Don’t give me ‘absolutely safe’

National Post
November 18, 2002

I have to agree with Lawrence Solomon (Relatively Safe; Absolutely Ridiculous, Nov. 13). I’m a (PhD!) professional geologist who spent many years wandering around rock formations in Saskatchewan which host uranium ore, many so radioactive to our handheld Geiger counters (scintillometers, to be technically precise) they went offscale. Back in the 1980s I was at a nuclear conference in Calgary where one of Mr. Solomon’s government experts was talking about how safe mining was and the excellent federal government safety controls. I got to quiz him, and after much beating around the bush he admitted the government measured radon once a month at the exhaust gas stack! In other words, no one had the vaguest idea of radon, or any other radioactive material, underground at the active face where people actually worked! The same applied at exploration camps where there were (maybe still are?) tents so crammed with cores from uranium exploration that scintillometers howl. I’ve been there. So don’t give me “Absolutely Safe.”

Now don’t make me into an anti-nuke. I have no problem with the “Death by Power” table and would sooner live beside a nuclear plant than a coal plant. And I’d really like to see abandoned Saskatchewan uranium mines used as repositories for ex-Russian weapons. But I’m now 58 and remain curious if radiation hazards are hype or real. I watch for my colleague’s obituaries, so far nothing unusual. To me there’s a simple solution, get government right out of the nuclear business except for its regulation. Then litigation can handle the consequences.

Robert J. Munday, Lumsden, Sask.

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