Realities Surrounding Nuclear Energy Ensure Prosperity for Uranium Miners for the Rest of this Century – by Paul Stothart

Paul Stothart - Mining Association of CanadaPaul Stothart is vice president, economic affairs of the Mining Association of Canada. He is responsible for advancing the industry’s interests regarding federal tax, trade, investment, transport and energy issues.

Few energy sources attract the controversy that is associated with nuclear energy and the fuel it requires – uranium. The spectre of potential radioactive accidents and leakages has long been presented by environmental groups as a cause for opposition, as has the technical and social challenge of long-term waste management. A number of governments over the years, ranging from nations such as Germany to provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia, have introduced policies specifically prohibiting uranium mining and/or nuclear reactor development.

Available evidence suggests that these opponents are generally engaging in exercises of political hypocrisy. No energy source is without environmental and social consequence. Fossil fuel combustion has links to smog, acid rain and attendant health concerns. Wind energy requires large land masses, creates noise pollution and poses a hazard to birds — all to generate minor amounts of unreliable power. Hydro-power requires large-scale flooding, ecosystem destruction and resultant mercury releases. Even supposedly clean ethanol is proving to be disruptive to world food prices while presenting a marginal (or by some studies, negative) benefit regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to gasoline. On the health and safety front, in terms of worker and population impacts, few if any major energy sources measure up to the record of nuclear energy.

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Excerpt from Michael Barnes New Book – More Than Free Gold: Mineral Exploration in Canada Since World War II

Pronto Mine, Rio Algom - Elliot Lake 1958The World Wants Yellowcake (Uranium)

Among some people uranium gets a bad rap due to its use as the explosive material for atomic weapons and yet these folks tend to forget that it has most beneficial uses for mankind, principally as the fuel for nuclear reactors which deliver about 15% of the country’s electricity. Canada is currently the largest producer of uranium in the world, although Australia has the larger proportion of the world’s known deposits. In 2006 of the seventeen countries that mined the element, Canada produced 28%, followed by Australia with 23%. The term ‘yellowcake’ was originally given to uranium concentrate, although the colour and texture today can range from anything through dull yellow to almost black.

Early interest in uranium in Canada took a back seat to the work of Gilbert and Charles LaBine who discovered radium at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories in 1930.

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