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NUCLEAR DEALS: THE SASKATCHEWAN CONNECTION

Posted by strattof on June 11, 2015

Canada and Saskatchewan proudly boast their role in the global uranium trade.

Saskatchewan’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister recently celebrated a deal to sell $350 million worth of uranium to India.

But what is the true cost of the uranium trade to the environment, human health, and humanity’s future?

URANIUM

A natural element, uranium is ‒ in its natural state ‒ weakly radioactive. Beginning in the 20th century, however, scientists learned how to exploit uranium’s radioactive properties to generate electricity and create atomic weapons.

On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein, aware of uranium’s military potential, warned American President Franklin Roosevelt that German scientists might pursue the goal of a uranium bomb, and suggested the US should seek out resources of its own:

“The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada.”

By Canada, Einstein meant Saskatchewan.

According to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, our province’s uranium played a key role in the Manhattan Project, the US military’s effort to create the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years go in 1945.

Those bombs killed tens of thousands of people. Nuclear or atomic weapons are the worst of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

MINING: ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS AND CLEANUP

Today, Canada is the second-largest producer of uranium in the world (after Kazakhstan), and Saskatchewan is the principal source of Canada’s uranium.

Uranium mining, however, has taken a serious toll on the environment and human health.

In northern Saskatchewan, one mining operation produced 227,000 cubic metres of radioactive tailings (waste material) from 1957-1961. These tailings have leaked into nearby Nero Lake, killing nearly all life within it, and spreading radiation and toxins as they have been blown about by the wind.

According to the Canadian Press, the Saskatchewan government has so far spent $55 million to begin cleanup of this one mining site.

A 2015 article in the Leader-Post said the provincial government “is poised to post a liability of more than $200 million” to clean up another site in northern Saskatchewan.

What will the total cost be to future generations, financially and environmentally? And what could be the cost in human life?

NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY

Although Canada officially stopped exporting uranium for weapons purposes in 1965, and signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have continued to export uranium to nuclear-weapons states, thus freeing up other uranium resources for their weapons development.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports that all nuclear-weapons states to which Canada exports uranium are expanding or modernizing their nuclear arsenals. The US alone plans to spend $350 billion to modernize its arsenal over the coming years.

At the recent Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, Canada joined with the US and the United Kingdom to block a planned conference on creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

RECENT DEAL WITH INDIA

According to the CBC, India fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile just hours after signing a deal to buy 3,000 tons of Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium:

It’s a sign of India’s confidence that ‒ with the help of Canada ‒ it has finally left behind its status as a rogue nuclear nation and become an accepted member of the nuclear arms establishment.

India exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1974 with the help of Canadian nuclear technology. It continues its nuclear weapons build-up against regional rivals such as Pakistan.

Today, India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, both of which are aimed at reducing and eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons.

And yet Canada and Saskatchewan celebrate sending 3,000 tons of uranium to India.

RESPONSIBLE CORPORATE CITIZEN?

Defenders of Canada’s uranium trade point to the economic benefits of the mining by uranium giant Cameco.

And yet, according to the Globe & Mail, Cameco estimates it has avoided declaring $4.9-billion in Canadian income, saving it $1.4-billion in taxes, over the last 10 years, by creating an overseas subsidiary to sell Saskatchewan’s uranium.

SASKATCHEWAN’S URANIUM INDUSTRY:

History shows Canada and Saskatchewan are developing uranium resources without fully considering the consequences. Military advantage and corporate profit have far outweighed concerns for environmental health, human well-being, and global peace.

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