What he wanted to say but couldn’t
Don Deranger made several problematic statements in his presentation at the Inuit summit in Ottawa this past week, which, due to time constraints, I did not have a chance to respond to. (“Nunavut Tunngavik to take second look at uranium mining,” Nunatsiaq Online, Feb. 24, 2011)
Deranger said the Rabbit Lake Mine had operated “in harmony with nature since 1975,” when it has had numerous spills, including the 1989 spill of two million litres of contaminated mine water, and faced environmental charges for that spill and previously for effluent violations.
Deranger said that Saskatchewan uranium is used only for generating electricity, when in fact it is sold to countries like the U.S. and France that have active weapons programs, and there is no way to ensure that uranium atoms are kept separate through the enrichment process.
Deranger said that nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gases when the mining and processing of uranium, the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and the long-term management of the wastes all consume fossil fuels, and the net production of greenhouse gases from nuclear power generation has been calculated as falling between solar power and natural gas, depending on ore grade and other variables.
Deranger used the McArthur River and Cigar Lake mines as examples of the effectiveness of the regulatory system and the industry’s engineering prowess, when both of them have suffered catastrophic underground floods, and in the case of the McArthur River mine came very close to overwhelming their capacity to treat the contaminated water before releasing it into the environment.
The Cigar Lake mine is years behind schedule and still not operational.
Inuit leaders also need to look closely at the record of the companies that want to work in their territory; the proponent of the Kiggavik project, Areva, has a long and unenviable record in places like Niger — even without taking into account its relationship with the French nuclear arms industry and the testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, which ended in 1996 but produces appalling consequences to this day.
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