Local anti-nuclear group raises red flags
Warns of financial, health, environmental costs attached to proposed Peace River-area power plant
Edmonton Journal: Hanneke Brooymans - April 9, 2009
Albertans will face health and financial risks if they allow nuclear power to be built in the province, says a new report released in response to a recent provincial discussion paper.
An anti-nuclear group calling itself Citizens Advocating the Use of Sustainable Energy, or CAUSE, says it started writing its report in January, after suspecting the paper being written for the province would be biased.
The suspicion arose after the expert panel convened by the provincial government refused to see Helen Caldicott, a leading anti-nuclear global spokeswoman and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, said Elena Schacherl, co-chair of CAUSE.
The group was also doubtful about one of the panel members being from the board of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.
CAUSE's report, called Nuclear Power in Alberta: An Alternative Perspective, was written by Heinz-Juergen Peter, who was trained as a nuclear physicist in Germany and now lives in St. Albert.
The report says nuclear power will contaminate the environment through routine releases of radiation into the air and high levels of tritium into our water.
Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen that causes cancer.
The report also says Moody's Investors Service and the Fraser Institute consider the industry a potential liability to taxpayers. Moody's Investors Service estimated it would cost $7.5 billion US to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity from just one new third-generation reactor, or $30 billion US ($37 billion Canadian) for 4,000 megawatts, more than three times as much as Bruce Power's estimate. Bruce Power is the company proposing to build a plant near the town of Peace River.
Water is also a major concern.
"The water for the cooling towers and pond will be piped in from the Peace River and the amount needed will be substantial," the report says. "In one year, the proposed 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power would require 40 times the amount of water used by all residents of Calgary."
But Bruce Power's Peace region manager, Albert Cooper, said the plant would use significantly less than one per cent of the Peace River's low flow.
And he said that when it comes to cost, the company will make sure its estimate is within the budget before they begin construction so the company can produce power at a competitive price.
"We ultimately believe the facts are our friends and we welcome the scrutiny and the questions," Cooper said.
Alberta Energy spokesman Jason Chance said that under the province's electricity market, taxpayers do not fund any form of electricity generation, whether it's hydro, coal or wind. "Private investors have paid for about 5,000 megawatts that are on the grid since the system was restructured," he said.
Schacherl said the issues should be discussed at public meetings throughout the province. But Alberta Energy doesn't intend to do it that way. The plan is to offer online and printed work books and feedback forms to anyone that wants them. It will then hold discussion groups with randomly selected Albertans and environmental, business, and energy representatives. There will also be a public opinion survey.
But Schacherl fails to see how this will allow people to hear from those informed on the industry.
"It certainly looks like they're not prepared to allow all sides of the issue to be heard," she said. "First, shutting out anybody opposed to nuclear from talking to the panel and now having what are really fairly closed meetings."
But Chance said the government is confident its consultation process will be able to get a range of views.
"It's pretty clear that this group has some very strong views on this issue and they've put them forward in this report," Chance said. "And that's exactly what we expected to see through this process. This is part of the dialogue that will happen with Albertans over the next few months."