Writer dis­ap­pointed in path fol­lowed by gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing ura­nium

The Southwest Booster - - NEWS -

Ed­i­tor: I grad­u­ated from the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchew­an with a de­gree in Bi­ol­ogy in 1996, and for the pre­vi­ous few months have been closely fol­low­ing the events sur­round­ing the fu­ture of ura­nium in Saskatchew­an. I am in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed with the path that the cur­rent gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to take re­gard­ing ura­nium de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially from a sci­en­tific point of view.

Too of­ten does “good sci­ence” fall by the way­side when there is a fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­nity at stake? The “sci­en­tific” ma­te­rial that was pre­sented via the me­dia, the Bruce Power ra­dio ad­ver­tise­ments, and in the video from the pub­lic ura­nium fo­rum was and still is in­cred­i­bly mis­lead­ing. To la­bel ura­nium as a “green” al­ter­na­tive to other en­ergy sources is in­ac­cu­rate….it does not take into ac­count the en­tire process of ura­nium min­ing, trans­port, and waste dis­posal that is part­nered with nu­clear en­ergy. It can­not be con­sid­ered a so­lu­tion to cli­mate change ei­ther…..the green­house gases pro­duced through­out the ura­nium chain di­rectly im­pact cli­mate change. In ad­di­tion, a re­ac­tor in Saskatchew­an would ex­port ex­cess en­ergy to fur­ther de­velop the Al­berta Tar Sands, which of course is cur­rently one of Canada’s big­gest eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ters.

As I am writ­ing this, Bruce Power is try­ing to se­cure land on the North Saskatchew­an River. Al­ready thwarted by a group of con­cerned cit­i­zens in Par­adise Hill, the com­pany has turned their at­ten­tion to Beardy's Oke­ma­sis in hopes to buy land bor­der­ing the river. A re­ac­tor built on the North Saskatchew­an will need a huge amount of wa­ter in or­der to cool the re­ac­tor con­tents, yet nowhere is there any in­for­ma­tion on how this will im­pact river ecosys­tems or ri­par­ian ar­eas fur­ther down­stream.

Of greater con­cern is the loom­ing is­sue of wa­ter short­age….as cli­mate change oc­curs, the size of the glaciers in the Rock­ies de­crease, mean­ing that at some point in the next few decades, glacial run-off that feeds the North and South Saskatchew­an could be in­ter­mit­tent and pos­si­bly even sea­sonal.

What cur­rently ap­pears to be driv­ing the gov­ern­ments’ quest for a re­ac­tor is the de­mand for med­i­cal iso­topes. With the shut down of the Chalk River re­ac­tor in On­tario, pro­duc­tion of med­i­cal iso­topes has been de­creased to the point of global con­cern. What the gen­eral pub­lic does not re­al­ize is that iso­topes can be pro­duced without a nu­clear re­ac­tor….a cy­clotron can pro­duce the re­quired med­i­cal iso­topes without ever re­ly­ing on a nu­clear re­ac­tor.

Per­haps one of the big­gest eco­log­i­cal con­cerns is the stor­age of nu­clear waste. While most peo­ple know that waste is highly ra­dioac­tive, the fact re­mains that waste ma­te­rial such as plu­to­nium must be shielded from liv­ing things for mil­lions of years. A burial site in the Cana­dian shield is ge­o­log­i­cally sta­ble, but I would chal­lenge the idea that a waste lo­ca­tion will re­main sta­ble for the mil­lions of years re­quired to re­duce tox­i­c­ity. A leak in a dis­posal fa­cil­ity al­low­ing ra­dioac­tive par­ti­cles to en­ter the ecosys­tem could have dis­as­trous con­se­quences….which is the main rea­son why Chalk River was shut down this spring. Ra­dioac­tive par­ti­cles in any form can cause ge­net­ic­mu­ta­tion, and one only has to look at Ch­er­nobyl, Three Mile Is­land, or any of the other nu­mer­ous ac­counts of nu­clear con­tam­i­na­tion to re­al­ize what could hap­pen in Saskatchew­an. The other pos­si­bil­ity of con­tam­i­na­tion oc­curs with the trans­port of this haz­ardous ma­te­rial. Un­doubt­edly, waste would be moved through­out the prov­ince us­ing our roads….the thought of an ac­ci­dent caus­ing con­tam­i­na­tion should be con­sid­ered, as well as what the last­ing im­pact of ra­dioac­tiv­ity could be on ground wa­ter, crops, and live­stock.

I am sure that at some point, the ques­tion of eco­nomic suc­cess ver­sus en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity will come to a head. It is in­ter­est­ing that eco­nomics al­ways seems to trump en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cern but eco­log­i­cally, this is a lux­ury we can­not af­ford very much longer. As a so­ci­ety, we may need to put a greater em­pha­sis on en­ergy con­ser­va­tion where pos­si­ble, and de­vel­op­ing both ex­ist­ing and new re­new­able en­ergy such as so­lar and wind. We can­not ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity that re­new­able en­ergy sources could pro­vide the prov­ince with equiv­a­lent fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as keep­ing pace with good en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tises glob­ally. We need to make sure that good sci­ence is in­cluded in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process in­volv­ing ura­nium, and not just con­cern with mak­ing a profit. Kris­ten Simonson -

Swift Cur­rent

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