Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yucca Mountain, meet Uranium City

Reports this morning on Radio One (no link) are that "Steve" Harper is considering fast-tracking a decision about the storage of nuclear waste. The so-called preferred option, preferred by the industry that is, is deep mine storage which is already used in Sweden and Finland. One only has to think of Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas, Nevada -- or in Canada's case, the proposed site would be the abadoned uranium mines of Uranium City, Saskatchewan. It's also a big issue in both France and Germany -- and with a "borderless" continent (at least in the Eurozone and a handful of other states) it becomes almost impossible to stop dumping if one country decides to make its problem another's.

I concede the waste has to go somewhere ... it just can't be kept "on site" forever because that causes problems of its own. But this is a terrorists' dream. At the rate of three trucks a day, it'll take thirty years to store all the spent fuel rods and fuel. Any commandeering of one of them could set off a crisis that could bring the country and possibly the world to its knees. What concessions would have to be offered to "liberate" depleted uranium, plutonium etc. is something very difficult to fathom.

And the time frame for storage is nuts. Even the US industry has set a deadline of ten thousand years for the rods to cool down enough to make a site inhabitable again. Canada's saying it will be one million.

A million?

Oh, and isn't it interesting how hot-button industry groups always manage to get the very politicians who made their lives a misery during their time in government? The nuclear industry is currently represented by Murray Elston, once a powerful member of David Peterson's team when the Liberals ran Ontario from 1985 to 1990. Big Pharma for a long time was also cheerleaded by (surprise) Mr. Elston and prior to that Judy Erola, a member of the Trudeau administration which was very reticent on the drug patent file.

They can hire anyone they want, of course. Maybe it's me, but using an insider to make one's point only helps to make it even less credible.

Nuclear power and research is a necessery evil but it's still a troublesome thing. Stéphan Dion may have found another election issue -- but he has to offer an answer of what he'd do with it. After all, fuel can only be reprocessed so many times and most of what's in question here is way beyond any use for medical isotopes.

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