Cree First Nation marchers against uranium mining arrived in Montreal on December 15, 2014 after an 850 trek south to deliver their message at environmental hearings.
Photo Credit: CBC / Jay Turnbull

Uranium mining moratorium challenged by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

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Uranium mining is a contentious issue in Quebec. Passionate and consistent objections from different communities forced the province to impose a temporary moratorium in 2013. Now the province is considering whether to make the ban permanent.

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Gordon Edwards, of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, supports a permanent ban, and he’s concerned about statments made by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in January, minimizing the effects of uranium mining.

Last July, following a year of public hearings on uranium mining, a report was released, recommending the government not proceed with mining the substance.

“The age of nuclear waste is just beginning”

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, however, objected to the conclusion, questioning the scientific rigour. The new provincial government established an inter-departmental committee to investigate the conflicting views and interests, and had a private meeting with the CNSC in January.

Gordon Edwards of the CCNR objects to several assertions in that presentation that he says, contradict the safety commission’s own findings. There are three problem areas of misinformation according to Edwards.

The first, was the assertion by Dr. Patsy Thompson, that uranium miners in Ontario had no higher rate of lung cancer than the general population. Gordon Edwards say the regulators own study found a 34 per cent increased mortality rate of lung cancer in the miners and, that there are 30 per cent more incidents of lung cancer, totalling about 600 extra cases of lung cancer, over what’s expected in the general public.

Secondly, the committee heard that radionuclides, the radioactive materials released during uranium mining and processing, are not toxic. Quite the opposite says Gordon Edwards. These substances, radium, radon and polonium are powerfully toxic.

A huge omission according to Edwards, was not addressing the tailings challenges. The radio-active material left over remains 85 per cent radioactive for thousands of years. More mining and processing leaves societies with the challenge of what to do with these toxic piles. Ontario is currently dealing with protests from neighbouring communities in the United States over its plan to bury this material near Lake Eire.

It remains to be seen what the Quebec committee will decide, but the fifth anniversary of the Fukishima meltdown is fast approaching, and many citizens will be reminded of the terrifying consequences that accompany the benefits of nuclear power.

Gordon Edwards says one of the problems identified in the aftermath of Japan’s tragedy, was that “the regulator was siding too much with the industry”. He says there is cause for similar concern here in Canada, particularly following the presentation in Quebec City.

“The regulator may be showing bias and lack of objectivity in not reporting the facts objectively about what are the dangers and what are the benefits but they just simply seem to stick with the benefits and not even mention the problems, the safety problems.” he says.

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One comment on “Uranium mining moratorium challenged by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  1. Avatar Jon Lafontaine says:

    A few comments.

    1) M. Edwards’ Coalition is a one man show with no resources, experience, authority, or acknowledged scientific credentials. M. Edwards may be an excellent high-school-level math teacher, and I do not doubt his sincerity in his anti-developement activist efforts.

    2) M. Edwards’ claims are at best cherry picked, at worst, fraudulent.

    3) Tailings for any mine will remain tailings for hundreds of millions of years. Tailings with radioactivity will have the same level of radioactivity of the rock mined today, minus 15 percent. All tailings represent environmental challenges. ONLY uranium tailings are managed with considerations until the next ice-age by storing them under current surface level in ponds dissociated from the natural watersheds (atrificial pits in which surface waters did not naturally flow into or out of.

    4) The regulator shows no bias. The regulator is defending it’s method of determining safe practices of which companies must obide. M. Edwards is attacking the regulator, it has a right to defent itself and its practices and its establish, world-leading regulations.

    5) ONLY in nuclear energy cycles is there true cradle to grave foresight and management. No hydrodam, no solar cell, no wind farm, no diesel or coal fire stations account for the management of their own waste, preferring to leave it to further generations to determine what to do with materials and impacts at the end of life cycle.

    6) In Fukushima, 2 people are known to have been exposed to enough radiation to generate mild industrial burns on the outside of their legs; no deaths recorded and no exposure to harmful levels of radiactivity could be detected.

    Best regards,

    Jon Lafontaine