Atomic Accomplice (Canada, that is)

Today, August 9th, 2011 marks the 66th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki (August 6th was the 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing).

By coincidence, I’ve recently (finally) been reading the book Atomic Accomplice – How Canada deals in deadly deceit, published in 2009 by award-winning Canadian journalist Paul McKay.

Its revelations are shocking – even to me, an anti-nuclear activist (only relatively recently focused on nuclear issues, mind you, after 20 years focused mostly on other issues).

I’ve written before about the tendency for Canadians to be a tad smug about how “great” we are. Funnily enough, lots of Americans seem to think we are somehow kinda special too. I don’t want to minimize how grateful I am to have been born in this beautiful, safe country. We do have universally accessible health care, & rights to free speech, & we do probably say “please” & “thank you” & “I’m sorry” more than the inhabitants of any other place in the world – but we are all deceived if we think our corporate & political spheres are any less corrupt & self-serving than those south of the border. Just think tar sands & climate change & asbestos, hmmm?

Well, McKay’s book blows us all right out of the water on the nuclear/global arms/nuclear weapons front.

“Canada has been dealing atoms since 1942, when the Mackenzie King war cabinet approved joining the Allied nuclear bomb effort known as the Manhattan Project. It supplied key ingredients to U.S. production plants and weapons laboratories making the weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” (Page 15 of Atomic Accomplice.)

And, regarding uranium mining & sales, “With barely a word of international alarm, Saskatchewan has literally staked out and delivered thirty per cent of global uranium production. Rich new reserves promise to keep that market share for decades.” (page 104, Atomic Accomplice.)

There is a review of McKay’s book here

From a different review, though (which has somehow mysteriously disappeared from the Web since I posted this):

“Canada has been dealing atoms since 1942,” he says. "The prevailing myth is that these tragedies [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] ended Canada's involvement with the military atom. This is false." For 60 years, he says, Canada has participated in the global dispersal of weapons-related elements, technologies and secrets. Indeed, Canada has helped in the making of nuclear bombs for the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Israel, India and Pakistan and has "dealt atomic supplies and secrets" to Argentina, Taiwan, Romania, South Korea and Communist China.

"Canada now exports 7.3 million kilograms of uranium annually," he says. "When fissioned in any reactor, this will create 19,000 kilograms of plutonium a year - or enough to make 2,300 warheads annually when extracted from the spent fuel. Canada's annual exports also contain 52,000 kilograms of fissile uranium-235, enough to make 2,600 atomic bombs each year.

"Because it is essentially immortal, this embedded Canadian plutonium and U-235 will imperil global security for millennia because it will outlast, for all intents and purposes, the rest of human history." Further: "Plutonium embeds a dimension of destruction that defies the human imagination. A fissioned mass the size of a stick of chewing gum can destroy a city."

Canada is now the world's leader in uranium exports and, therefore, the world's leader in potential plutonium proliferation. These exports generate $1-billion a year in Canadian cash flow but bequeath to the world enough fissile material to make 5,000 nuclear warheads every year. "We are a Boy Scout nation," Mr. McKay says, "with a very dirty secret." (Globe & Mail review by Neil Reynolds, January 1, 2010.)

Canadians’ hands are definitively not clean, & the sooner we all get quite clear about that, surely, the better for all of us! As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “Truth is the only safe ground to stand on.”


‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Paul McKay’s Atomic Accomplice provides the history, science, and economic background of the purveyors of nuclear fuel and reactors, and outlines global future energy options to wean ourselves from non-renewable sources. In the end, he is correct in pointing out that only one nuclear furnace – our Sun – is an energy source that is effectively endless, and can promote both peace and prosperity.” – David Suzuki, scientist & broadcaster

p.s. Tons of good nuke-related quotations here, btw.