Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
If we don't do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable
Many of the facts I am repeating here are taken from the address given by Dr. Gordon Edwards at the World Uranium Hearings at Salzburg, Austria|
September 14, 1992. (1)
the report; The effect of U.S. nuclear testing on the Marshal Islanders By Hugh Gusterson | 28 October 2007 (2)
“The first uranium mined and processed by Canada was used to produce nuclear explosives for the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The beginning of the nuclear weapons program marked the beginning of the uranium industry. By 1956, uranium had become the fourth most important export from Canada, after pulp, lumber and wheat; and every ounce of it was used to produce A-bombs and H-bombs for the American and British nuclear weapons programs. It was the only application for uranium at that time.” 1
“Between 1946 and 1958, the United States used the Marshall Islands--a U.N. Trust Territory administered by the United States--as nuclear proving grounds, especially for weapons considered too big to test in the continental United States. The largest of these weapons was the 1954 Bravo shot (at 15 megatons about 1,000 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb). These tests forced the relocation of all the inhabitants of the Bikini and Enewetak atolls and spread plumes of radioactivity across the entire cluster of 33 atolls. They released 6.3 billion curies of radioactive iodine-131 alone--42 times the amount released by atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada.” 2
The public reaction at that time was more than one of uneasiness.
The Eisenhower administration decided it was necessary to put a positive spin on all of this. They needed to put a happy face on it. They conjured up the Atoms for peace program.
My high school science newspaper promised there would be endless power available for domestic use by splitting the atom. It would be obtained for pennies. The radioactive fission byproducts created in nuclear reactors could be reprocessed and used as fuel. In other words, nuclear reactors would breed their own fuel to be used in subsequent cycles. Fusion, the power released from exploding hydrogen bombs, would also be harnessed by 1960.
Here it is more than fifty years later and none of these promises have come to pass.
Today, Canada remains the world's largest producer and exporter of uranium, ostensibly for peaceful purposes; that is, as fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Canada is also one of the very few countries in the world in which uranium mining is currently expanding.
There are two categories of human illness that everyone agrees can be caused by exposure to atomic radiation even at very low levels.
(1) Cancers of all kinds. Some of the early Atomic scientists; Marie and Pierre Curie, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the scientists in the Manhattan project also died of cancer.
(2) genetic mutations -- which can be caused right down to the lowest levels of radiation exposure.
“The anthropologist Holly Barker, who has devoted her life to helping the Marshallese deal with the aftermath of nuclear abuse, reports an epidemic of birth defects, cancer, mental retardation, thyroid disorders, and suicides among the local population. U.S. officials should be forced to read her account of a Marshallese mother watching one son die shortly after birth as his skin peeled off and nursing her second, missing the back of his skull, gently holding his brain in as he ate.
The Bush administration opposed legislation offering $2 million a year to provide rudimentary medical care to these innocents we have harmed. But at the same time we can afford more than $130 billion a year for the Iraq War.” 2
The report The effect of U.S. nuclear testing on the Marshal Islanders By Hugh Gusterson | 28 October 2007 (2)
“In Canada we already have over 200 million tons of radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. The decay products of uranium are due to radioactive disintegration. They are about two dozen in number, and they occur in nature because uranium does. One of these decay products is radon gas which causes lung cancer.
The effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years.” 1
How does anyone, in fact, guard 200 million tons of radioactive tailings safely forever, and keep it out of the environment? As stated earlier, we still do not have an adequate answer for that.
Fission products are completely different substances. They are created only inside nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors. They are the leftover fragments of uranium atoms which have been exploded by the fission process. There are over 300 of them altogether. Each of these fission fragments, being radioactive, also begets its own decay products!
All the uranium that is mined here ends up as either as nuclear weapons or as highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. That's the destiny of all the uranium that is mined. In the process of mining the uranium we liberate these naturally occurring radioactive substances into the biosphere.
Nuclear technology never was a solution to any human problem. Nuclear power is not a viable answer to our energy problems. Nuclear weapons do not bring about a sane world.
What we have here, in the case of nuclear power, from the very beginning, is a technology in search of a sane application.
Quoting Petra Kelly, the late founder of the Green Party
”Uranium is the raw material of a power-elite who has taken Mother Earth's every living creature hostage.”
So, I think that we as a human community have to come to grips with this problem and say to ourselves and to others that enough is enough. We do not want to permanently increase our radiation levels on this planet. We have too much already.
The participants at the Salzburg conference concluded that we should leave Uranium undisturbed in the ground.
Quoting Petra Kelly again
“We, the generation that faces the next century, can add the solemn injunction: If we don't do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.''
I hope that you will write to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada (c/o House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0A6) and to Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada asking them not to continue the expansion of this industry