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Going nuclear is a bad bet;

The Kingston Whig-Standard: Letters to the Editor - Monday, June 23, 2008

Yelda Miedema, Simcoe Island

Premier Dalton McGuinty's plan to increase Ontario's dependency on nuclear power smacks of the actions of an inveterate gambler poised to roll the dice one last time for that elusive "big score." Why else would he bet the farm on a technology that could bankrupt the entire country in the event of a single catastrophic accident?

The minimum bid to get into McGuinty's high-stakes game, $45 billion, could easily top a mind-boggling $135 billion given the nuclear industry's history of at least tripling initial cost projections.

But what makes the optics of McGuinty's gamble especially egregious is that he is rolling the dice on the health of unsuspecting Ontarians, since he is betting that a Chernobyltype explosion will not occur on his watch.

Since investing in conservation creates seven times more jobs, causes a four-times-greater reduction in greenhouse gases and conserves seven times more electricity than his nukes will ever produce, Ontarians should ask their premier some tough questions.

For example, if nuclear power is such a "sure thing," why have investors avoided it like the plague for the past 30 years?

Why did McGuinty choose to announce his plan to the highly secretive Bilderberg Group rather than to the people of Ontario who will foot the bill for his roll of the dice? Unless it was to assure these well-heeled high rollers that this nuclear pie is so enormous that everyone will get a piece of the action?

Why has McGuinty exempted his new nukes from those pesky environmental assessments unless it was to avoid the inevitable findings that the hazards of nuclear power far outweigh its benefits?

And what about the odds of a reactor meltdown? Two of the world's 439 operating nuclear reactors have already experienced a meltdown, a fact that makes a mockery of the industry's claim of only one in 100 000 years of operation.

Even more worrisome are the 22 major accidents that have occurred since Chernobyl, many of which have released cancer-causing isotopes into the air we breathe and the water we drink. There have been seven major nuclear incidents in Ontario alone, including, most recently, this May when highly toxic arsenic and uranium haxafluoride leaked from Cameco's nuclear waste storage site into the groundwater in Port Hope.

If nuclear power plants are as safe as the experts claim, why do insurance companies refuse to underwrite their liability? What do they know that McGuinty is not sharing with Ontarians? Could it be that the damage from just a single nuclear catastrophe is so enormous that it would bankrupt the entire industry? Is that why the government of Canada enacted the Nuclear Liability Act in 1974, which exempts the nuclear industry from all but token liability? The data from Chernobyl certainly supports that hypothesis.

The effect of the Nuclear Liability Act, incidentally, was to make Canadian taxpayers the "insurers of last resort," since it is you and I who will pay the bills in the event of a catastrophic nuclear accident -and they will be enormous.

More than 371,000 people were evacuated from within Chernobyl's 37- kilometre "exclusion zone." and damage estimates range to an astronomical $235 billion.

An explosion at Pickering would render most of the Greater Toronto Area a nuclear wasteland and would necessitate the immediate evacuation of between three and four million people, 10 times the number displaced by Chernobyl. A staggering 10 per cent of the population of Canada would require new housing, new jobs, new hospitals, etc.

The cost of a nuclear explosion at Pickering could run as high as $3 trillion, nearly three times Canada's gross domestic product. It could literally bankrupt the entire country. That is the "inconvenient truth" about nuclear energy that the insurance industry has known all along, and the "inconvenient truth" that Ontarians will never hear from their premier's lips, since he knows it would "nuke" his misguided gamble to build more nukes.

 

Let's follow Germany's example: Eleanor Archer, Westport

It distresses me that Ontario is headed toward an increasingly nuclear-powered future. Nuclear power is not green. Uranium mining releases toxic effluent into waterways and leaves behind highly dangerous tailings that remain radioactive for centuries. A great deal of energy is required to mine, separate and process the uranium extracted.

The building of nuclear power plants requires enor mous amounts of cement, and it is generally acknowledged that producing cement creates a lot of greenhouse gases. These plants release enormous amounts of heat. Lake Ontario water is used as a coolant. There is also the radioactive waste that is produced. The latest scenario is to seal it in containers and bury it in deep pits. This has yet to be done anywhere in the world.

It is worth noting that Areva, one of the companies that will submit a bid to build Ontario's new reactor, is two years behind schedule and incurring huge overruns on the construction of a new power generator in Finland. There have been problems with the quality of the cement and the metal used. Areva has also run into problems with the cement in the construction of a nuclear generator in France. And Atomic Energy Canada Limited has finally shelved its Maple reactor project because it couldn't solve the technical problems.

The suggestion is that whichever company wins the Ontario contract, the government will have to pay at least some of any cost overruns incurred.

TheWhigstory "New nuclear reactors to be built near Toronto" (June 17) quotes the provincial energy minister as saying in reference to the various bids: "They will give us firm costs on reasonable parts of the project. There will be opportunities for change where no reasonable person could expect to have anticipated that change."

We are being put on notice. The more than $600 million in cost overruns at the Bruce project doesn't inspire confidence.

My biggest concern is for what we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren. Is it not enough that we have depleted the ozone layer?

There are alternatives to nuclear power. Germany has put more renewable power on its grid than our fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable power generation combined. It has built a thriving industry that employs 230,000 people. The Germans have decided to go nuclear-free and carbon-free.

To move to a sustainable future, we need political vision. Let's find out how Germany is doing it. I want energy that offers my grandchildren a healthy and sustainable future.

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