Baker Lake Uranium

. I caused a bit of a storm a year ago with some tough comments on generating electricity in Nunavut. I should have spoken to the people involved first and made sure they understood what I intended before lambasting their ideas in public. My mistake, but theirs too. None of us distinguished sufficiently between electricity and the methods we use to generate it. During that debate, my every mention of hydro generation as a way of extracting energy from gravity was interpreted as advocating a particular community's least preferred reservoir location. Every mention of wind generation was interpreted as wanting to impose massive noisy turbines in someone's back yard. Every question of nuclear generation was interpreted as advocating uranium mining near Baker Lake. Unfortunately, the best intentions don't matter a damn. No matter what we say, the true meaning of our communication is the response we get. Judging from the resulting furor, I expressed it very poorly then. Let's try again. Energy is energy. Period. Just pure oomph. With four important considerations ... (a) there are several different sources that contain energy; (b) there are good and bad ways of extracting energy from a source; (c) there are good and bad ways of transporting the extracted energy closer to where it is needed; and (d) there are different jobs we want to do with that energy once it gets there. It pays to keep these four catagories straight in our thinking. For example, we might easily agree that Sun light is an ideal source, but question whether chopping down trees, to plant corn, to be converted into ethanol, to be transported in trucks, ships or pipelines, to be burned by internal combustion engines, to generate electricity, to power our appliances, is the ideal way of capturing the sunlight (corn), transporting it (ethanol), to generate electricity (diesel generators), to run our applicances (stoves and toasters). The same logic applies to Gravity. What are the wider consequences of piling up water, exposing it to increased evaporation, removing it from adjacent aquifers, dropping it from great heights onto the blades of a turbine (extraction), pushing it over thousands of kilometers of towers and poles as high tension electricity (transportation), and then transforming it for lower voltage use in our appliances? How about a Nuclear example. Whence the uranium and how do we mine it (source), reactors to convert it to electricity (transportation), how is it stored until needed for our appliances (stoves and toasters). We need to think this thing through... properly. We almost never do. The elements are all tangled up and tied to each other. It's hard work dammit! Our only hope of sorting this all out is to learn to discuss each of these components clearly, separately, deeply and, as often as possible away from the threats and whinning of lobbyists for vested political and commercial interests. Lobbyists occasionally bring useful technical and governance expertise to the table, but they wrap it in so much bullshit. It's just another kind of mining we have to learn, how to extract the warp and weft of wisdom's cloth from their tightly spun and twisted 'yarn'? (pun intended) All of this to say that the hydro project once contemplated for Iqaluit had some serious aquifer management and transportation problems. A tidal source might avoid both extraction and transporation difficulties, but what about ice and salt corrosion. Even much maligned nuclear alternatives should be considered. If mined uranium is an undesireable source, if current extraction technology risks filty toxic impacts on Baker Lake's aquifers, if newer technologies to downgrade and recycle weapons waste aren't ready yet, these factors should be examined honestly. Our final goal should be kept firmly in view, however, no matter how energetic the discussion gets. We want to transform Nunavut society forever into all of that Pinasuaqtavut and Tamapta describe as social and economic outcomes and contribute to them by heating our homes and powering our vehicles on clean, 7 - 10 cents per kilowatt electricity, rather than perpetuating the Petrified Oleum Pandemic. Think that's foolish utopianism? Have you the guts to pretend it isn't, temporarily? Care enough to join me in looking foolish for 36 months while we independently pursue unbiased answers to these questions rather than being herded by mantra-spouting lobbyists with a vested interest in the status quo? .


  1. Developing hydro project would put more money in the coffers of everyone involved, then say... putting turbines in the readily available currents of Tasiujaqjuaq.

  2. Agreed Anon! But man-o-man you open up another real can of worms: the whole issue of NNI and Inuit employment, and where the benefits are going, etc..

    Virtually all of the NNI premium right now seems diverted to non-Inuit and/or non-residents. I wonder whether there would really be more than a handful of permanent jobs for Nunavummiut no matter which generator is selected.

    Maybe we should contract-out-source building the cheap electricity as quickly as possible and build a whole new model of education and local economy on top of it afterwards.

    As for the pure energy play, there is something intuitively and conceptually so elegant about tidal power that, if doable, I think it would make a hydro dam look clumsy by comparison.

  3. Around Qikiqtaqjuaq (Frobisher's Furtherest) there are tides so powerful that they are actual rivers...been on both of them. But production of power anywhere in the world doesn't go without the politics...Some countries go to "war" for the production of power.

  4. Yep, 7-8 knots at mid tide! I've been through there by qajaq too. I'm betting we don't even have to go that far though. Barely beyond the lowest low tide mark, plus enough to stay under winter ice. The cables could be trenched into the bottom and run ashore well under the pack ice. If the turbines can work in both directions, that's a 8-9 meter wall of water going back and forth FOUR TIMES per day! We're talking some seriously heavy hydraulics.

    I'm going to Google some consultant experts on tidal. Must be some in Holland, or even Quebec and NB. Somebody must have considered this for Fundy?

  5. Holland is probably a good info hit, since it's in Europe, which has the most advancement in alternative power production.