Uranium mania | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Uranium mania

Rodney MacDonald's government considers lifting the lid on uranium mining in Nova Scotia

Finally something to cheer about. The McRodneyites are considering lifting the ban on uranium exploration in Nova Scotia! The government launched its review of the ban after reports that there may be a shitload of the valuable mineral buried in central NS. If exploration confirms this, there would be intense pressure to mine the stuff now that uranium prices are on the rise. Mind you, I used to think that exploration and mining would be an incredibly stupid idea especially after watching Gordon Edwards's slide show last month at Dal. Edwards, one of the founders of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, has been warning about the dangers of uranium exploration and mining for more than 30 years. His slide show scared the piss out of me, especially a photo showing a piece of human tissue with a particle of plutonium embedded in it. The white tissue, which had been coated with a special photographic emulsion, had scores of black lines and dots scattered across its surface showing the bursts of radiation given off in a 48-hour period.

"Alpha radiation is harmless outside the body," Edwards explained, "but all scientific studies show that inside the body, it is at least 20 times more damaging than other types of radiation." He added that uranium mine wastes are full of alpha particles and radioactive gases. These mine wastes, called tailings, are radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. If the alpha particles escape into the environment, these cancer-causing substances can be breathed in or swallowed in food or water. "We've known for decades that when radon gas, for example, is given off by uranium mine tailings, it deposits particles as radioactive fallout on vegetation," Edwards warned. He added that once those toxic particles enter the body, they accumulate in organs such as the liver, kidneys or lungs as well as in bones, skin or muscle. "When we get iodine-131 in our diet or breathe it into our lungs, the body puts it into the thyroid gland because that's where non-radioactive iodine normally goes," he said. "Many people fail to understand the difference between a brief exposure to external penetrating radiation (such as X-rays) and a prolonged body burden of materials which have been incorporated right into your digestive system."

Yep, that's scary stuff. Scary enough to persuade me we'd be better off leaving Nova Scotia's uranium safely underground rather than fucking around with it to produce nuclear fuel for multi-billion-dollar reactors or explosive triggers for nuclear weapons. Edwards pointed out there is no safe way of disposing of the highly radioactive fuel from the reactors, and nuclear weapons could wipe out civilization. I left Edwards' slide show convinced that McRodney was crazy to even think about lifting the ban on exploration and mining.

Then I heard a heart-wrenching CBC program about an 80-year-old man suffering from Parkinson's disease who was confined for nearly six months to a hospital room. The poor guy couldn't get adequate care in his home and there was no nursing home bed available for him. I learned next that there are some 1,400 Nova Scotians on waiting lists for nursing beds with about 500 of them stuck in hospital. I sure wouldn't want that to happen to me or any of those other fine baby boomers still happily driving their SUVs. I suddenly realized that so many of the boomers have given up smoking, there's nothing to kill them off and we'll soon be facing an avalanche of the frail elderly, suffering horribly while they clog up hospital beds. Seen in the context of that humanitarian crisis, uranium exploration and mining suddenly make good Tory sense. No need to worry about ending up trapped in a hospital bed because the government's too cheap to provide home care or nursing home beds. Alpha radiation---gift of death and answer to all our prayers. Nova Scotia's McBoomer Buster. Go Rodney, go!

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