The Committee for Future Generations was formed on May 16, 2011 by a group of northerners concerned about the targeting of local Indigenous communities by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), for a repository to store millions of highly radioactive fuel rods.
After years of work educating, forming solidarity and carrying out actions, including an 850 kilometre “Walk Against Nuclear Waste” to the seat of provincial government garnering over 20,000 signatures on a petition from more than 250 communities, NWMO eliminated the communities of Pinehouse, Creighton and English River First Nation from site selection process, citing unsuitable geological conditions.
The Committee’s work, however, had only just begun, as NWMO exposes only one link in the nuclear fuel chain, which actually extends clear around the world and has embedded itself in virtually every aspect of life as we know it.
The long and toxic global nuclear legacy has much of its origins in the north. The industry’s history of colluding with government to force Indigenous peoples off their uranium-rich homelands (currently happening also in Australia), despite warnings by Elders to “leave the black rock alone”, eventually morphed into a vulgar posturing of “duty to consult”, from which derived a series of highly controversial “collaboration agreements” signed by Cameco and Areva with vulnerable administrations. The resulting dozen or so uranium mines scattered across the Athabasca Basin make northern Saskatchewan a virtual “ground zero” for the nuclear industry in the world, and have already produced hundreds of thousands of tons of tailings, leaching into groundwater and blowing across the land as radioactive dust. Further, a high percentage of employees in the most radioactive sections of these mines are Cree, Dene and Metis youth, many being channeled there through high school and postsecondary eduction processes co-opted by the industry, and being exposed to highly questionable standards. Work in the mines for most northern families is multi-generational; meanwhile, cancer rates soar in communities historically void of the disease, while calls for independent health/environmental studies on the impact of uranium mining go ignored.
Mining is only the first link in the nuclear chain, which then reaches across to Ontario where the uranium is enriched into fuel that boils water in electricity-producing nuclear reactors. This process creates the highly radioactive fuel rods, which in NWMO’s own words, are extremely hazardous and must be isolated from humans, virtually forever. In Canada alone, millions and counting of these fuel rods sit in dry casks, while the industry grows ever more desperate to influence public perception that they will eventually be “disposed”: a concept which many experts have defined as myth. After 80 years of production, scientists around the world do not agree on a solution.
With accelerating climate change a reality, the nuclear industry is trying to sell itself as the “green solution” to fossil fuels, when it is a significant emitter of greenhouse gasses, and, as always, tagged with the most deadly and long-lasting waste product of any energy source on the planet. The Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina have received millions of research dollars from corporate donors Cameco and Areva, to the extent that denying corporate influence is questionable. The universities’ most recent research will be focusing on small nuclear reactors; this despite the findings of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) survey in 2009 that 84% of the thousands of Saskatchewan participants expressed a clear “No” to the furthering of the nuclear agenda in the province. So-called experts tout “reprocessing” fuel rods for plutonium as a form of “recycling”, when in reality, the dissolving of fuel rods in acid to retrieve the 1% plutonium product results in 99% radioactive sludge which is now also acidic, eating its way through any container created by humans.
Lastly, in what is perhaps the biggest reason the nuclear industry stumbles on despite its failures like Chernobyl, Fukushima, infeasible economics and the mounting threat to life: much of the enriched uranium supposedly for use in eastern Canadian reactors, finds its way across the border to be used in a way that perpetuates the purpose of the industry from the beginning: nuclear weapons.
There are not many places left in the world where families still go out onto the land and water for moose, berries, medicinal plants and fish, yet we are one of them. Traditional Indigenous wisdom teaches us to think ahead to the next seven generations, but in the case of nuclear waste, we must think ahead at least 7000 generations. Uranium mining, transportation of yellow cake, the ever present threat of fuel rod storage and the abuse of rights enabling ongoing mine licensing continues to cast a dark shadow. This is not just a northern or Indigenous issue. The water cycle is shared globally, and the abuse of anyone’s rights is an abuse of all.
Please support by contacting us on fb: Say No to Nuclear