Uranium: Got 47 minutes?

** Later additions to this post: 3-minute YouTube on uranium mining & its risks here ** & a very recent news item here

** & another here

** & years after this post was originally posted: a great quote harvested at the Camera Atomica show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (2015)  “Uranium is the mineral of the apocalypse.” – Donald Weber from the ‘Into the Half-Life’ exhibit

So, I was in Toronto the other day & went to the NFB (National Film Board) building at the corner of Richmond & John Streets to watch the short 1990 documentary film “Uranium” [cutbacks later led to the closing of this wonderful facility :(  ]

But you can watch it on-line here


This is a very very powerful film about uranium mining in Canada.

  • Its environmental impacts
  • Human health impacts
  • How it destroys communities
  • Its centrality in the nuclear industry & the global war machine it supports.

A number of very eloquent speakers from several aboriginal communities explain how the mining (& refining) of uranium have destroyed their bodies, their children, their environment, their livelihood, their communities, their future.

Dr. Rosalie Bertell points out how the insidious, ongoing impacts of the front end of the nuclear fuel chain – which consists of wresting uranium from the ground – damages DNA, causing birth defects in children whose resulting disabilities are guaranteed to leave them less capable of understanding & dealing with this monstrous substance & its far-reaching impacts on human beings, ecosystems, & the planet, in the future. Basically, it is destroying their (& our) future.

Uranium mining is dirty-dirty-dirty business. It leaves behind poisons (mine “tailings”) that will go right on poisoning people & the environment for generations. Forever, actually.

I recall once seeing a placard that said “We are all downstream.”

This is quite literally true.

Because we all share the air & water that are essential elements of our planet’s lifeblood.

You pull uranium from the ground & allow the tailings to sit beside & migrate into nearby rivers & lakes, & the water (& the added acids, chemical & heavy metal poisons that also result) inevitably flow downstream.

In the case of the mines in Elliot Lake, near Lake Huron, it flows into (has killed, actually – I learned this from Lorraine Rekmans’ excellent book This is My Homeland) the Serpent River, which flows into Lake Huron, where water makes its way into Lakes Erie & Ontario & on into the St. Lawrence River.

The particles in the air from the mine tailings make their way hither & yon. We may not be able to see them, but in this case what we don’t know (& can’t see) is definitely hurting us.

Uranium, unfortunately for the human race, is an evil that does not know how to stop poisoning.

It's not just about Canada, of course. Winona LaDuke, a very articulate aboriginal woman from the southwestern U.S., explains how uranium mining also disproportionately affects native communities there. The information about birth defects among children is very disturbing.

I'm always struck by the calm dignity of aboriginal spokespeople who have always been on the front lines of the global war machine, whose children & whose communities have always been the very first ones to be hit.

Outrage is the only real response to such a sick & evil business, it seems to me.

In the “Uranium” film, family physician Dr. Robert Woollard from Clearwater, British Columbia, describes how a community united in its opposition to uranium mining can stop a new one in its tracks. That piece of the film is very empowering & inspiring!

Mining industry spokespersons in the film reveal themselves as the slick, amoral snake oil salesmen they really are.

Money as god, as Cree trapper Janet Fietz points out.

Dr. Bertell says “We don’t have to commit suicide. We don’t have to kill the Earth. But that’s the road we’re on. So it’s going to take some turning if the next generation is going to have an option.”

Manitoulin Island farmer Ed Burt says “You can regulate it to a point. But you can’t keep it from moving up the food chain.” He also points out that the agencies that “regulate” nuclear operations are generally dominated by individuals who formerly worked for the nuclear industry, in one capacity or another, & concludes by saying that all the people involved (politicians included) are playing “dangerous games with people’s lives.”

Uranium = pollution/poisons that will last forever. Spills. Leaking barrels of waste. Radioactive vegetation & wildlife. Ruined waterways. Birth defects.

Where is your outrage, Reader?

Take 47 minutes & watch this film. Please.

Then, get up off your rear end & DO SOMETHING!!!!! Pretty please.


p.s. Another blog posting about uranium mining (‘Uranium Mining: Nukes’s Little Secret’) can be found here. You’ll find a # of useful links in it.

p.p.s. Another good (if sobering) film to watch is the one called “Poison DUst.”

p.p.p.s. Lots & lots of great nuke-related quotes & then also, maps/films/books/resources in this posting.

p.s. # 4:  On January 17/18/19 [2012] the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (to many of us, having the words nuclear & safety in the same phrase  is oxymoronic; did I just make up a new word??) holding a public hearing in Port Hope on the ongoing operations of Cameco Corporation’s Port Hope & Blind River holdings. You can watch a live Webcast here (a later posting about the hearing is here).

‘Quote of the day with this post: “You can guarantee that mining uranium will lead to nuclear waste. You can’t guarantee that mining uranium will not lead to nuclear weapons.” – Anthony Albanese, Australian Labour Party, quoted in New York Times, Aug. 2, 2006