Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Nuclear Weapons: The Canadian Connection

Posted by strattof on November 16, 2007

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

          Canada was a major source of the uranium used in making the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories.

            Between 1945 and 1963, uranium from mines in Ontario and Saskatchewan played a central role in the creation of the United States arsenal of nuclear weapons.

          During the 1970s and 1980s, Saskatchewan uranium became the primary source for the United States nuclear weapons industry.

            Currently, Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer of uranium, accounting for 30% of the world’s annual production of uranium. Officially, Canada exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, Saskatchewan uranium is the primary source for the depleted uranium weapons used by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

            Depleted uranium is a waste product produced when uranium is enriched for use in nuclear power plants. It can be used to coat bullets and rockets, making them hard enough to penetrate tank armour and concrete underground bunkers. On impact, depleted uranium produces a chemically toxic and radioactive dust that enters the air and the water. Exposure to depleted uranium may lead to a range of illnesses, including cancer, kidney damage, and immune system failings, as well as to congenital abnormalities. Depleted uranium remains radioactive for about 4.5 million years.

            The United States used depleted uranium weapons in Iraq in 1991, the first time such weapons have been used in warfare. Since then, cancer rates in Iraq have increased ten-fold and birth abnormalities eighteen-fold. Many American veterans from that war have also developed serious illnesses.

            In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the use of depleted uranium weapons intensified. The United States has also employed depleted uranium weapons in Afghanistan.

In 1970 Canada signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The only way to stop the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons is to stop the trade in uranium. Without uranium there can be no nuclear weapons.

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