Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy: What are the Links?
Unraveling the Nuclear Fuel Chain: Lessons for Canada and other countries seeking to export nuclear power.
Please read and send action letter to Ontario’s Minister of Energy!
Canada provided both India and Pakistan with CANDU reactors in the 70s which enabled both countries to develop their nuclear bombs. India more recently decided against buying Canadian nuclear technology for energy generating purposes which angered the government of Canada. Indeed, the CANDU has been a Canadian product for export for decades. But the low level hostility that has marked Indo-Canadian relations since India’s 1998 nuclear tests will end with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming visit to re-initiate trade in nuclear technology with India. This is perceived as a necessary market for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the beleaguered Crown corporation that has found few market opportunities at home. Some key points:
- Experts such as Jonathan Schell point out that no country has ever been ‘invited’ into the nuclear club. Since the U.S. first developed, tested and used atomic bombs, other countries have had to beg to enter the club. The plausible route to obtain weapon-usable material begins with an appeal for nuclear reactor establishments for energy generating purposes.
- France’s nuclear cooperation agreement with India is a step backward and hardly an example for Canada. Lauded as a ‘good nuclear citizen’ by The Globe and Mail (Nov. 13, 2009) – even though, like Pakistan, France has not signed the non-proliferation treaty critics considers it’s nuclear energy policy a failure. The nuclear industry, which has been in decline for several decades, has seized upon the climate crisis as a revival opportunity, despite its astronomical costs, hazardous high level waste unresolved problems and routine emissions of radioactive isotopes – carcinogens, mutagens and teratogens into drinking water, air and land during normal operations in addition to accidents and spills. The health impacts from such emissions include cancers, developmental and birth defects and other conditions in humans and animals. It is well recognized by independent nuclear experts in Europe associated with Global Chance that France’s nuclear power and by association that of other countries is a dangerous illusion that presents an obstacle to the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.
The International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM) published the important report on the material implications of a world without nuclear weapons :
VOW Peace Exhibit - Info PackageREV 2012 (4.8 MiB)
The IPFM estimates that the current global stockpile of highly enriched uranium is about 1600 metric tons. There are about 500 tons of separated plutonium, divided almost equally between weapon and civilian stocks, but it is all weapon-usable. The global stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium together are sufficient for over one hundred thousand nuclear weapons. The report lists the location, size and safeguards status of operating, under construction and planned fissile material production facilities around the world. Of particular interest is Chapter 8, entitled “Nuclear Power and Nuclear Disarmament” (page 103) which makes it clear that a world without nuclear weapons would be extremely difficult to maintain without a complete phase-out of civilian nuclear power.
Depleted Uranium (DU), a radioactive substance, is now used extensively for density and weight in weapons, planes and missiles by the US and other countries in today’s warfare and has been for years. The health impacts have been and continue to be devastating to the “enemy”, “our side” and civilian populations. It is particularly devastating to children resulting in cancers and deaths. DU is produced as waste In the process of uranium enrichment which countries including the US that use enriched uranium for their reactors (if not for bombs) must have, Canada is one of the largest exporters of uranium in the world, much of which goes to the US, hence DU.. Canadians must ask: ,why there is no legislation prohibiting such use from Canadian uranium and when will that be?
Canada and other countries must plan for the phase out of its existing reactors when they are due to close in the coming years and pour the billions of dollars earmarked for refurbishment and new builds to energy efficiency, conservation and renewables – better for jobs, the economy and the health of all life on earth. In Ontario, we can and should do better. Canadian Voice of Women for peace has been advocating this future for over four decades.
We must urge Ontario’s new Minister of Energy, Gerry Phillips to build on the Green Energy Plan initiated by his predecessor, George Smitherman.
Urge him to finish the job of replacing our aging and unreliable nuclear fleet by:
- giving our municipal electric utilities and Hydro One the funding they need to pursue all cost-effective energy conservation and efficiency opportunities;
- making arrangements for increased water power imports from Quebec but only from existing souces, not new mega dams;
- and converting our apartment buildings, shopping centers, hospitals and factories into small-scale but highly efficient combined heat and power plants.