Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
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A Submission from Uranium Free Kootenay Boundary

by Laura Savinkoff

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Citizens Inquiry. This is a wonderful opportunity to support the work of like-minded people, learn from each other and build a network to share information as we work together to abolition the need for exploration and mining of Uranium and the Nuclear Industry.

Our group, Uranium Free Kootenay Boundary (UFKB) came together in order to stop exploration and mining of uranium in the Kootenay/Boundary/Okanagan. We are a sub-group of the Uranium Free B.C. Coalition and a member group of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

In the past a concerted effort by B.C residents resulted in a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining. Unfortunately before the moratorium was achieved many sites were unearthed and remain a major concern of contamination of our lands, watersheds and food chain. The moratorium was lifted in 1986; of which the majority of people are unaware and think it was a permanent policy. The low market value of uranium kept the hounds a bay. A few years ago the interest in nuclear energy as a solution to global warming surfaced and ‘modernizing’ nuclear weapons rose to the fore of the military industrial complex escalating the price of uranium. This in turn made it financially feasible to renew exploration and mining. Governments were lobbied by the nuclear and mining industry and together they began a public relations campaign. Through the ‘War on Terror’ and the illogical fear of ‘the other’ nuclear and radiological weapons as a ‘deterrent’ have become the buzzwords with oft repeated statements such as ‘all options are on the table’.

Sadly, too many have bought into the fear. The campaign of the Nuclear Industry stresses it is safer now than it has ever been to mine, enrich uranium, produce electricity and that the effects of ‘smart bombs’ and ‘bunker busters’ are localized, therefore the dangers have been minimized. Too many are willing to believe this fallacy. The use of the term ‘Depleted Uranium’ munitions sends the message that the radiological dangers of these weapons have magically disappeared or are minimal. This also too many believe.

I’m sure we don’t need to go into the long-term or even short-term effects with the participants of the Citizens Inquiry. The reason you are participating is because you do know the dangers of the nuclear path or at least question the safety of atomic, nuclear and radiological products. UFKB joins and supports you in addressing the dangers of the nuclear path and in the use of atomic, nuclear and radiological products. Curtailing the Uranium and nuclear industry are an urgent issue needing immediate action. The effects to the environment, the food chain, water and all existence from exploration and mining is ignored, discounted or minimized by the ‘powers that be’. We are fed the message that we, the people, are doing something wrong, eating the wrong food, not living right and that is why we are ill, why we have cancer, why our children are born with birth defects and major health issues. It is my fault because if I didn’t buy the product, it would not be manufactured, sold, etc. It’s definitely not the fault of a Governmental and/or Corporate policy that disregards, dishonours and disrespects the Earth and all that exists on it and all in the name of profit, a higher market share, global trade, competition, etc. a result of insatiable greed.

Filing to specifically mine for uranium is not the only problem. We must remember that any disturbance of the ground can unleash the dangers lurking innocently beneath the soil. Unless testing for uranium is done at all proposed mining sites, at all excavation and construction sites the threat of releasing the danger remains. It is our opinion that we must press testing for the presence of uranium at all proposed sites of any excavation before it actually begins. In areas known to have uranium deposits we suggest an even more stringent testing be implemented. Of course, the corporations will cry and whine about the cost of such a supposed daunting task. But, the human cost, the environmental cost is much greater than any dollar amount placed on testing. But then, of course, it’s not the Corporations that would pay for health care and support for the disabled, the children born with major birth defects or chronic conditions. It is we, the taxpayers, who will shoulder that cost leaving the nuclear industry, the mining companies and the military industrial complex to reap the profits from the destruction of our planet.

As for nuclear energy being the solution to global warming, we know that is not the case. Besides the danger of enrichment, spills and accidents there is the danger of someone getting into the facility and/or hacking into the computer systems that run the facilities. This has already happened in Africa and in the US. Unreported accidents are common and we find out about them much later, as in Japan after the 2007 earthquake, which revealed that accidents were not unusual and many were considered minor incidents. It is a fact that in order to mine uranium, transport it for processing and enrichment takes as much as or maybe even more fossil fuels than they claim to save. And then there is the danger of transporting the product on highways congested with traffic and rail doesn’t seem to be any safer at present. Another aspect is the great amounts of precious fresh water used throughout the nuclear/uranium cycle that is rendered no longer safely usable. At present fresh, clean, safe water that is a vital for all life is quickly disappearing through overuse and disregard.

There are many other ways to produce non-polluting, renewable, sustainable and efficient electricity—solar, wind, hydro, etc. The only problem is that the corporations that have to date profited from the present methods are not wiling to give up their strangle hold on the marketplace. Yes, it will take money and effort to get all these methods up and running but not as much as we are led to believe. Critical to establishing alternatives is a open mind to the all possibilities. It will also take political will to fund and support research and development of these sustainable and renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, too many politicians are supported and funded by these multinational corporations who are unwilling to invest in the solutions.

The nuclear weapons industry is closely related to nuclear energy production. The same technology and raw material is used. Remember that over 90% of uranium taken out of the ground is considered waste. And the waste product sits in storage tanks that are or will leak infecting the water and the soil. Take note of the constant leaking and the spill in 2007 in Hanford, Washington. This site sits in very close proximity not only to a populated area but also to a major water system—the Columbia River—, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. And now the industry is spreading this wonderful by-product, branded ‘depleted uranium’, throughout the world. The damaging effects of this waste have been known for many, many years yet is now being used to coat bullets, missiles and bombs, tanks and bulletproof vests. It’s not enough to infect the surrounding area anymore; we are effectively participating in total annihilation of life, as we know it. What else will the industry and our Governments dream up to radiate us?

Last year the US Administration formed a group to supersede the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers group. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, that Canada officially joined a few months ago, proposes to further process uranium into plutonium, an even more unstable element. Part of the policy for this group is that each member country would take back for storage and/or reprocessing the waste from uranium they have shipped out. This means that Canada, as one of the biggest uranium exporters would need to find a place to store all this radioactive material. The US, to whom Canada ships most of our uranium, is escalating their research and manufactures ever more powerful weapons and has granted a great number of permits for nuclear power plants. Of course if we mine it we should be responsible for the ‘waste’ but Canada uses comparatively very little uranium domestically. If Canada would only process and store domestically enriched uranium waste we would not have the problem we now face. Where do we safely store the waste? One solution brought forward was to create a dumpsite in the Canadian Shield. Is that safe? We really don’t know. Why are we adding even more ‘waste’ when we can’t deal with what we already have? The solution would be to stop mining uranium, deal with the waste we already have accumulated and develop products to replace uranium. Why not? All things are possible if we truly look for solutions.

Last fall, 2007, there was much controversy in Canada regarding ‘medical isotopes’. Supposedly these isotopes are vital to the health of Canadians as well as the world. We wonder if there are other means, other than nuclear medicine, to treat these illnesses? As far as we know other means to test for and treat these illness are not actively researched and when/if discovered are not made known to the public. Just as with nuclear energy being the solution to Global Warming, research needs to be funded to find sustainable, renewable, and safe solutions. The decision was made to re-start the reactor at Chalk River, even though it did not meet the current standards of safety and the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was fired for doing her job. Why, because of fear and the unwillingness of our ‘elected officials’ to take a stand to protect people rather than the funding by the nuclear industry and associated corporations for their careers. The March budget in Canada earmarked millions of funding for the nuclear industry. It is the Conservative government that joined President Bush’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and is pressing for Canada to join the US sponsored Security and Prosperity Partnership that will further erode Canada’s autonomy and sovereignty. This is something we must be aware of and do what we can to stop because we will no longer be able to regulate, set standards and preserve our environment if those standards, etc don’t meet the approval of the US and Mexico. Will this then mean that Canada will be compelled to support the US nuclear weapons industry and mine more uranium and contaminate more of our land and people?

We have many concerns, as you do. We could go on and on about those concerns but what are we willing to do to find solutions. How are we going to institute change in attitude and policy is the bigger question, the more vital question. We can sit around the table talking about the dangers endlessly. Of course we must talk and we must write letters and we must lobby our politicians but what else can we do? In order to turn the tide and change the course that the nuclear industry, funded and supported by Government, is on we must reach a critical mass of humanity mobilized in concerted and coordinated actions locally, nationally and globally to abolish the imagined irreplaceable need for uranium and its end uses. How do we do that?

Well, we begin by informing and educating our local and global communities through forums such as this. We build a global network that is willing to act. We work with our municipal and regional governments to put pressure on our provincial or state governments to then in turn put pressure on our national governments to stop this mad rush into destruction of all life on our planet. We work towards that Critical Mass that can effect change. This is already underway with such groups as Abolition 2000, Mayors 4 Peace, the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the establishment of Nuclear Free Zones and many other actions worldwide. We need to establish contact and coordinate activities with as many groups as possible and as many people as possible.

One by one, small group by small group, it is much harder to affect change. Of course we, as individuals, can use less polluting energy, we can buy less, we can accept total blame for the state of our beautiful planet. And yes, to some extent we are all responsible but one by one it will take much too long to solve the polluting and radiating effects of nuclear proliferation and all the other issues that disenfranchise and disempower the majority of the people. As global sisters and brothers we must pool our resources (energy, minds, hearts, spirits, bodies and funds) to create that critical mass of humanity that insists that our elected officials stop supporting the multi-national corporations and the minority elite from destroying the planet for untold millions of years. We can ban uranium exploration and mining. We can stop the nuclear industry. We can stop the military industrial complex. We can make the world NUCLEAR FREE. We, the people, the majority, can if we are wiling to try something different, something new. We can if we are willing to change our attitude and not fall into line with the campaigns designed to convince us we do not have the right or the knowledge or the wisdom or the power or the means to stop those who victimize us. We have the means and we have the knowledge and we have the wisdom and we have the power. We must stop taking on the role of the powerless victim. We can because we will say No, No More, That’s Enough. We want to live a sustainable, peaceful life free of fear and of violence, free of the threat of annihilation and genocide. We can and we will.

Thank you for your attention and for all the work each of you have done, is doing and will do.

In Universal Kinship and Loving Peace,
On behalf of Uranium Free Kootenay Boundary,

Laura Savinkoff
(Co-chair)