Pinehouse. Bring it to Meadow Lake and show the people that it’s safe. If they can carry that stuff and bring it to us, then we’ll let them go with it.”

Smerk dismisses suggestions that the jobs from the project will benefit the community.

“We’re going to sacrifice land, water, and air for two generations of jobs?” he asks, noting that the radioactivity will last millions of years.

He dislikes the way NWMO has come into the community using its money to try to influence the community leadership and elders.

“I think there should have been a vote before they were even allowed to step into the community,” he says. “They should not have been allowed to come in here like snakes.”

Glen McCallum, one of the village leaders, takes issue with opponents who he says fear monger and aren’t willing to listen or learn.

“If we just say no to everything, it’s not good for our future,” says McCallum, coordinator of social development.

Trapping is gone, there are few commercial fishers, and forestry is being depleted, says McCallum. The community needs to turn to new opportunities, educating its young people, and putting trust in technology, he says.

McCallum, 56, admits he was against uranium when it was first developed in the 1980s, but says he’s changed his view. The community has never lost a life because of uranium, but it has lost lives to drugs, alcohol and suicide, he says.

As for the nuclear waste proposal, McCallum insists that the people of the community will be the ones to decide whether or not to go ahead.

Dale Smith is a commercial fisherman who’s resisted the lure of uranium, which he says the community is now dependent on just like it was dependent on welfare and alcohol in earlier years.

At one time, Smith hired 26 people to assist him. Now, with competition from the mines, he can’t find anyone willing to work.

“For some of them, it’s an insult to work for $100 a day cash,” he says.

Smith says he’s made it a point over the years to inform himself about the nuclear industry and the waste question. He thinks the discussion today about nuclear waste is as one-sided and pro-industry as it was in the early 1980s about the apparent benefits of uranium.

“If they want to talk about the future, I want to use facts,” he says, adding that only a few residents have done their own research.

For example, Smith is skeptical that the waste will simply be buried and left underground. He suspects that at some point there will be a financial incentive to retrieve the waste and reprocess it, bringing an added level of danger to Pinehouse.

“Nobody buries gold he says,” referring to the vast energy still remaining in the spent fuel rods.

Vince Natomagan says he’s neither advocating for nor against going ahead with the project at this stage – only for gathering more information and encouraging community members to do the same.

It’s unusual, he suggests, to be given an opportunity to study a project and engage the proponents without having to make a firm commitment for seven to 10 years.

By engaging in the process, the community has been able to do baseline studies at NWMO’s expense, regardless of whether or not Pinehouse ultimately decides to become the repository location, Natomagan says. This data will be useful for other economic development initiatives, he says.

“Let’s not base our decision like we historically have. Let’s not base it on fear,” says Natomagan.

Smith is unconvinced. People just want to survive and live a decent life, and they’ll adapt to changing conditions, whether it be forestry, fishing, thermal, solar or a hydro dam, he says.

“Living in a contaminated land, I don’t think we can adapt, regardless,” Smith adds.

Meadow Lake Progress, June 21, 2012 http://www.meadowlakeprogress.com/2012/06/20/northern-community-divided-over-nuclear-waste-question

Smiling Sun

Posted Sat, 12/12/2009 – 00:00

The smiling sun “Nuclear Power? No Thanks” logo appears on our website with permission. It has quite a history.

The anti-nuclear badge “Nuclear Power? No Thanks”, also known as the “Smiling Sun”, is the international symbol of the anti-nuclear movement. It was ubiquitous worldwide in the late 1970s and the 1980s. BBC News reported in 2005 that few symbols had become “as instantly recognizable across the world.” Even the nuclear power industry recognized the logo’s “power and success,” the BBC report said. Over 20 million Smiling Sun badges were produced in 45 national and regional languages. In recent years the logo is playing a prominent role once again to raise awareness and funding for anti-nuclear groups, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where opposition is growing to plans for extending operation of old nuclear reactors and constructing new ones.

The Smiling Sun logo was designed in 1975 by Danish activist Anne Lund who was part of the Danish organization OOA (Organisationen til Oplysning om Atomkraft/ Organization for Information on Nuclear Power). By posing the question: “Nuclear Power?” and providing a polite answer, “No Thanks”, the logo was meant to express friendly dissent and – by questioning nuclear power – to stimulate dialogue.

The depiction of the sun often is additionally interpreted as a statement pro renewable energies, particularly for the many ways of using solar energy. Only few people try to ridicule the Smiling Sun by stating that the depicted sun would also be a source of nuclear power, but the thermonuclear fusion happening in the sun is something different and very obviously not opposed by the anti-nuclear movement.

Why Is UDP Recommending We Become a Nuclear Waste Dump?

Posted Thu, 09/17/2009 – 00:00

By the time you read this the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) will have held its by-invitation-only, Saskatoon meeting, to help find a “host community” to take nuclear wastes from across Canada. I’ve heard the NWMO pitch and it sidesteps the vital technological, ecological and ethical questions. Why, for example, is Saskatchewan even being considered as a nuclear waste dump, when all nuclear power plants are elsewhere, mostly in Ontario? Why is the NWMO promoting the risks and expense of transporting such wastes to one centralized site in Western Canada? Most fundamental: why has the industry been allowed to continue producing these toxic wastes, radioactive for tens of thousands of years, when, for six decades, they’ve had no credible nuclear waste disposal plan?

The NWMO is a nuclear industry group, federally empowered in 2002 to address the nuclear waste build- up. It was created after the eight-year running Seaborne panel concluded that the Canadian public “did not support” AECL’s proposal for deep geological disposal. AECL spent $700 million of our money on this rejected plan.

Canada has accumulated 2 million spent fuel bundles – 40,000 tonnes of nuclear wastes stored above-ground at nuclear plants. The NWMO wants to encapsulate 300 of these highly radioactive fuel bundles per container for deep burial. To just address existing waste would involve transporting nearly 7,000 of these containers across Canada, through southern Saskatchewan to the north. The NWMO wants to build tunnels one-half KM underground in a 6 KM square area to store these containers; and, after 50 years, retrieve the spent fuel. Protection of groundwater, stable geology and social acceptance are said to be the main criteria, but it will come down to willing politicians and successful economic bribery.

The industry knows full well it has little chance of animating a “nuclear renaissance” unless the public is convinced that a solution to nuclear waste build-up is in the works. In internal documents it’s even called this a “public acceptance” strategy. The NWMO hopes they can get a “host community” to accept what the Canadian public wouldn’t accept. While they talk as though this will be a “willing” community, it’s no accident that they are targeting impoverished, northern First Nations and Metis communities.

After $10 billion more taxpayer’s money down the nuclear sinkhole since 1987, President Obama pulled the plug on the centralized, nuclear waste disposal project at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Among other things, environmental scientists found that groundwater was circulating through the proposed waste site. (A similar thing was found in Manitoba, and it’s naïve to think that, in this world of constantly recycling natural systems, they’d find otherwise.) Nevada’s people and government stringently opposed the plan, and we should ask why there isn’t vociferous opposition from Premier Wall and his government to bringing nuclear wastes to Saskatchewan.

The NWMO targeted the Cambrian Shield in Northern Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Manitoba isn’t even on the list because, after the AECL botched millions on nuclear waste research there, the province passed legislation banning nuclear wastes. Last year the Quebec legislature passed a similar law. With most of Canada’s 22 nuclear plants in Ontario it would be too hypocritical to ban nuclear wastes; but opposition to nuclear wastes in Ontario’s north remains steadfast. When the NWMO went to Sudbury, the local member of the Legislature called for out-rightly rejecting NWMO’s proposal.

Not so here, where the Sask Party-appointed UDP recommended we take nuclear wastes from afar. This comes as no surprise when you look at the industry-dominance of the UDP, with Bruce Power, Cameco and Areva all members. The UDP, like the NWMO, is an industry-promoting body; and the government (we hope temporarily) seems to be in the industry’s pocket.

The objectives of Sask Party’s UDP are quite transparent. It supports “the NWMO consultation and siting process, given the potential benefits of a geological repository…” It also supports “any willing host community that comes forward through this process” and, furthermore, supports” the development of the deep geological repository IN THE CONTEXT OF A BROADER NUCLEAR DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY.” And it says nuclear research here should include “advanced fuel cycle technologies”, which involve reprocessing nuclear waste to retrieve plutonium for future reactors.

Reprocessing creates a liquefied, more mobile waste and makes plutonium more available for weapons. But this isn’t primarily about nuclear waste disposal. Ontario is looking for a way to try to contain its low and medium radioactive wastes near Bruce Power’s Ontario plant. But Bruce Power wants to expand to Western Canada, and a high-level nuclear waste storage site here is part of the plan. Even if Bruce Power is forced by public opposition and rising costs to cancel its proposed nuclear plants near Peace River, Alberta, and on the North Saskatchewan River, its co-owner, Cameco, has for over a decade endorsed bringing nuclear wastes to Saskatchewan as a lucrative business venture.

The NWMO isn’t talking about how centralizing nuclear waste is part of the industry’s plan to profitably retrieve and reprocess these wastes for future reactors. They’d rather talk about “economic opportunities” for a prospective host community. But the economics are as bad as in any other area of the industry. The NWMO says the costs of its “plan” will be from $16 to $24 billion, up from $13 billion not long ago. Based on past industry cost-overruns, for which the public pays dearly, you can likely double or triple this. But to encourage a community to come forward the NWMO stresses that $200 million a year will be spent for 30 years; a clear bribe to businesses, or Indigenous communities looking for economic opportunities for their impoverished community. This “consultation” breaches the Duty to Consult, which says “There shall be no monetary inducement involved”.

If we want to help halt the production of nuclear wastes and move towards a sustainable, renewable energy system, we’ll need to clearly and loudly say “no!” to bringing nuclear wastes here. If our government truly cares about our and our children’s collective wellbeing they’ll do the same thing as Manitoba, Quebec and Nevada. Saskatchewan’s grass-roots now need to give the government some encouragement to do the right thing.

New Website

Hello, this is the website Administrator for Clean Green Saskatchewan.

This brand new website is still a work in progress so please return to us every now and then to see the content this site was originally created for.
All the old posts are being migrated over to this site and will be viewable very soon!