Friday, June 5, 2009

Canada's Uranium Mining

The Yellowcake Trail tracks all aspects of uranium in Canada from the mining and milling, to processing and use, throughout its eighty-year history. The story begins with the history of uranium in Canada, from its initial discovery to the rapid development of mines that placed Canada as the prominent world leader in uranium production. Each mine has a story and each story has a common thread and legacy.

Fatal Attraction

Yellowcake is the bright yellow uranium powder produced when raw uranium ore is crushed and purified. It is actually a mixture of uranium oxides, mostly U3O8 (urania), and ranges in colour from yellow to orange to dark green. It is this yellowcake that is packaged in steel drums, traded and sent across the world to be further processed, converted to different forms, enriched and used in the manufacture of nuclear fuel or bombs.

The Yellowcake Trail is lined with environmental devastation, sickness and death. The nuclear industry has always been a law unto itself, sheltered by governments promoting the industry as a safe and clean means of satisfying the insatiable demand for energy. Yet no insurance company in the world will sell liability insurance to a nuclear power plant. Nuclear scientists and engineers strongly endorse nuclear power, caught up in their fascination with the unique properties of uranium and the power it unleashes.

Nuclear (radioactive) waste is deadly to human beings in amounts as small as a millionth of a gram, and we have produced it in hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is already leaking out of totally inadequate containment, not only from mine sites, refineries and nuclear power plants, but also from nuclear weapons programs. There is no way to get rid of it and it remains lethal for millions of years.

For decades, Canada has been the world’s largest producer of uranium, home to the richest ore deposits, the largest uranium mine in the world, and the largest publicly traded uranium mining company – CAMECO (Canadian Mining and Energy Corporation).

As Canadians, we need to understand the detrimental impacts of uranium mining, processing and use to our country and to the health and environment of communities affected by these operations. At every stage there is polluted air, land, and water, wreaking permanent destruction on the health and environment of communities – especially, native communities, their food sources, and their natural habitat.

Once exploration and mining starts, there is no end – the mines can be closed and abandoned as often is the case, but the radioactive tailings remain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A blog stated " Yet no insurance comnpany in the world will sell liability insurance to a nculear power plant". This might have been written from the Canadian perspective. However, in the USA the Price Anderson Act provides for an industry wide self-supporting insurance for the commercial nuclear power plants and federal liability insurance for Dept. of Energy nuclear facilities.