Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Quakers' (Friends') Submission
from Colin Stuart
First let thank Bob Lovelace, the KI6, AAFN, the Shabat Obaajawan, and the members of CCAMU for their courage in bringing this whole question forward. |
It is the habit of Quakers to speak as plainly as possible without oversimplifying. I will try to do this, although the nuclear question is inherently complex as we well know from our experience and what we have heard today and this evening.
In this very brief presentation I want to urge all of us, including the local, provincial and federal politicians to play a small but nonetheless important part in abolishing nuclear weapons. We can do this by refusing to countenance any further exploration for or mining of uranium in Ontario or Canada unless we have receive international approval.
Let me back up a bit.
Nuclear weapons and the need to reduce and eventually abolish them, for the sake of human survival, have faded somewhat from our consciousness since the cold war, but they should not have. The situation today is probably as dangerous as it was during the peak of the cold war though somewhat differently so. Jonathan Schell in his recent book “The Seventh Decade says of the 9/11 event in 2001, and I quote, that it
“...set in motion one of the few true revolutions in American nuclear policy since 1945. In a radical reversal of former practice, which had been to seek to stop the spread of nuclear weapons through diplomacy and treaties, the United States now turned to military means, including overthrow of the offending governments-”regime Change” in other words”
The militarily strongest power in the world, the one with the greatest arsenal of nuclear weapons, abandoned the rule of law, of international law, as a process for nuclear disarmament, and chose instead the path of dominance, with a mission as stated in in 2002 nuclear policy review, to deliver conventional or nuclear strikes to any place in the world on a moments notice. Since that time we have seen the Iraq war launched, and the nuclear establishment in the US urge new nuclear weapons production under the excuse of refurbishing or updating the old. And the rest of the world follows suit: France is building a nuclear capable bomber, the Rafale, as well as a new submarine launched ballistic missile. Britain appears bent on replacing its fleet of submarines and trident missiles, India continues to expand its nuclear weapons infrastructure with the help of the US and there is serious talk of Japan rearming and perhaps becoming a nuclear weapons power. This is to say nothing about Iran and North Korea, or Russia and China. The world's nuclear teeth have been set on edge because the US chose the path of dominance and empire rather than of hope and diplomacy.
Canada seems to go along by default, its diplomatic and peacekeeping role attenuated or eliminated in the morass of NATO and Afghanistan and in the interests of good trade relations with the US. We also continue to try and sell reactors to the world, and to make our uranium available. We need to remember our history and know that weapons and uranium have always gone together. Uranium from both the Eldorado Mine in Canada and from the Shinkolobwe mine in the Congo went into the first Atomic bombs produced by the Manhattan project and used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We mined Uranium for our very own Chalk River establishment which in turn was responsible for the production and early extraction of plutonium, the key fissile element in most nuclear weapons. We can't play innocent when it comes to nuclear weapons. Canada sold reactors to both India and Pakistan, and these nations became nuclear weapons producers.
In the most conservative of estimates, if 1/3 of the electrical energy required by the world in 2075 was generated by nuclear reactors, we would have to be building, globally, nearly 4 nuclear reactors a month starting now, and continuing until that date.
This is absurd, a pipe dream. We have trouble commissioning a new reactor every ten years, usually closer to 15 years. Furthermore most of these reactors, will have to be so-called generation III and IV reactors, MOX and breeder reactors, which will use and produce the plutonium necessary to replace rapidly depleting uranium supplies. In many ways plutonium is a synonym for weapons proliferation. The expansion of nuclear energy on anything even approaching the scale suggested by advocates of the nuclear renaissance will mean that plutonium 239 is very widely available
The Oxford Research group in a briefing paper published last year says:
By 2075, the nuclear industry predicts that most nuclear electricity will be generated by fast breeder reactors. If this is correct, more than 4,000 tonnes of plutonium will have to be fabricated into fresh reactor fuel each year - twenty times the current military stockpile. Society has to decide whether or not the risks of nuclear-weapon proliferation and nuclear terrorism in a world with many nuclear-power reactors are acceptable.
What are we to make of this? Any expansion of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels on a scale to make a significant reduction in CO2 emissions will entail the production of huge quantities of plutonium with the high probability of nuclear weapons use either of the explosive or dirty bomb variety. I don't think we want to go even one step further down that path.
Jonathan Schell puts forward a number of proposals to avoid this proliferation and lists the most important, which I support, to be the “placing of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle under some form of international control in order to preclude new sources of supply of nuclear-weapon-grade material.” Thinking practically, this means that any possible decision to undertake uranium mining in Canada or Ontario would have to have international approval. Much work would need to be done to set an approval process in place and I doubt that such approval would be forthcoming any time soon if ever, especially so when I think of First Nations on Turtle Island as part of the international concert of Nations. Think about it – we would have to give up some very small part of our sovereignty in the interests, certainly of peace, but also of fundamental human survival.
If these hearings in their conclusions were to make a recommendation such as this it could at the very least open a way for some negotiation and discussion.
Frank Barnaby, & Kemp, J. (2007, July). To Hot to Handle: The Future of Civil Nuclear Power. Oxford Research Group. Retrieved April 21, 2008, from
Schell, J. (2007). The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger. , 251. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company.