Monday, November 22, 2010

Anti-uranium activists speak out in Iqaluit

Comment:  Dr. Gordan Edwards, thanks for your fight against uranium mining and problems with nuke power plus thanks to everyone fight the battle of uranium mining!

NEWS: Nunavut November 21, 2010 - 9:36 pm

Speakers express fears about uranium mining in Nunavut

Presenters at an anti-uranium meeting held in Iqaluit Nov. 18 predicted widespread damage to human health and the environment if Areva Resources Canada goes ahead with its proposed Kiggavik uranium mine near Baker Lake.

“We don’t want to have too much of these materials in our water, in our air, in our animals,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility “Every single one of the decay products is more deadly than the uranium they take away.”

Edwards said he was there when the residents of Baker Lake voted against the Kiggavik project in the 1980s, then owned by a German firm called Urangesellschaft.

The meeting, organized by anti-uranium group Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit, brought three prominent critics of the uranium industry to speak in Iqaluit Nov. 18 and in Baker Lake Nov. 19.

The speakers argued that the negative consequences of uranium mining will far outweigh its potential economic benefits.

“The Baker Lake project would produce radioactive tailings that could contaminate the area,” said Isabelle Gingras, a psychiatrist from Quebec who made national news when she and more than 20 other doctors threatened to quit in December 2009 unless Quebec banned uranium mining.

She said that although a uranium mine might last 12 years, the radioactive tailings from its extraction would continue damaging nearby people and wildlife for thousands of years.

Edwards explained that tailings are the ground-up byproduct of mining for ore, and that in the case of uranium mining, some of the tailings are far more dangerous than the radioactive uranium.

“What they’re doing is they’re bringing it up to the surface and grinding it into powder and then they’re leaving it,” he said.

“The Canadian nuclear industry is falling apart,” he said, citing expensive repairs and cancellations to upgrades of aging reactors nationwide, which has reduced the amount of electricity generated in Canadian nuclear plants.

“Nuclear power is really not happening the way the nuclear industry says it’s going to be happening,” he said.

“You in Nunavut could have all of the problems of uranium mining and none of the benefits… Residents of Nunavut should be wary that they are not going to get the economic benefits that they foresee.”

The third speaker was Helen Caldicott, an Australian doctor and founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, called by some the most prominent anti-uranium activist in the world.

She minced no words when blasting the federal and territorial governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for even considering uranium mining.

“Clearly, they’re ignorant, medically,” she said of NTI. “This is a medical problem and we need to educate them.”

Caldicott and Gingras described the physical damage that radiation can inflict, including cancers, immune deficiency and reproductive damage resulting in stillbirths or birth defects.

“One alpha particle (a form of radiation from some products of radioactive decay) hitting a single gene in a single cell can kill you,” Caldicott said.

Caldicott advised that people not eat any food from Europe because much of that continent is still irradiated from the meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

She said similar contamination is already happening to caribou that range near uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan.

One chemical in the tailings, cesium, is particularly relevant to Inuit because its absorbed by lichen which caribou eat.

“If the Nunavut government believes they have made this separation, then I would like to see the proof,” said Edwards, confusing NTI with the GN. “There is no proof, because it can’t be done.”

The trio also took aim at the nuclear power industry, arguing that the electricity generated is an incidental by-product of the real goal of nuclear power plants: plutonium.

Plutonium is the waste product of uranium fission in nuclear power plants, but it’s also an explosive agent used in modern nuclear weapons and has no other applications.

Plutonium waste is one of the thornier issues related to nuclear power because there’s no place to store and dispose of it where the local population does not rise up in opposition.

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