End of an Era: Fuel for Nuclear Energy

Cameco’s Rabbit Lake Uranium Mine. Photo courtesy Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

The Rabbit Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan was shut down in 2016, leaving approximately 500 employees out of work. Rabbit Lake is the second largest uranium milling facility in the western world, and is the longest operating uranium production facility in Saskatchewan.  As Cameco is the primary employer in the north of our province, this is devastating for the many aboriginals that were employed there.

The uranium prices fell worldwide due to an oversupply. The uranium market has been depressed since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster resulted in the shutdown of more than 50 Japanese reactors.

This story caught my attention simply because I have known a few people who have worked at the mine, even from my latter days in high school. The high wages and benefits of working at a northern mine were very attractive to young people just out of high school. For some, a university education made no economic sense, in light of the mining opportunities in the late 1970’s in our province.

I am not going to get into the circular debate of the pros and cons of nuclear energy, but it is sufficient to say that many nations around the world depend on it as either a primary or secondary source of energy. At the same time, there is an enormous cost to society and our environment when things go sideways like the Three Mile Island,  Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.

The world-wide economy is just as dependant on nuclear energy as it is on other fossil fuels. This will not change in the foreseeable future until some form of alternative energy is found that is cheap and sustainable in the long term.

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