BE AWARE OF THE DANGERS Doris Marcellus, Brantford Friday, June 29, 2007

Should we not be asking a great many more questions than those posed in Tuesday's editorial "Waste not, want not," regarding nuclear energy?

There are those appealing messages on TV from the Canadian nuclear Association telling us that nuclear power is safe, clean and a utopian technology. (Does anyone remember, not so long ago, being urged to "Live better electrically?")

The chair of the Canadian nuclear Association, the World Association of nuclear Operators and CEO of Bruce Power are one and the same, Duncan Hawthorne. Information received is so often notable for what it doesn't say, rather than what it reveals.

Let's remember the danger of nuclear generating plants lies in the possible accidental release of deadly radioactivity into the air and in the disposal of radioactive wastes and thermal pollution from the millions of gallons of water used to cool the reactor coils. A typical 1,000 megawatt, pressurized water reactor takes in 20,000 gallons of water per minute for cooling and, after circulating it through a 50-mile maze of pipes, returns 5,000 gallons per minute to the same body of water. The remainder is released into the atmosphere as vapor.

In October 1957, there was a fire at Windscale, U.K., and in 1966 the Enrico Fermi Power Plant near Detroit ran wild and began a near runaway chain reaction. There was a partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island in March 1979 and a critical incident at Buenos Aires in September 1983.

In April 1986 came the Chernobyl disaster (400 times more potent than the Hiroshima bomb). Thousands died, hundreds of thousands more have, or will, develop cancer and an area covering much of Belarus and parts of Ukraine and Russia remain heavily contaminated. Its effects are being seen in children born today and since the majority of the reactor's fuel is still intact and active, the threat is far from over and radioactive seepage has been detected in groundwater. In November 1989, there was a near meltdown at Greifswald, East Germany and in March 1993 a turbine fire at Narora, Uttar Pradesh, India.

In 1997 it was discovered that the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y., had leaked plumes of tritium and Cobalt-60 for nearly 12 years. There was a near-meltdown at Davis-Besse on the shores of Lake Erie in March 2002 and a radioactive leak at Forsmark, Sweden, in June 2005.

Since the Chernobyl disaster, there have been at least 22 major accidents at nuclear power stations, at which 15 involved release. Of these, two came close to meltdown. Approximately 75 per cent of installed nuclear power capacity in Europe is expected to be retired by 2030.

A complete life cycle analysis of the nuclear process chain (mining, transport, operation, storage and decommissioning) shows the average reactor produces 20 to 40 per cent of the CO2 of a typical gas-fired power plant. Greenhouse gases, such as HFC and sulphur hexafluoride SF6, are also produced. nuclear power plants, although they may not directly emit climate damaging carbon dioxide, do employ intensive industries dependent on fossil fuel - uranium mining, enrichment and transport, the construction and decommissioning of facilities and the storage of radioactive wastes. The average nuclear power station produces between 20 and 30 tons of used nuclear fuel each year, globally, not including military or medical research. Health Canada and Environment Canada have found effluent from uranium mines and mills to be "toxic" for the purposes of the Canadian Environmental Act.

The nuclear revolution will grind to a sudden halt, like oil, when uranium has been mined out. It is estimated that will be in 30 to 40 years at the present rate of consumption. Perhaps we should note that world prices for uranium have increased more than six-fold since 2001 and the Financial Post recently predicted the average price of uranium will almost double this year and likely further increase in 2008. Will we be able to afford the electricity it generates?

Let's become an informed community and find out all we can regarding nuclear power so we can weigh its benefits against its problems, keeping in mind our descendants will be coping with nuclear waste for thousands of years for reasons of safety, health, environment and security.

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