uranium mining

Uranium Mining: Nukes' Little Secret

The nuclear industry has all sorts of secrets (& lies). One of the big ones is the nastiness of uranium mining: the environmental damage it causes, the human health impacts, & the messes it leaves behind.

I'm not particularly knowledgeable about it, so I'm not going to say much. Just going to point readers to a few sites where they can learn more.

The U.S.-based Earthworks group has a 2-pager called "Uranium Mining 101." You can find it here.

Earthworks also has a longer report on uranium mining, called "Nuclear Power's Other Tragedy - Communities Living with Uranium Mining."

There is a very powerful & disturbing 12-minute YouTube about uranium mining in Australia here. I want to praise this tiny film for its hard-hitting lessons & world-renowned experts (Dr. Rosalie Bertell & Dr. Helen Caldicott). I also want to warn potential viewers about its very disturbing images of babies born with severe birth defects caused by in-utero exposure to depleted uranium (a man-made substance that personifies evil, in my view). Well worth seeing & sharing around.

The book "This is My Homeland" (edited by Lorraine Rekmans) is about the impacts of uranium mining on the Anishinabe people of the Serpent River watershed, near Elliot Lake, Ontario (Canada). It's a moving story, well told, in a diversity of voices.

You can also find plenty of information about uranium (& lots of other nuke-related topics) at the Web site of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

Janet

p.s. the 47-minute NFB (National Film Board) documentary "Uranium" is a fabulous resource & introduction to this topic!!! Watch it on-line here

'Quote of the day' w. 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

Darl. Hearings: Dr. Baker-Physicians for Global Survival (April 4th)

Good to hear a medical perspective! April 4th transcript here Audio here

Physicians for Global Survival

Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint Review Panel

Good morning Mr Chairman, panel members, ladies and gentleman. My name is Dr. Sharon Baker. I have with me two young people and a community member who are also deeply concerned about the future of our planet: Justin and Shawn Hertwig and Don Baker.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am here as a member of Physicians for Global Survival. I have been a physician in Ontario for 26 years. I currently work as a Palliative Care Physician Consultant and Site Chief at University Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre. This includes a position as an assistant professor in the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. I also served for 10 years as an acting Medical Officer of Health in Elgin County.

Physicians for Global Survival is an organization concerned about global health.

I am sure that many of the people in this room have been affected by cancer, whether directly or indirectly. As a Palliative Care Physician, I care for people every day who are actively dying from this devastating disease. Cancer is largely preventable, with education about healthy lifestyle choices and the elimination of toxic substances from our environment.

As a society, Canadians have raised billions of dollars to find a cure for cancer. We walk, run, relay, ride, and row. While these are noble acts, and I applaud these people, still there is no cure. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The insanity needs to end. Our approach to health care has been seriously flawed. We need to move from treating illness, and turn our focus to prevention. April is cancer awareness month. Cancer can be prevented.

Cancer in general is not caused by just one thing - it is multi-factorial. It is the result of the cumulative exposure to carcinogens over time, referred to as a body burden. Carcinogens often work synergistically with one another, to produce cancer. Therefore, the more carcinogens to which a person is exposed over time, the more likely cancer is to develop.

In order to decrease rates of cancer, exposure to known carcinogens must be decreased, period. This is a societal choice.

Radiation is a known carcinogen. This is not debatable. Madame Curie, in her research, taught about radiation, including its potential to be fatal. Exposure to radiation is accumulative. It builds up in biological organisms, including human bodies; the more exposure – the greater the likelihood of getting cancer¹. Humans are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation in the environment, some that can’t be controlled. Attention needs to be directed to what we can control.

Radiation toxicity is accumulative. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. As physicians, we recognize this. We weigh the risk and benefits when ordering X-rays, mammograms, CT scans and radioisotopes. We try to limit exposure to decrease the risk of cancer or genetic defect.

The assignment of “acceptable risk” is completely arbitrary. This approach has more in common with a game of chess, or rolling a dice, than actual science.

Increasing the global burden of radioactivity increases the incidence of cancer. Nuclear technology increases humanity's collective exposure to radiation. The increased risk is not limited to emissions from nuclear reactors themselves. It is also the culmination of all the risks of exposure from processing uranium, the mining, milling and the handling and the management of toxic wastes from all these processes.

Choosing to expand nuclear technology and thus the global burden of radioactivity is like determining that it is acceptable that some people are expendable. That person might be your neighbour, someone in this room or an impoverished aboriginal that you will never meet. Choosing nuclear power puts the sweep of the pen to someone’s or some people’s death sentence. I would not want to live with that responsibility.

The negative impact that uranium mining has upon the environment is gargantuan. The fossil fuel requirements for the mining, milling, refining, enriching and transport of uranium ore are enormous. However, I will only discuss the health risks of radioactivity here.

Uranium miners are exposed to multiple types of excess radiation. This includes a radioactive gas called Radon 220 which is a decay product of uranium. When this is inhaled, it increases the risk of lung cancer.

In the early 20th century, a number of people, primarily women, were employed to paint numbers on watch dials with radium-enriched paint so the numbers would glow in the dark. The women would lick the brushes so that the numbers would be precise. They believed what they were doing was safe. However, many developed painful bone cancers called osteosarcomas, or leukemia, from this radioactive material. This same Radium is also in mines and can be ingested via the dust with the same resulting cancers these watch-makers faced.

The mining of uranium ore results in a destabilized radioactive environment. When mines are abandoned, the water that has been pumped out often re-enters the mine, contaminating the ground water. Milling - extracting uranium from ore - results in further risk of exposure and production of radioactive waste products. These toxic waste products, or tailings, require safe isolation from the environment. In the post-World War II era, in Canada, this sludge was often deliberately dumped directly into our lakes, contaminating the groundwater. Accidental dumping also occurs, as in the 1984 spill of 100 million litres of contaminated liquid at Key Lake, Saskatchewan. Currently, industry is experimenting with ponds and hoping the experiments don’t fail. These tailing ponds will be radioactive, essentially forever. We cannot let our hunger for power be used to excuse leaving a toxic mess for our children to inherit.

The uranium mining industry has still not effectively addressed the issue of contamination that resulted from mines that have been abandoned. For example, contamination remains a problem in the rural community of Deline in the Dene Nation of the North West Territories, and El Dorado at Uranium City in Saskatchewan.

Developing more uranium mining when the unconscionable contamination of the past has not been addressed is a travesty to social justice.

An extensive amount of uranium mining and milling in Canada is done on Aboriginal land, usually without consultation. This a health issue, a human rights issue and a native rights issue.

The nuclear reactors themselves are not innocuous. They are a risk factor for increasing background radiation. Workers are exposed to low dose radiation. The arbitrary figure that has been chosen by many nuclear power facilities as acceptable for worker exposure in one year is equivalent to 400 chest X-rays.

The issue has been studied extensively in Europe. A 15-country collaborative study among workers in the nuclear industry demonstrated that this type of low-dose radiation exposure resulted in a risk of developing cancer that was equal to or greater than the risk of the survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan.

Furthermore, living near a nuclear reactor has been shown irrefutably to increase the risk for children of developing leukemia2. This has been studied extensively in Germany. The closer children live to a nuclear reactor, the more likely they are to develop leukemia before the age of five. There are other toxins in the environment which can cause Leukemia, such as pesticide exposure. Observing clusters of children who have suffered from other toxic exposures does not negate the dangerous effects of living near a nuclear reactor. In fact, the findings of an increase incidence of childhood leukemia are expected. Their parents are more likely to work in the reactor. The chronic radiation levels they are exposed to can affect their sensitive germocytes, resulting in genetic damage. In addition, water containing tritium is released by nuclear power plants into the environment both by planned events and accidentally. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water was released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Tritium is dangerous. It binds with oxygen in water. For biological organisms, including humans, this radioactive water is indistinguishable from normal water, and it becomes incorporated in every cell of the body. Tritium has a half-life of 12 years, meaning it can do damage over a long period of time. Moreover, industry data shows spikes in the local measurements of radioactivity when reactors are opened for refuelling.

Nuclear power generating plants also produce radioactive waste that must be stored and guarded essentially forever. Again, the need and greed for power does not justify leaving a radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

While my focus today has been on cancer, we must not forget that accumulative exposure to radiation also causes other illnesses. It contributes to genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

This issue cannot be addressed effectively without mentioning the possibility for human error. Accidents happen! With all of the marvellous fail-safes and back-up plans, planes still crash, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated, and patients die from human errors. While accidental leaks of radioactive water are relatively common, serious accidents also happen. There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario in December, 1952. We have also experienced very serious accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Tokaimura Japan in 1999. And now our hearts go out to the people of Japan. The accident in Fukushima that began on March 11 is devastating. It humbles us to realize that nature can be relentless and that man-made fail safes can and do fail. People have already died because of this nuclear disaster. Many more will become ill and die. The global burden of radioactivity has increased forever.

While I conclude that the serious risks to Public Health and human life from nuclear technology is indisputable, if doubt did exist we would still be ethically required to follow the “precautionary principle.” The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. You have seen that there are many scientists who conclude that nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. We must implement the precautionary principle. Nuclear power must be phased out. This is the same approach that lead to banning cosmetic pesticides in Ontario and many other provinces.

Beyond error, particularly since 9/11, we have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack. This raises a seldom-mentioned point - the astronomical costs of security. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a nuclear physicist, to do the math.

Guarding nuclear reactors and nuclear waste costs society enormously more than protecting wind towers and solar farms.

The risk of a terrorist attack is low; nevertheless, over $100 million is spent annually in this province on special weapons and tactical forces to protect nuclear power plants and the valuable nuclear bomb-making materials contained within.

The nuclear power plant at Darlington is protected by the Nuclear Division of the Durham Regional Police Force. This plant, as Pickering was in January 2010, is to be transferred to the Ontario Power Generation Nuclear Security Branch.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is protected by a privately owned and operated highly trained tactical force larger than the police force of many large Ontario cities.

These tactical team salaries, the extensively high level of training, and the expensive equipment, result in costs that are exorbitant.

The extreme cost of military presence cannot be justified when no other form of power generation requires even a fraction of this defence cost. While the probability of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor may be low today, the future is unknown. Public funds are better allocated to health care, education and employing people to fix and repair existing environmental problems. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of true green energy.

In conclusion, nuclear power is costly. It is costly to human health, the environment and the taxpayer. Nuclear power is a cancer on society. It increases the global burden of radioactivity and human exposure to radiation. Radiation causes cancer. Developing nuclear power will contribute to untimely deaths. Now is the time to turn our attention to prevention.

Nuclear power should be phased out, not expanded.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker MD, MCFP

References:

This reference list is incomplete; a complete list can be submitted upon request.

1) BEIR VII (U.S. Academy of Science report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) unequivocally states that “no low level of radiation exposure is safe.”

2)Kaatsch P., Kaletsch U., Meinert R., Michaelis J. An Extended Study on Childhood Malignancies in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Cancer Causes Control 1998; 9: 529-33

Hofmann W., Terschueren C., Richardson D. B., Childhood leukemia in the Vicinity of the Geesthacht Nuclear Establishments near Hamburg, Germany. Environmental Health Perspectives 2007; 115: 947-52

Spix C., Schmiedel S., Kaatsch P., Schulze-Rath R., Blettner M. Case-Control Study on Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany 1980-2003. Eur. Journal of Cancer 2008; 44:275-284

Kaatsch P., Spix C., Schulze-Rath R., Schmiedel S., Blettner M. Leukemia in Young Children Living in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Int. J. Cancer 2008; 1220: 721-26

American Cancer Society. Radiation and Cancer. 2010. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/

CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/MedicalTreatments/radiation-exposure-and-cancer.

"Annual General Assembly Resolution No. 17/2008." Assembly of First Nations. 17 July 2008. Web. 21 Feb 2011. <http://64.26.129.156/article.asp?id=4280>

Caldicott, Helen. Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Diehl, Peter. Uranium Mining and Milling Wastes: An Introduction.

2010. http://www.wise-uranium.org/indexu.html.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Understanding Radiation: Health Effects.” 2009. www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html.

Goncharova, Roza. "New insight into cancer risks." Institute of Genetics and Cytology: Belarus, IPPNW World Congress. 2010. Web. http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/

Plenary_presentations/Plen4_Slides_Goncharova_Basel_291008.pdf>.

Harding, Jim. Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System. Winnipeg, ON: Fernwood Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

London Police. "2011 Budget." Web. police.london.ca/Headlines/Images/2011LPSBPublic.pdf.

McKay, Paul. Atomic Accomplice: How Canada deals in deadly deceit. 2009. Print.

National Research Council of the National Academies. "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. 2006."  www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340.

"OPG’s Commitment to Security - Safe Station, Safe Community." Ontario Power Generation. Darlington Nuclear Neighbourhood Newsletter, Dec 2010. Web. <http://www.opg.com/community/activities/newsletters/DN%202010-12.pdf>

Tufts, Heather. 2010. “‘Canada, O Canada!’ Uranium Mining and Indigenous Communities: The Impacts of Uranium Mining on Indigenous Communities.” Native Unity Digest.

"Radiation Exposure Information and Reporting System (REIRS) for Radiation Workers." U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 12 Feb 2008. Web. <http://www.reirs.com>.

Zielinkski, et al. "Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality." Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality. Study based on Canadian national dose registry (NDR) of radiation workers. Ottawa, ON, 2010.

[27-33] Web. <http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Plenary_presentations /Plen4_behar_slides_CHRONIC%20LOW%20DOSE%20RADIATION.pdf>

** Dr. Baker's final Darlington submission can be found here

Darl. (New Build) Hearings – Apr. 4: Tweedle Day! (+ awards)

April 4 – 1st day of 3rd & final week of the dog & pony show.

  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • JRP = Joint Review Panel
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation

Also note: You can go here to find transcripts, Webcast & hearing schedule for/of the hearings. April 4th written transcript is here Audio recording here

Holy smokes!

The award-winning behaviour at the Darlington New Build hearing on Monday, April 4th, was right off the charts – so mind-boggling, in fact, that I will probably not return for days & days. My bullshit-tolerating circuits have been completely & utterly blown…

Lotta categories today!

The Joint Review Panel itself gets awards, some of the presenters get awards, CNSC & OPG staff (inevitably) get awards, & I am going to give myself at least one award (hey, why not, eh??).

First up were 2 very pro-nuclear presentnerds (OMG, I just made up a new word from a typo!?) from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) , whom I have very impolitely nicknamed Tweedledum & Tweedle-Dumber (in my notes I was referring to them as Bozo # 1 & Bozo # 2, but my Mom would say that’s really rude, so I’ll stick with TWD # 1 &TWD2)

1st up – Presenters’ Awards:

Fallacy of the Century award to the 2 Tweedles for their assertion that nuclear energy is the only answer for the climate change challenge.

I am so dim I am an argument against what I am arguing FOR award to TWD2 for his comment that he & others formed the thought some years ago that, if it isn’t safe to build a nuclear plant so close to a large population centre, it shouldn’t be built at all. BINGO, Tweedles 1 & 2 & Tweedles everywhere!!

Moral Vacuity Award of the Year award to TWD2 for dismissing concerns about nuclear emissions from nuclear plants because after all (he said), they are less than we would get from medical treatment. He gets 2 of these, actually – the 2nd for his rhetorical question “What will people remember 10 years from now (i.e., 10 years post-Fukushima nuclear accident), tens of thousands of deaths from the tsunami or a nuclear plant that had to be retired early?” (Yes, he actually said that!!)

Rocket Science Award (Not!) award goes to TWD # 1 for his brilliant statement that the good thing about nuclear waste is that, unlike the nuclear material that is still in the ground (as though all the man-made nuclear waste from nuclear projects pre-exists, in the ground), we know where it is. (I’m not kidding! He actually said this!!)

Rocket Science Award (Not!) # 2 award goes to TWD2 who made a very “scientific” comment about how, when he worked for Ontario Hydro in the 1970s, he worried more about his wife & son travelling in a car on the 401 than he did about nuclear accidents at Pickering.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil award to the Tweedles for their utter inability to see any harm in nuclear energy, & their utter inability to grasp the utter immorality of the idea of creating dangerous wastes that will remain dangerous for a million years…

Note: I have awarded the “I have steam coming out of my ears” award to me, myself & I, after having to listen to the 2 Tweedles for their utterly preposterous, mindless, un-scientific & amoral claims that nuclear energy is the only way to deal with climate change, & their dismissal of the risks of nuclear emissions of any & all kinds. I kind of wanted to ask how a person whose groundwater has been contaminated with tritium (or a person whose entire territory has been ruined by uranium mining) would find comfort in Tweedle-ish pro-nuclear bromides & empty assurances – but I’d left the room in disgust & so missed my opportunity.

2nd Up – CNSC Staff Awards:

CNSC staff outdid themselves today!! By 11 AM, & after only speaking for about 5 minutes, CNSC staffers Barclay Howden & Dr. Patsy Thompson have been awarded a record # of awards for a record small amount of time:

Bafflegab Extraordinaire / I just went to sleep award goes to Barclay Howden & Patsy Thompson for their extraordinary, over-the-top ability at bureaucratic bafflegab in response to panel member Pereira about abandoned uranium mines. No information whatsoever about destroyed lives, rivers, lakes, people in the wake of uranium mining, & by the end of their little monologues, any of us listening had gone soundly to sleep, bored out of our skulls, heads aching from trying to actually extract anything sensible or comprehensible from all their bullshit. (Okay, Mom, sorry – nonsense).

How do you sleep at night? award to the aforementioned CNSC staffers who, gosh, now that I think of it, maybe DON’T sleep at night! They stay up all night, practicing their bafflegab & bullshit routines. Glad I figured that out!! I’d been wondering for years how they are able to make so much nonsense dance on the head of a tiny little pin.

Weasel word award to CNSC staff for their use of the word “legacy” to minimize the existence of very long-term (I mean permanent, actually) environmental damage & environmental & human health hazards from uranium mining (& all & sundry other nuclear operations). Calling it “legacy,” in CNSC-speak, means “We are being very, very good boys & girls NOW & we must not be blamed or held accountable for all that dangerous & despicable stuff we used to do in the past & will very likely go right on doing as long as is humanly possible & bleah-bleah-bleah-bleah-bleah – is everyone asleep yet?”

3rd Up – Joint Review Panel Awards:

Affable Chairman Award to Mr. Alan Graham. Mr. Graham (an ex-politician) is truly admirable as Affable Chairman of the Month (maybe even year). He is almost unfailingly polite & patient, & his apparent naïve enjoyment in assigning “undertakings” & especially in assigning the correct # to each new undertaking is downright touching. The meaninglessness of most of these undertakings is…well…never mind. It is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, after all…

Cutting through CNSC bullshit & bafflegab to ask about a particular study cited by the … shall we say, low-toned CNSC staffer Dr. Patsy Thompson award goes to panel member Mr. Pereira. This man has special abilities to listen to OPG & CNSC staff nonsense (OPG & CNSC staff have Ph. D’s in Bafflegab & Bullshit & presumably JRP members have studied this curriculum as well) & manage to squeeze out a relevant-seeming question – usually a leading question aimed at establishing that nukes are just grand (it could alternatively be called the Foxes Minding the Henhouse award). I myself have sometimes run (almost) screaming from the room to stick another needle in my eye rather than listen to more CNSC staff bafflegab…

Leading Question award also goes to panel member Pereira, an engineering & ex-AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada) dude who pretty clearly favours the continued use of nuclear energy & whose bias in this regard is somewhat noticeable.

Ooops, darn, I sure wish I hadn’t asked THAT question award to member Mme. Beaudet for asking York University prof Jose Etcheverrez (sp???) about the intermittency of solar/wind power. His incredibly lengthy, detailed & informative answer blew us ALL out of the water…

Staying alert, awake &, apparently, even interested award while listening to stultifying babblegab from CNSC & OPG staff who speak in monotones & repeat their catchphrases & jardon endlessly, & especially for having to listen to the passionate interventions from members of the public who DO see evil, hear evil & speak evil when it comes to nuclear nonsense – & continue to feign interest or concern. Shoot, as I type this, I realize we oughta be talking Academy Awards for these folks!!

4th Up – OPG Staff Awards:

Gotta admit, I’m getting a bit tired of this whole exercise, so OPG staff get just 2 awards today…

Literacy award to Mr. Albert Sweetnam, Executive Vice President of the Darlington New Nuclear Project, who proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, after hearing the brilliant presentation by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) that pretty much established that the multiple-year, who-knows-how-many-millions-or-billions-spent Environmental Impact Statement OPG submitted as part of the federally-mandated Canadian Environmental Assessment Act requirements, is a botch, could … wait for it!! actually read a statement from the OPG Web site. Well done, Mr. Sweetnam (1)!!! We were all soooooo impressed …

Robot award – do I even need to explain this???? (Okay, okay. They look like humans. They dress like humans. They walk sorta like humans. But… they speak like robots. Now, gotta say, CNSC staff are a very, very close 2nd for this award. Oh heck, let’s just call it a tie, shall we?? The 2 staffs can share it…)

Finally – another award to myself:

For NOT running screaming from the room. I DID leave in disgust more than once, I must admit, & was tempted more than once to put a needle in my eye rather than listen to any more nuclear nonsense…but didn’t actually scream on the way out (at least, not out loud). I might have huffed & puffed a little, & there may have been some steam coming out of my ears, but … I didn’t scream!! (Mom, you’d have been so proud of me! :)  )

Please do note, readers gentle & otherwise, if you go here on the CNSC Web site, you can locate transcripts & Webcasting of the hearings.

p.s. Did I mention that the Emperor STILL has no clothes??? THAT award keeps right on giving!!

p.p.s. & hey, I also failed to mention that the intervenors from York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies, Physicians for Global Survival, Libby Racansky, the NGOs Pembina Institute & the Canadian Environmental Law Association & finally, Zach Ruiter - were awesome & inspiring. Thanks a ton to all of you!!


 

(1) You can check out Mr. Sweetnam’s salary here, btw. A mere $686,238.00 per year, poor fellow!!

Nuke Quotes. Just because...

Just becos' I can... And because I feel like it! I've done a bunch of blog posts recently about the steam generator issue (those darn radioactive steam generators that Bruce Power & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission - oxymoron alert!! [the words 'nuclear' & 'safety' do NOT belong in the same phrase!!] - want to send thru the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, & all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden. Gag...

I stay in touch with a fair number of people (it's that incurable information-spreader disease of mine).  Also, being a quotation "freak," each week I sling together a collection to include at the bottom of my e-mail messages. People seem to enjoy this little habit of mine...

Here is last week's collection. They are in fact not all nuclear-related, blog post title notwithstanding. But there are some awesome humdingers here, aren't there?

** Note!! The day after posting this item, I created a new heading at the top of this blog - "Quotation Central." The quotations I use seem to be very popular - now they will all be under this one new heading. I've also added some quotes on gratitude & my favourite Joseph Campbell quotes. Nuke quotes are here.

Quotations for Today/This Week…whatever[Oct. 4/10.]

“Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.” - Frank Zappa

“No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make “safe” and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilisation could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really did not matter at all.” – E.F. Schumacher

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilization in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other.” - Dr Mark Diesendorf, author of Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” Abraham Lincoln

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I awake in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White [love this…so true!!]

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

It dawns on me that war is easy. Peace is harder. This sophisticated striving to build bridges is harder.” Jane Fonda in her autobiography My Life So Far

“Liberty can not be preserved without general knowledge among people.” John Adams

“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

“Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.” - Scientific American

“What we’re seeing is a well-orchestrated international public relations campaign by a very desperate nuclear industry… I think it is really important to realize that there is an element of stampeding the herd in the direction of nuclear power, when in fact it may be a cliff we are heading to, not a bridge to the future.” ~ Dr. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

“Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.” ~ Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service

“Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” ~ Albert Einstein

“Uranium is the raw material of a power-elite who has taken Mother Earth’s every living creature hostage.” ~ The late Petra Kelly, German Green Party

Nobody Can Undo the Doo Doo from a Candu, let alone contain it. “Tritium, the radioactive sibling of hydrogen, is created by fissioning inside a CANDU reactor. They use heavy water. Heavy water then becomes radioactive water. Chemically there is no way to separate radioactive water from stable water. Because Lake Ontario water provides the coolant water, it becomes populated with radioactive water before it is released back into the Lake. Lake Ontario is now a tritium dump.” ~ Tim Seitz

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” ~ Thomas Edison (1847–1931)

“Independent researchers have calculated that, in terms of carbon emissions avoided per dollar spent, nuclear is among the most expensive options, taking lifetime costs into account, not the cheapest. And of course the nuclear waste issue has not yet been resolved.” ~ Trevor Findlay, author of “The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Non-Proliferation”

“Increasing the risk of nuclear war brings us back to climate change. Recent scientific research details the climatic impacts of nuclear warfare. The use of 100 weapons in nuclear warfare — just 0.03 per cent of the explosive power of the world's nuclear arsenal — would result directly in catastrophic climate change with many millions of tonnes of black, sooty smoke lofted high into the stratosphere. Needless to say the social and environmental impacts would be horrendous.” – Scott Ludlam

“Whether we like it or not, we all live near nuclear power plants. The mining of uranium and its processing and usage raises the background levels of radioactivity and this causes genetic damage worldwide. The good news is that nuclear is too expensive and too slow and the P.R fiction of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” put out by the industry will never happen. Real clean renewable energy will bypass the reactors, Obama’s political decision notwithstanding.” ~ Wolfe Erlichman

“Nuclear power grew out of the nuclear weapons program, and the nuclear fuel cycle still produces the elements — uranium and plutonium — which can be used to make nuclear weapons or radioactive “dirty bombs.” The nuclear industry argues that any nation or terrorist does not need a nuclear power plant to make a bomb, they just need uranium enrichment. This is true. However, the only “legitimate” reason to enrich uranium is to use it in a nuclear power plant. The continued promotion and sale worldwide of “civilian” nuclear reactors thus gives nations the excuse to operate uranium enrichment programs, as we have seen in Iran.” ~ Craig Severance

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”Upton Sinclair

“While most world leaders are seeking an exit strategy from the atomic arms race, Canada is underwriting an encore. It is still selling essentially unsafeguardable reactors, increasing global flows of uranium, and even undermining the Non-Proliferation Treaty by courting countries like India which flaunt non-proliferation efforts.” ~ Paul McKay, author of “Atomic Accomplice: How Canada Deals in Deadly Deceit.” Read Paul’s latest piece entitled "Nuclear Power: the Proliferation Problem," published online here

“Facts don’t cease to exist just because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

“The world shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin

“Never give up!” Winston Churchill

“Hoard each joyous moment that comes to you. No one knows how it will all end.” – Háfiz

We Are TOO (Freakin’) Polite!

<Oct. 5/09>

This is a rant about being TOO polite. For sure, just to be clear, I was raised by my parents to be a very polite person. I always (almost always) remember to say my “pleases & thank-you’s,” and dutifully taught my children to do the same.

It’s a form of obedience, really. We are taught from Day 1 (by our parents & if not by them, by our culture) to be very obedient to the rules of our society. Not to “colour outside the lines,” as it were – and to be sure that we “play by the rules” and all that jazz. Yes??(1)

Sure we are. We live in an insanely (obscenely?) voracious culture that is destroying the Earth (a remarkably abundant and beautiful place, by the way, not to mention being our only home), yet we are all so damn polite that not only do most of us not speak up about what is taking place all around us, those of us who do are looked upon as “weirdos.” I know this because I’ve been perceived as a weirdo (by a lot of the folks who know me) for the past 20 years.

There are 3 things I’d like to cite about this being too polite business:

1. What got me started musing on this (again) recently was my attendance at an anti-uranium rally held at Queen’s Park in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) on Sunday, September 27th (2009). Increasing numbers of Ontario citizens have begun to oppose the mining of uranium – and with good reason. The rally was held at our provincial legislature to let our MPP’s (Members of Provincial Parliament) know that we want uranium mining stopped. There were several dynamic speakers to inform those in attendance about the issue & what needs to be done about it (namely, demand a legislated ban on uranium mining for all of Ontario – similar to the bans already in effect in three of our other provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick – & the territory of Labrador).

Native elder Bob Lovelace told the crowd at the rally that in his view, we Canadians are too polite. He knows a lot about this, having been sent to jail for his part in trying to protect his native band’s territory near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, against uranium exploration. What he said really resonated for me. We are, indeed, much too polite.

If you want to learn more about the Ontario uranium mining scene, go to the Web site of Cottagers Against Uranium Mining & Exploration (CUME) There is also a ton of useful information at the site of CCAMU – the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium.

2. Something that had got me thinking about this politeness business some time ago were the insights I had as a result of attending several Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings in Ottawa. These were about tritium light facilities in Pembroke & Peterborough, Ontario (the companies are called SRB Technologies and SSI, for Shield Source International, respectively). Oh yes, there was also one on Zircatec Precision Industries Inc. a nuclear facility in Port Hope, Ontario – that I sat in on.

At each of these hearings, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the intelligence and information possessed by the citizen interveners who object to these 3 privately-run, profit-making nuclear facilities. Intervener presentations (firmly limited to 10 minutes per person, although the proponent – that is, the nuclear facility representative – has almost unlimited time and endless opportunities to state his case) are fact-filled, well-researched, and passionate, often, given the fact that their citizens, their neighbourhoods & their communities are bearing the brunt of the emissions and releases from these facilities.

The government-appointed CNSC commissioners seem to have very limited understanding indeed of the complexities (& risks) involved in nuclear technologies. Their knowledge very clearly represents a tiny fraction of that possessed by the citizen interveners (toward whom, btw, their demeanour is extremely patronizing).

My take, overall? These are “kangaroo” courts. They’re a joke. The CNSC does not exist to promote nuclear “safety” for Canadians; it exists to promote the nuclear industry.

I could go on here at length, because I have other insights & strong opinions about the CNSC hearing process – but I won’t.

It does frustrate the heck out of me that a) the “average” Canadian citizen has probably never even heard of the CNSC, has certainly never attended one of their kangaroo courts (oops, I mean hearings), & has no idea what this taxpayer-funded outfit gets up to & b) those of us who oppose these various nuclear operations can talk ‘till we’re blue in the face, present impressive evidence & studies from all over the world, cite human health impacts until the cows come home – but nothing ever changes. We put on our very best clothes, talk very, very politely in the hearings (which I suppose, come to think of it, are a little reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and the commissioners (and the CNSC’s very considerable-sized & no doubt well-educated & well-paid staff) go right on ahead & do what they’re going to do – with no apparent real concern for the safety of the Canadian public they are all supposedly being paid their generous salaries to protect.

It was this that got me thinking some time ago now that we are too damn polite

It was either Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein (I’ve heard both being credited) who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So who is it who’s insane here, anyway??

3. All of this motivated me to take part recently in a Greenpeace “Climate Action Camp” to learn about civil disobedience. So glad I went!!

I learned lots, and had a lot of fun, too! It was interesting to be reminded of some of the very early & well-known practitioners of civil disobedience. Jesus Christ was one of its early agents when he kicked the money-lenders out of the temple. There was Gandhi in India, & Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks in the U.S.

Civil disobedience has a very proud history. Henry David Thoreau. Harriet Tubman. Nelson Mandela. Vaclav Havel. And so on & so on. People most of us now recognize as heroes for having put their necks on the line – for going to great lengths, and at considerable personal cost – to speak up very loudly & initiate change on critically important social issues.

Now Greenpeace is making itself heard loudly & clearly on the climate issue, with recent actions in the Alberta tar sands – home of the world’s dirtiest oil.

You can love Greenpeace or not love them, but one thing you have to admit: their stunts get our attention – and they force us to think & become better informed.

If you want to learn more about Greenpeace &/or the Alberta tar sands project, go here Scroll down on the left under ‘What we do’ for tar sands information. GP has also recently commissioned a film about the tar sands. Watch for it! (I believe it’s now making the rounds of film festivals & will be released to the public soon.)

Meanwhile, why not muse on this being too polite business?

Is it really necessary – or wise – or even excusable – that we remain silent – and “polite” – in the face of crimes against the planet – and humanity?

We all have to decide this for ourselves, of course – but surely it’s worth a little thought.

Janet

P.P.S. A while after this (end of November 2009, to be precise), I took part in some "civil disobedience" myself. There are several blog posts about this - good one to start with is 'Busted for Climate Justice.'

P.S. There are other films/YouTubes on the tar sands. I’ve heard of these so far (they are all also listed in the posting 'Tar Sands: Canada's Oil Shame.')

1. “The Dark Side of the Boom: Canada’s Mordor” - here

2. From National Geographic: here

3. “Dirty Oil: Alberta’s Tar Sands Explained

4. Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. 2 hour documentary.


(1) The blog essays ‘Looking Good’ and ‘Looking Stupid’ speak to this societal dynamic we’re all caught up in from Day 1. So does 'Good Girls & Boys.'