On Saturday, March 29, 2008, an engaged crowd gathered at the Port Hope High School for a lecture and fund raising event co-sponsored by the Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee (PHCHCC) and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. The keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Harding, presented "Uranium: Anything but Clean and Green," drawing from his most recent book Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan uranium and the Global Nuclear System as well as years of experience and activism in the socio-health, environment, and public policy fields. It was was a lively, informative, and inspiring event.
Dr. Harding's personal and political roots are firmly planted in Saskatchewan - the front-end of the world's nuclear system as he describes it. The province is the world's largest exporter of uranium, feeding nuclear refineries and the nuclear weapon industry around the globe. Dr. Harding could easily focus all of his written and oratory energy towards describing the effects of uranium mining in his home province: the continual violation of Aboriginal rights, devastated tracts of land and water, and the long-term dangers to human health of the uranium miners and those who live near the mines. However, Saturday's event demonstrated that Dr. Harding is committed to going beyond these issues and drawing connections between every step in the nuclear fuel cycle. And rightfully so.
Wherever nuclear production takes place, environmental injustices are the norm. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Port Hope where nearly every stage in the nuclear fuel cycle converges. Since the 1930s, Port Hope has been host to first uranium extraction then processing, refining, and fuel rod production. Uranium has brought jobs and needed income to many in Port Hope but, it also has ushered in harmful pollution, including 3.5 million cubic metres of radioactive and heavy metal waste that resides in the town.
In order to resolve questions that remain unanswered by industry and government, concerned invididuals in Port Hope have mobilized around what Dr. Harding refers to as "citizen science." Last November, PHCHCC and the Uranium Medical Research Centre released the results of a citizen-funded, independent and peer reviewed study of uranium measured in the 24-hour urine specimens of nine residents and former nuclear workers in Port Hope. Unlike government funded risk assessments, the study began to shed light on the actual human health impacts of the nuclear industry on the people of Port Hope. The results: all of the subjects in Port Hope contained industrial (non-natural) uranium in their bodies. The startling evidence from the study should prompt further questioning and independent health studies.
Bringing Dr. Harding to town is an effective continuation of PHCHCC's tireless work piecing together the nuclear puzzle. The rise of citizen action to demand access to information and protection of rights means that we must support each other. The stories of people in Saskatchewan link to the challenges faced in Port Hope, and so on. Dr. Harding could not have drawn these connections more astutely. After Dr. Harding's one hour talk, the Port Hope High School gymnasium was radiating a new kind of glow - one of support and compassion for everyone involved in the nuclear fuel cycle, including the uranium miners and Cameco workers. Follow the link below to listen Dr. Harding's presentation and draw strength from the knowledge that others are cutting through the myths of a "green" nuclear industry and fighting for access to clean air and water.
- Listen to an interview with Dr. Harding on this week's Living At the Barricades Podcast.
- Stay tuned to Living At the Barricades for Mark Mattson's interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott - Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, and world renowned nuclear activist.