Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on August 25, 2008




63 years ago this week, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing hundreds of thousands of people, most of them civilians. Since then, many thousands more have died from injuries or illness due to exposure to radiation.


Polite and peaceful Canada: not a country you would immediately associate with nuclear weapons. Yet Canada has been involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.


·         Canada played a central role in the Manhattan Project, contributing scientific skill and uranium to the US program to build the first atomic bomb. 


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


·         Between 1945 and 1969, uranium from Ontario and Saskatchewan played a major role in the US nuclear weapons industry. According to one estimate, the uranium that came from Saskatchewan alone was used to produce 27,000 nuclear weapons.


·         In the 1990s, Saskatchewan became the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, Saskatchewan uranium is the initial source of much of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry. 



Depleted uranium is a by-product of the manufacture of enriched uranium for use in atom bombs and nuclear power plants. Used to coat bullets and rockets, it makes them dense enough to penetrate tank armour and concrete underground bunkers. On impact, depleted uranium ignites and vapourizes into tiny radiation particles that enter the air and water.



Depleted uranium was used for the first time in history by the US in the 1991 war against Iraq. The US has since used depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, as well as in the current war against Iraq.



Depleted uranium can cause kidney damage, cancers of the lung and bone, skin disorders, immune system failings, and birth defects. It remains radioactive for about 4.5 million years. The killing and maiming continue long after the fighting has stopped.


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.


Sources: Jim Harding, Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System; The Catholic Worker; the Government of Saskatchewan, website; the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative.



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