Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
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WHY DO MEMEBERS OF THE ICUCEC OPPOSE THE MIDWEST PROJECT?

Bill Adamson, Member of ICUCEC, Saskatchewan

(Inter Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-Operative)

The uranium deposits in Saskatchewan are extensive and of high grade, some 5 to 20% ore grade, and in a few places even higher. The industry generates millions of dollars in business, hundreds of employment opportunities, and extensive world trade.

In 2006 the uranium production from Saskatchewan totaled 9876 tonnes of uranium metal, valued at $615 million, or $745 million dollars when it is converted to yellowcake. Some 20% of the uranium is used for fuel rods for generating electricity in Canadian reactors, and 80% is exported to other countries. In 2006 the Saskatchewan Government received $30.1 million dollars in royalties, and that at a low rate of taxation. Converting that uranium metal into yellowcake meant that in 2006 there was an export of 9282.82 tonnes sold to at least 8 different countries.

The people and companies in Saskatchewan are doing an enormous business, and we are also complicit in the poisoning of our planet. For over 30 years the members of the ICUCEC have been critiquing and opposing the uranium industry.

Our hope is, along with many concerned citizens, to SLOW DOWN and eventually to PHASE DOWN this huge uranium industry. (We might take Germany for our model.)

Mine Tailings.

Currently, the mine tailings from 4 or 5 mines are being deposited in the JEB pit, A mined out excavation the size of 4 football fields and 30 stories deep—a huge gash on the face of the earth! The tailings from the Midwest Project will go into this JEB pit as well. This pit is some 150 metres from the Fox Creek water system. At this time there are 984,969 cubic metres or 1,035,746 dry tonnes of tailings in it. The industry hopes to continue filling in the JEB pit with a 1.6 million more cubic metres until it reaches its 2.6 million cubic metre capacity. During the unloading of tailings, the surface is covered with water, and when filled it will be covered with till.

We also have 10.1 million tonnes of tailings in various areas of Beaverlodge in Saskatchewan, plus several million tonnes at the earlier Cluff Lake mine site. Then there are large pits of tailings around the Elliot Lake region in Ontario. The proposed Midwest Project will dewater a whole lake, and tear open 44 hectares to a depth of 210 metres—another huge gash in the earth.

You will know that these tailings include large amounts of thorium-230 with a radioactive half-life of 75,000 years, radium-226 for 1600 years, plus large amounts of arsenic, resulting from the use of powerful acids used in the milling process. In addition, there is the radioactive gamma radiation, and particularly the alpha radiation, released into the air from grinding the ore to a fine powder, thus releasing its contents.

Currently, there are a series of perimeter de-watering wells around the JEB pit to control groundwater flow. When the politicians change or die, when the companies move away, when the pumps stop pumping, we will have a glorious cesspool in our backyard to pollute the innumerable lakes and water systems in our part of the world. (One can see on the websites of CAMECO and AREVA the bragging about their production, and pictures of their huge mines and pits.)

Milling and Exporting Yellowcake.

Saskatchewan yellowcake is shipped to Port Hope and Blind River in Ontario for processing. Some is used to create fuel rods for CANDU reactors. Much is shipped to the USA for enrichment for fuel rods of other types of reactors. A by-product of the enrichment process is the DU or depleted uranium. Once it is processed in the USA it is marked “USA Material.” Huge amounts of yellowcake have gone to the USA over the years, and in 2006 some 32.82% of the exports or 3046.62 tonnes went to the USA. Moreover, 34.09 % of the exports or 3164.51 tonnes went to the United Kingdom!!

Everyone knows that Canadian uranium helped fuel the Manhattan Project, and helped the USA to produce its vast arsenal of nuclear weapons during the 1970’s and 1980’s. From the yearly flow of yellowcake to the USA it has accumulated some 500,000 tonnes of depleted uranium.

This storehouse is being used by 9 manufacturing plants and 12 testing sites in the USA to create munitions with depleted uranium, and such munitions have been sold to 26 different countries.

So, Canadians are complicit in the terrible devastation and tragedy of the use of depleted uranium munitions, and the widespread release of radioactivity in the air currents of the globe, which your equipment in Aldermaston detected. We have seen pictures of you in the film, “Blowing in the Wind,” in the region of Basra, identifying the presence of radioactivity in the devastated tanks and equipment of the Gulf War. Guess where all that depleted uranium is coming from in a global village—some of it from the mines of Saskatchewan!

Canada proclaims that it adheres to the regulations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it is a paper charade and a camouflage. Who can trace which piece of yellowcake that the USA has used for weapons? And now the USA has abrogated and renounced its participation in the NPT.

High Level Nuclear Waste.

You will know from Sellafield and the 12 reactors in Britain the problems and hazards of high-level, burnt fuel waste by-products. The 90 different toxic chemicals in high level wastes, with radioactivity lasting for thousands and millions of years, is a problem that scientists have not properly solved in over 60 years.

It is rather staggering to contemplate some quarter of a million tonnes of spent fuel stored up in ponds of water and dry storage casks. Along with the USA, Britain, and countries around the world, Canada has its share of this treasure! Much of it originates from the mines in Saskatchewan.

Summary

One could go on at considerable length in talking about the morals, economics, health (cancer), lethal hazards for humans and the biota, sustainability, damage to the planet, climate change, alternative energy sources, and the like.

Perhaps this provides some little context for the reasons and the passion with which our members oppose further projects in uranium mining.