Do you have a question about Canada and/or its place in the world? Ask The Walrus.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has, by far, the world’s most nuclear waste per capita, and the second-most total nuclear waste. And yet we don’t have nuclear arms, use nuclear power for only 14 percent of our electricity, and have a strong anti-nuclear movement (British Columbia even has a no-nuke policy). So where is all this waste coming from?
The answer lies not just in the particulars of Canada’s nuclear energy sector, but also in what defines “waste.” By the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s definition, any material that contains a radioactive nuclear substance and has no use is defined as nuclear, or radioactive, waste.
To begin, Canada has one of the world’s largest uranium reserves, and more uranium (nearly a fifth of the global total) has been mined here than anywhere else. Our first uranium refinery opened in Port Hope, Ontario in 1932; northern Saskatchewan’s uranium mines currently provide 18 percent of the world’s supply. This enormous amount of uranium mining, refinement, and processing leaves a residue of uranium tailings, a radioactive sand. (more…)