April 16, 2021 - No. 29

Corruption and Hubris of the Privileged Elite

Dangers Posed by Seizure of
Government Decision-Making Power
by Private Interests

Revelations about Secret Negotiations to Import Radioactive Waste into Canada from Japan
Revolving Door of Elite Officials Moving from Government to Private Sector and Back Again
Unacceptable Conception of What Constitutes "Safe Storage" of Spent Nuclear Fuel
The Need to Settle Scores with Abuse of Power and Privilege

Corruption and Hubris of the Privileged Elite

Dangers Posed by Seizure of Government
Decision-Making Power by Private Interests

This issue of Workers' Forum addresses the dangers posed by waste material from nuclear reactors and the control of decisions about its disposal by narrow private interests. The seizure of governments by narrow private interests is a main feature of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive. It is a matter of profound concern the working class must settle scores with. The articles in this paper expose one of the several plans most recently revealed of how narrow private interests have taken over governments to provide public funds and entrust monopoly corporations with what they call, "the safe storing of nuclear waste," in order to make enormous profits. As the articles correctly point out, there is no such thing, because the safe handling and storing of nuclear waste is a problem of science that has yet to be sorted out.

The revelation by Radio-Canada that negotiations in this case are going on in secret reveals the corruption inherent in what is touted as the Canadian rules-based system and the need for the working people of this country to put an end to it. The fact is that this continues the practice of the Harper government which handed over the nuclear industry and all the reactors in Canada to private interests. Not quite ten years ago, Atomic Energy Canada (AECL), the Crown corporation which ran the nuclear laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario, and owned and operated several CANDU reactors in Canada, was broken up and sold to SNC-Lavalin. The work of safely harnessing nuclear energy was taken out of the hand of scientists and public authorities and made into a for profit enterprise under the control of private interests. All legal as far as passing laws goes.

One of the Harper government's last actions before losing the election in 2015 was to create the Canadian National Energy Alliance (CNEA) which is a government-owned but contractor-operated organization (GOCO) which is one of the most lucrative pay-the-rich schemes established under the guise of reducing the $7.9 billion nuclear waste liability that was identified. The majority of the members of CNEA are foreign corporations like Fluor and Jacobs, two Texas-based multinationals involved in nuclear weapons production. The other main member is SNC-Lavalin. The CNEA assumed control over all of Canada's federal nuclear facilities and radioactive waste and the record shows that since the establishment of this consortium the costs to the Canadian government have almost quadrupled. According to AECL financial reports, parliamentary appropriations rose from $327 million in 2015 to $1.3 billion (approved) for the year ending March 31, 2021. AECL's nuclear waste liabilities have not gone down, but appear to have increased by about $200 million.

Without much public knowledge about the increased cost, let alone discussion, the Trudeau government and AECL renewed the GOCO contract with the CNEA early during the pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020. The CNEA is also behind the proposal for a disposal facility for nuclear waste at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory campus at Chalk River. The proposal has been met with strong opposition from First Nations, civil society groups, 140 Quebec municipalities, nuclear waste experts and scientists and concerned citizens. Despite the broad opposition the project continues and the consortium continues to receive close to a billion dollars a year from public funds. To make matters worse the consortium is bringing thousands of truck-loads of radioactive waste to the Chalk River site from other federal facilities in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The bottom line is that with the domination of the nuclear industry by private interests not only has the necessary scientific research under public control been sabotaged but tons of radioactive substances that remain toxic to all life for hundreds of thousands of years are being disposed of with no thought of the permanent damage to the environment and the contamination of the Ottawa River, a source of drinking water for Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal and many other communities.

The domination of the nuclear industry by private interests is important to show the seriousness of the situation. This dangerous course of action has been put in place over many years by different governments and it will not stop there. The fact that the citizenry does not control the decisions which set the direction of the economy and that narrow private interests have been politicized with the revolving door between the cabinet, the privy council and private consultants and the oligopolies poses a great danger for the people and the natural environment. All major decisions in the economy and politics must be in the hands of the people on the basis of a renewed democratic political process which blocks the current ways used to deprive the people of decision-making power.


1. See TML Daily, January 24, 2014.

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Revelations about Secret Negotiations to Import Radioactive Waste into Canada from Japan

Radio-Canada has revealed that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has been engaged in secret negotiations with officials of Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) and others in powerful positions in Japan to import their radioactive waste into Canada for burial in Labrador. Chrétien was Liberal Party Prime Minister from 1993 to 2003. He now works with the global law firm Dentons, which had a gross income of just under $3 billion in 2019. Dentons is counsel for the promoters of the secret project to import nuclear waste, who are associated with a company called Terra Vault.

Radio-Canada obtained emails between Chrétien and Japanese business people connected with the nuclear industry and mass media. Chrétien, described in a Dentons' email as a "close adviser" of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was assisting to bring together two members of the Japanese elite with Tim Frazier, former U.S. government nuclear adviser and principal investor in Terra Vault, and Montreal business executive and investor Albert Barbusci, who is an advocate of storing other countries' nuclear waste in Canada.[1]

The two Japanese are Takuya Hattori, the Senior Advisor of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum and former Vice President of TEPCO, and Hisafumi Koga, the former President of Kyodo News Agency, the largest in Japan, who now heads its public relations arm. A meeting of all involved was organized for February 2020 to discuss in person how to pursue the project but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Radio-Canada writes, "Months after Chrétien's letter to the Japanese PR executive, Hisafumi Koga's response in September 2019 illustrates the secretive nature of the discussions. 'As the success of the project hinges on the cooperation of all stakeholders, utmost care needs to be taken to keep the information from leaking,' Hisafumi Koga wrote, accepting Chrétien's invitation for a meeting in Canada. 'I understand that I'm attending as a private person,' Koga said. Takuya Hattori, who held senior positions at TEPCO, the company involved in the Fukushima nuclear accident, was also to be part of the trip, according to the emails."

Radio-Canada also obtained emails from the Montreal investor Barbusci and associates in Dentons. It writes, "A June 2020 email from Barbusci refers to a 'smooth transition' after former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Dwight Ball's resignation, which took effect in August. 'As you may already know, [Liberal Party] Premier Ball has announced that he will be stepping down and a new leader will be named on August 3rd [2020]. That said, we plan to stay connected with Premier Ball so the transition is expected to be smooth,' Barbusci wrote.

"Four years ago, Ball's chief of staff, Greg Mercer, was found to have failed to report his previous lobbying activities on time. Some of his lobbying involved the company at the heart of the group's nuclear storage project, Terra Vault. Frazier, the former U.S. nuclear adviser and another key player in the project, is one of Terra Vault's major shareholders. He refused to speak with Radio-Canada. [...]

"[Former Premier] Ball also said Thursday, Chrétien mentioned the idea of a DGR [deep geological repository] in Labrador to him."

"My response to him was swift to say, as the premier my government is not interested in entering into any discussions with your clients on this issue, reads Ball's statement. Barbusci said he wasn't aware of the lobbying incident [with Ball's chief of staff, Greg Mercer] and that it precedes his involvement in the DGR project. He also said the location for the site wasn't yet decided."

"Trusted Adviser"

An email from a Dentons' lawyer named Terry Didus to all those involved in the nuclear waste project extols Chrétien's relations with the current Liberal Party federal government, calling the former Prime Minister a "trusted adviser" to Prime Minister Trudeau. After the Trudeau Liberals' 2019 re-election as a minority government, Didus writes enthusiastically to the others, "Good news: Liberals back!" And then later, "Better news: Jean [Chrétien] has now been 'appointed' by Justin Trudeau as his 'trusted adviser.' In essence, Jean will be privy to all major policy decisions going forward."

In the Radio-Canada interview, Chrétien appeared frustrated by the Didus email and denied the implication that he is a "trusted adviser" and "lobbyist." He said, "I'm not his [Trudeau's] trusted adviser [...] I don't want to be a lobbyist. I told you that."

In the same interview, Chrétien again defended the project to store Japan's nuclear waste in Canada, saying we have "a responsibility to store used nuclear material" and that he is "simply acting out his duty as a lawyer and agreed to sign the 2019 letter when asked by colleagues at his firm. We made money selling uranium so we should help to solve the problem that the countries who bought our uranium are facing with that."

Chrétien also presented nuclear power as green and an option to combat climate change. Radio-Canada writes that Chrétien "believes atomic energy is one of the solutions to combating climate change."

All of it reveals the stinking mess of entanglements between governments, narrow private interests, the revolving door of those who are in government who then, out of government, use their links to further their own narrow private interests while serving the interests of the oligopolies which control entire sectors of the world economy. It confirms that the real conflicts of interest being hidden today are those caused by the fact that what is called a democracy is comprised of those in government who take decisions in secret to serve narrow private interests and those who are mere subjects with no say over any of the decisions which concern their lives.

The aim of the economy to make maximum profit in the fastest time blocks scientists and technicians from doing all-round work. Regarding the nuclear industry, the oligarchs in control of the economy and politics pour scientific efforts into producing nuclear power and bombs while mostly ignoring the attendant issue of nuclear waste. Scientists themselves have accused the oligarchy of doing little or nothing to research and discover what to do with nuclear waste let alone the issue of handling international affairs without violence. Scientists and others say storing nuclear waste, no matter where, is irresponsible and not a viable long-term solution. Radioactive waste that cannot be recycled to produce power is still extremely dangerous and harmful. Exposure to a certain amount for even a short time can kill a human.

The secrecy of the nuclear waste project militates against the modern need to inform the people of all issues and provide forms in which mass discussion can occur and decisions reached where the people have a say. A few powerful men or women having secret discussions and taking decisions that affect the social and natural environment and the very lives of the people and wildlife of Labrador are beyond the pale. Who do they think they are would seem to be a pertinent question but, more importantly, the need to stop these people and their secret negotiations emerges as an urgent matter. No! to the transportation of radioactive nuclear waste from Japan! No to its burial in Labrador!


1. Barbusci is the CEO of Sydney Harbour Investment Partners, which "was formed specifically to assemble the business consortium required to develop the deep-water Novaporte Mega-Terminal in Sydney, Nova Scotia." He also established the Montreal-based advertising agency Cadence Communications, founded in 1980.

"According to the [Nova Scotia] provincial registry of lobbyists, Terra Vault shares a Montreal address with Sydney Harbour Investment Partners, for which Chrétien was an international adviser. In 2018, Nova Scotia RCMP investigated Chrétien for allegations of illegally lobbying the province's then-premier Stephen McNeil about a port proposal. The RCMP said they had found no wrongdoing." (Canadian Press, April 1, 2021)

That seems to be par for the course for RCMP investigations of wrong-doings by members of the elites.

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Revolving Door of Elite Officials Moving from Government to Private Sector and Back Again

The fact that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and others move from serving in politics to serving private interests and back again reveals that politics has degenerated to the point where rich oligarchs control their enterprises, cartels and governments. They move seamlessly back and forth taking decisions that affect the people, economy and society. This exposes official politics and big business as corrupt with their participants serving narrow private interests in contempt of the people, economy, society and Mother Earth.

In an interview with Radio-Canada's Enquête, Chrétien attempted to defend the project to bury nuclear waste from foreign countries in Labrador. He said Canada as a "top seller of uranium" has a responsibility to help clean up nuclear waste because it makes money selling uranium used to produce nuclear energy and bombs. The fact that, for Chrétien and others of his ilk, dumping nuclear waste in a hole in the ground is synonymous with "cleaning it up," shows their arrogance and how self-serving and superfluous they are. Speaking like that is no skin off their noses because presumably it is not their families who will be living next to the dump sites.

According to Radio-Canada, emails Chrétien drafted in 2019 and 2020 say: "We have some responsibility, I believe, and if we can help, we should. Canada has been the top supplier of nuclear fuel for many years, and I have always thought that it is only proper that Canada should ultimately become the steward and guarantor of the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel after its first duty cycle. I will arrange and participate in discussions in Canada, its provinces, and potential partner countries to move the concept of a deep repository in Northeastern Canada forward."

For its part, TEPCO is familiar with this method as it proposes to simply dump into the Pacific Ocean contaminated water from its four damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. In fact, the U.S. military occupation forces privatized Japan's electricity sector in 1951 creating TEPCO along with eight other private enterprises in which U.S. oligarchs could invest. TEPCO owns 11 nuclear reactors in Japan including four reactors the tsunami destroyed in 2011 at its Fukushima Daiichi facility. The company has not successfully decommissioned the damaged reactors, which continue to emit radioactive contamination blocking the return of 160,000 former residents and remediation of the area. Emergency containment tanks holding contaminated water from pipes to cool the reactors' cores are approaching their capacity. TEPCO has applied for permission to release the toxic water into the Pacific Ocean infuriating fishers and others concerned with such a practice.

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Unacceptable Conception of What Constitutes
"Safe Storage" of Spent Nuclear Fuel

The concept of "safe storage of spent nuclear fuel [in] a deep repository" is refuted by many scientists and others. In response to the news of the scheme to transport nuclear waste from Japan for storage in Canada, Mycle Schneider, an international consultant on nuclear energy based in Paris said, "I must say I was really stunned that there is a small group of very high-profile representatives that are coming together to form this conspiracy."

Radio-Canada writes, "Schneider, whose expertise is sought after around the world, said this type of project should be led by governments, not industrialists. 'We are not talking about building a garage somewhere. We're talking about a highly complex project that no country in the world has so far successfully implemented and, you know, storing radioactive material.' Schneider also takes issue with the group's explicit wishes to keep their plans covert, considering 'the dangers of the substances involved.'"

Radio-Canada continues, "The practice is known as a 'deep geological repository' or DGR. Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization has for years tried to build a DGR to bury waste from Canadian nuclear power plants, including in Ontario."

Mycle Schneider told Radio-Canada that the emails show this project focuses on working with other nations to store their waste, starting with Japan, something that has not been done before. "And there are good reasons," Schneider said. "This is extremely radioactive material. From a metre away, if spent fuel is not protected, it would deliver a lethal dose to a human being within a minute."

The issue for many is that governments are not under their control. DGRs, whether in Canada or elsewhere, forestall doing the necessary research to find a safe method to handle, recycle or otherwise dispose of nuclear waste. The oligarchs in control want the people to ignore the issue and accept DGRs as the only possibility without discussion and without scientific merit. Under neo-liberalism, the role of governments is not to permit posing the question of the need to replace the system which brings and keeps such governments in power.

Japan is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region exposed to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. DGRs cannot even be considered anywhere near the Ring of Fire, which begs the question why the imperialists have built so many nuclear power plants throughout Japan in the first place without considering what to do with the nuclear waste and with little concern of the dangers involved for nuclear plants from earthquakes and tsunamis. Of note is that the U.S. has built six nuclear power plants in California above or near the San Andreas Fault, which is a section of the Ring of Fire.

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The Need to Settle Scores with Abuse of
Power and Privilege

The activity of Jean Chrétien could be described as criminal abuse of power and his position as a former Prime Minister. The problem is not merely one of Chrétien's bad behaviour. The problem is structural in that it derives from the imperialist system itself. The private segmentation of the economy into competing parts and their self-serving motive and control, and the forms that exist for taking decisions both in the economy and politically are anachronistic. They do not reflect the reality of the interrelated economy that demands cooperation for mutual benefit. They do not reflect how people live, produce and relate to one another in the twenty-first century. The aim of the economy and the forms of politics are not what they should be in modern Canada where people must have the power to decide those matters that affect their lives, society and nature in a manner that serves the general interest.

The aim of the economy is private profit while everything about the economy is public and social. The economy is public and social as it affects not just those directly involved but entire populations, their societies and the relations between humans and humans and humans and nature. Major decisions cannot be based on narrow private considerations. The technique required to produce and distribute social product around the world is so complex and interrelated that every decision as a matter of course must take the aim and who it serves into consideration.

The decision-making process which serves the aim of squeezing maximum private profit out of socialized conditions cannot continue. The practice collides with the reality such as the production of nuclear energy without considering and working through what to do with nuclear waste and where to situate nuclear plants. The aim and forms of control of the economy must be modernized so that all features of production and distribution are taken into account based on what serves the people, society and Mother Earth and affirm the right of the people to set the direction of the economy themselves.

All major decisions in the economy and politics must be public and social. These secret shenanigans of a former Prime Minister should be considered criminal. Positions of influence based on private wealth and privilege must be abolished. The actions as described in the emails and comments of the people involved in this conspiracy to import and bury radioactive waste reveal a ruling elite that are incapable of even discerning right from wrong, autocracy from democracy, science from self-serving obscurantism, and principles from opportunism. They expose the liberal democratic institutions and thinking as in a state of decay and corruption that must be swept away with the new.

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