What about the other end of the uranium chain such as Nuclear Reactors and their wastes?
By 2002 approximately 1.8 million highly radioactive fuel elements had accumulated at Canadian reactors making Canada the SECOND biggest producer (after Russia) of nuclear reactor waste! AECL spent over $700 million (of Public money) on researching the possibility of an underground cavern depository in the Canadian Shield for this waste. When the result was presented to the Seaborn Panel that took eight years to come to a decision, it was recommended by the panel that it NOT be chosen for a variety of reasons. When the Federal Government discovered that the costs could be as high as $20 Billion ( a low estimate) and take up to seventy years to dispose of the CURRENTLY ACCUMULATED wastes it panicked. It immediately passed an act saying that the producers of the waste have to pay ! Since Ontario Hydro (the majority owner of nuclear reactors in Canada) was already in debt to the tune of $38 billion for building the nuclear reactors there was an instant request for a further ‘study’ of how to dispose of high-level nuclear waste. So, the Feds created the Nuclear Waste Management Organization representing all the nuclear owners in Canada that took several years to come up with its report (8) of what to do with nuclear waste . Remember, nuclear reactors have been around for over forty years and the costs of disposing of waste and decommissioning them was never included in the retail price for “cheap electricity from nuclear reactors” touted by the proponents of nuclear reactors. The new advice is to do three things, store the waste at reactors above ground, store it at a central site and at an underground repository but don’t hurry there’s plenty of time and we may even find some even better methods along the way!
The enormous sums of global capital diverted to the so-called ‘peaceful use of atomic energy’ originated in every country that originally produced nuclear weapons with public money, i.e., USA, Britain, France, Russia. The technology spread to other countries with Canada playing a key role in supplying the first uranium for an atomic bomb and much of the weaponry for the USA, France and Britain. The trade in uranium still goes on with Canada having played a major role in a cartel to fix the price of uranium and the design of the CANDU reactor that produced plutonium, the ingredient of the really BIG atomic bombs. AECL has received billions of dollars of public money granted by the Federal Govt through Cabinet grants that have never been subject to debate in Parliament . But wait, what about the decommissioning of the fast-wearing-out reactors and their highly radioactive building and non-fuel wastes? Well, the Chalk River experimental (small) reactor wastes produced from AECL research (150,000 cubic metres of stuff!) are estimated to cost $530 million if they can get permission to put them in a cave near the Ottawa River (9). Guess what a BIG reactor might cost ? Well the Hanford reactor (10) just south of the Canadian border in Washington State has 2000 metric tonnes of HIGHLY radioactive material and 61 MILLION tonnes of liquid wastes spread over 1,100 sites in an area of 560 square miles . The estimates range up to $140 billion dollars to clean up the mess! Tiny little Britain already has 2.3 million cubic metres of nuclear waste stored around the country and it is only now facing the decommissioning of its first reactor. They are faced with costs up to $200 billion. Given the 450 or so reactors globally just imagine the bill for cleanup and who will pay for it. Usually Jo Smith the public!
But these pale beside Russia’s bigger problems (11). They have 610 million cubic metres of radioactive waste, which makes the 1.7 million tonnes of uranium-mine wastes in our Great Bear Lake seem insignificant. But of course none of these wastes are insignificant in terms of the viability of the global biosphere. Britain, Japan, France and particularly Russia have also dumped radioactive wastes into the oceans so that the entire biosphere is being loaded with extremely persistent radioactive contaminants, many with half lives in the tens and hundreds of thousands of years!
The crime of the nuclear proponents is the cover-up of two things. Firstly, the enormous capital diversions that will be necessary just to clean up accumulated wastes from the full uranium chain but also the costs of decommissioning mines and reactors. Secondly, the long-term dangers to the biosphere from the release of ionizing radioactive substances that will pose a threat for generations to come just so that the current generation can light their homes and run industry to produce more and more consumer goods. The devil is in the detail and most people don’t want to hear the detail because advocates such as the Canadian Nuclear Association, AECL, CAMECO and AREVA spend millions of dollars on false claims that “nuclear is clean” and “nuclear is the only option against global warming” Propaganda and brain-washing lull the public into sleep!
It is time, folks, to shut down the complete uranium chain, from mining through nuclear power generation to weapons manufacture!