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Nuclear claims and commercial contradictions

Toby Barrett: June, 2008

http://www.tobybarrett.com/publication/nr/jun08coal-e.html

The signs of summer in Ontario: the sun is shining, the grass is growing and the birds are singing, declared smog-days are beginning to add-up and along with them, the related debate regarding the best route to meeting energy demands while achieving environmental goals begins to heat up once more.

Of course here in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties this debate takes on even greater significance, as local governments, workers, entrepreneurs and residents brace for the new energy reality that the McGuinty Government continues to promise, but fails to deliver. And as we sit under the cloud of coal-closure deadlines and then new deadlines (now slated for 2014?) it is incumbent on all of us to consider the potential and drawbacks of different energy sources that may be counted on in the future to provide power and jobs in this area for years to come.

As I've written in the past, I have worked to ensure that science, research and information is provided to the people of our communities to allow for educated input from those future local energy decisions will affect the most before putting our eggs into any basket.

It was now over a year ago, following a McGuinty announcement for a $40 billion nuclear program for Ontario and the promise of consultation that I wrote the Premier for answers to local energy questions. My correspondence requested that 1. government hold public hearings on the future of electricity generation in our area; and 2. provide a cost comparison between nuclear generation and coal-fired generation that includes carbon capture and clean-air technology. I continue to await a response - or action - on either front.

As I feel it is essential that the people of Haldimand and Norfolk are given the information to influence important energy - and related economic and environmental - decisions for the future I have not stood still while I wait for government to come forward with answers. A year ago, I held an energy symposium in Jarvis - a symposium that included stakeholders representing many perspectives on the generation of energy. Further, I have continued to meet with stakeholders both at Queens Park and at our home offices in Simcoe and Dunnville - while attending, or sending representatives to local energy meetings.

Recently a number of area meetings have again concentrated on the issue of the potential for nuclear energy in Nanticoke - one of the main focuses has been the relative "green"-ness, of nuclear compared to other energy sources. Given some of the claims being made I thought I would take this opportunity to report some recent findings.

Many will recall the ads run by the Canadian Nuclear Association - a $1.7 million ad campaign in fact - touting nuclear as, "clean, reliable and affordable." What many may not recall is the subsequent false advertising complaint filed by environmental, church and health groups submitted to the Competition Bureau amid renewed debate about the nuclear option as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The coalition filing the claim given a number of findings from a report of the Pembina Institute, titled, "Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability."

A Pembina report found that the Canadian nuclear sector produces:

-An estimated 575,000 tonnes of acidic tailings each year from the mining of uranium fuel. These contain a range of acids, long-lived radioactive material, heavy metals and other contaminants.

-Approximately 85,000 waste-fuel bundles annually. As of 2003, 1.7 million radioactive bundles were in storage at reactor sites. It's estimated these wastes will have to be secured for approximately a million years.

-Uranium mining and milling operations are found to be significant sources of releases of sulphur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Releases of NOx, particulate matter (PM) and sulphuric acid arise from refining and conversion activities.

-Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with uranium mining, milling, refining, conversion and fuel fabrication in Canada are estimated at between 240,000 and 366,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Add to this the fact that, Health Canada and Environment Canada have determined that the discharge from nuclear plants meets the criteria to be categorized as toxic under the Canada Environmental Protection Act.

As both the local and provincial energy debate moves forward, I will continue to advocate for comprehensive communication and public consultation. It is incumbent on decision-makers to consider the local economy, environment and the informed wishes of the residents before jumping to conclusions that will impact our own and future generations.

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