MAC: Mines and Communities

Don't put your hope in uranium

Published by MAC on 2011-06-07
Source: Georgia Straight, statement (2011-05-30)

First Nation re-affirm opposition to mining

The president of the Union of British Colombia Indian Chiefs has re-affirmed his People's opposition to uranium mining. See  previous article on MAC:- Canadian Indigenous Peoples oppose mining expansion.

A small lakeside town in Ontario is site of the world's longest-running nuclear fuel processing facility.

Decades ago, contaminated soil from the plant at Port Hope was used as fill for parks, ravines and fields, and in the yards of many homes.

And it's still impacting on  Port Hope's citizens in the shape of low-level radiation found throughout the town.

B.C. uranium ban should stay, First Nations leader says

By Matthew Burrows, Georgia Straight

30 May 2011

The president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs does not believe the provincial moratorium on uranium mining should be lifted.

"The Okanagan Nation Alliance has always been opposed to uranium exploration and mining, as has the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told the Straight by phone today (May 30). "We've never supported uranium exploration and mining, and we've always supported those groups and communities that have opposed exploration and mining. And we certainly support a continuation of the moratorium."

The B.C. Liberals banned the exploration and development of uranium in April 2008.

This move led to a scathing Vancouver Sun editorial in May of that year, which claimed, "Uranium mining is no more dangerous than other forms of mining, which happens to be the safest of all heavy industries."

Phillip was quick in his response to these claims.

"I don't believe that for a moment," he said. "Uranium mining is a major issue down in the American southwest. With reference to the tribes in the Four Corners, they have been vehemently opposed to uranium mining and they brought forward a lot of compelling evidence about the incidences of cancer in those Native Americans who have worked within the uranium mining open-pit operations."

The issue has always been controversial in Germany, and has heated up again after Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed existing policy due to safety concerns after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Merkel has said Germany will phase out all nuclear power by 2022.

Canada's Port Hope Reaps Uranium's Rewards And Risks

By Julie Gordon


3 June 2011

The lakeside town of Port Hope, Ontario, encompasses both the promise and the dark side of the nuclear industry, booming with the sector, yet saddled with contamination from when it helped build the bomb.

The town, some 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Ontario's capital Toronto, is home to the world's longest running facility to process nuclear fuel, a massive white eyesore that towers over the sailboats bobbing in its tranquil harbor.

The plant was built in the 1930s to refine radium. It was converted to a uranium facility in 1942 as Canada helped the United States to build an atomic bomb, and now converts uranium for nuclear fuel.

Current owner Cameco Corp, the second largest uranium miner in the world, took over decades later, in 1988, and also runs a second plant that makes fuel rods nearby.

The nuclear power sector boomed on the prospect of soaring Chinese and Indian demand, only to crash as Japan's earthquake brought the potential nuclear problems home.

"There's still a lot of emotion," Cameco Chief Executive Jerry Grandey told Reuters. Referring to the Japan's earthquake stricken nuclear plant, he added: "I think it will take some time to work through Fukushima."

Cameco, which mines and processes uranium, was a big winner in the buzz around a renaissance that could bring dozens of new reactors online around the world in the next decade. Its shares more than doubled from the beginning of 2009 to February 2011.

Boom and Crash

In mid-March it all came crashing down as Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world's worst nuclear crises.

Cameco's shares have lost a quarter of their value since the Japanese disaster, and nagging questions about nuclear safety have raised doubts about the industry's revival.

The company's stock tumbled again this week after Germany said it would phase out its nuclear power program by 2022, stirring concern that other countries would follow suit.

None of this seems to phase Grandey, who was an anti-nuclear activist in the 1960 and 1970s, but later switched sides. He said he has no doubt Cameco will prosper as the world seeks alternatives to fossil fuels.

"I do absolutely think that the share price will recover," said Grandey, who retires this month at the age of 65.

"The fundamentals as far as Cameco is concerned, our commitment to our strategy, our commitment to the industry, it hasn't changed at all."

Cameco managers in Port Hope won't comment on whether they have seen any changes in demand over the past few months, but the company has said 2011 production and sales projections are on track.

It plans to double uranium production to 40 million pounds a year by 2018, and reaffirmed that after the Japanese quake.

Cameco also plans to expand its fuel services division and is developing laser enrichment technology in a joint venture with General Electric and Hitachi.

Dahlman Rose analyst Anthony Young said the strong outlook, coupled with the recent pullback in Cameco's share price from a two-year high of C$44.28 in February to less than C$28, presents an opportunity for patient investors.

"I'm not sure it's something you're going to see appreciate sharply over the near term," he said. "But I think as uranium prices go higher and as demand goes higher, investment in Cameco makes sense."

Heart of the Company

If Cameco's uranium mines in Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan are the lifeblood of the multibillion dollar company, the sprawling complex at the Port Hope waterfront is the company's heart.

The tightly monitored facility converts yellow uranium powder into uranium dioxide, used to fuel heavy water reactors, and uranium hexafluoride, which is shipped to the United States, Europe and Asia for enrichment and then used to fuel light water reactors.

At the nearby fuel rod plant, surprisingly low on heavy-duty anti-radiation equipment, Cameco uses uranium dioxide to make the fuel bundles that power heavy water nuclear reactors.

Inside the small factory, a radiation monitor makes an ominous clopping noise as workers wearing cotton gloves assemble bullet-sized uranium pellets into fuel rods.

The rods, with radiation levels that are low enough for street clothes to be appropriate, are then welded into custom cylindrical bundles that will fit specific reactor cores.

All employees at the plant wear radiation monitors and are tested for exposure on a regular basis.

The factory is currently running 24 hours a day, five days a week, shipping crate-loads of fuel bundles, primarily to domestic customers.

In the province of Ontario, Canada's most populous, 50 percent of energy comes from nuclear power. South of the border, the United States produces about 20 percent of its overall power from 104 reactors.

Contaminated Soil

But fears over radiation in Japan has rekindled anxieties in Port Hope, where decades ago contaminated soil from the plant was used as fill in parks, ravines and fields. It's even in the yards of many homes.

This has led to low-level radiation throughout the town.

The Canadian government plans to build a storage facility to house that radioactive waste, with a full-scale clean-up set to begin this year. It is expected to take over a decade and will cost at least C$260 million ($265 million).

For Cameco's part, the company will tear down about 20 old buildings from the site, remove contaminated soil and move its footprint back from the Port Hope waterfront.

That's not enough for advocacy group Greenpeace.

"You mine uranium to either power reactors or make bombs," said Greenpeace nuclear analyst Shawn-Patrick Stensil. "And at the other end of both of those is the potential for irreversible risks to the environment."

California-born Grandey said the industry is constantly learning from its mistakes.

"I think as time goes on and we're struggling with many of the bigger issues that seem to have now been forgotten -- energy security, energy diversity, climate change," he said.

"Then people will start to put it into perspective and we'll be back into a mode where nuclear is not the only answer by any means, but it is part of the solution."

Still, Grandey concedes investors won't put the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant behind them any time soon, and Cameco is unlikely to regain its stride overnight.

Others are more upbeat.

Even as Germany looks to shut down its 17 reactors, countries like China, Russia and India are ramping up their ambitious nuclear initiatives. China alone has 27 reactors under construction, 50 planned and 110 in the proposal stage.

"We believe that China's growth alone should dwarf the German impact," said Dundee Capital Markets analyst David Talbot in a note to clients. "We anticipate China will use about 45-50 million pounds of (uranium) by 2020 - five times the fuel requirements of Germany."

(Editing by Janet Guttsman and Frank McGurty)

Penobsquis Denied Data, Hearing Resumes

Conservation Council of New Brunswick Press Release

16 May 2011

Sussex - The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis resume their Hearing with the Mining Commissioner today in the absence of monitoring data they requested through the Right to Information Act. The group was denied by the provincial government due to a contractual agreement between PotashCorp and the Department of Natural Resources.

Today, 26 residents of the community of Penobsquis begin trying to prove that PotashCorp is responsible for the loss of 60 water wells; land subsidence (the sinking of land) that is now affecting their homes; dust, noise and light pollution; loss property values and the stress and grief they endure every day.

They will have to do this without data that PotashCorp has collected over the course of the lifetime of the Penobsquis Potash Mine. Included in the data requested by the group, and denied by the government, are the specific measurements of land subsidence and displacement at PotashCorp's monitoring devices around the community. This information could prove that the company is responsible for the damage caused to water, homes and land.

Beth Nixon, spokesperson for the Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis is extremely disappointed in the government's decision to hold back this information. "Residents of Penobsquis and of New Brunswick deserve better. We deserve a government that looks out for our interests, that protects our assets, our communities, and our environments, Nixon says. "Instead, the burden of proof, and the costs to prove anything, rests on us", she continues.

Stephanie Merrill, CCNB Action's Freshwater Protection Coordinator, is leading the organization's Shale Gas Alert Campaign. She says that the outcome of Penobsquis' Hearing with the Mining Commissioner is extremely important to the rest of New Brusnwickers.

"Communities throughout the province are watching. Will the government stand up for the people they represent? Or will they back industry no matter what the cost to regular every day New Brunswickers?" she asks. "More and more communities are slated for mining projects, particularly exploration for shale gas. If the government is not willing to hold industry accountable here, we can all expect the same treatment if issues arise from the shale gas industry", Merrill adds.

CCNB Action and other supporters from across the province will be rallying in support of Penobsquis and for the future of our water, air and communities, during the first day of the Hearing:

12:00pm in front of the All Seasons Inn, Main St. Sussex
2:30 pm in front of the Amsterdam Inn, Main St. Sussex


Media Contacts:

Beth Nixon, Spokesperson, Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis: 506.435.4550
Herman Hawthorne, Spokesperson, Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis: 506.433.3049
Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Program Coordinator, CCNB Action: 506.261.8317

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