Renewable Energy..The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

By Janet Fraser

While cities and small communities in southern Ontario are reeling from the idea, in a recent report by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), that nuclear waste could be coming to southern Ontario, Haldimand County continues to debate the possibility of a nuclear plant in Nanticoke. This could create the very real possibility that Haldimand might indeed become host to Canada's 1.9 million bundles of waste uranium fuel bundles, which are now stored temporarily at Canada's 22 nuclear reactor sites. At a cost of about $24 billion, the waste, (which remains dangerously radioactive for a million years or so) would be buried 1 kilometer deep in a rock mausoleum ('Critics blast new idea to seal nuclear waste', Hamilton Spectator, March 28/07)

I cannot with any clear conscience support an industry, which has unresolved waste management issues, leaving a legacy of thousands of years of radioactive waste. Can anyone today really promise to keep radioactive waste safe for thousands of yearsand at what cost to future generations? Even if there were no other concerns about large capital costs of building nuclear plants, no threats of terrorism, no questions of liability in case of a nuclear accident or leaks (who pays?), I would still question the wisdom of investing more tax dollars (estimated $48 billion or so) into an industry, which would leave to future generations, the problem of how to manage nuclear waste.

Recent claims by members of the Nuclear Industry that they too, are 'Environmentalists' has caused me to question what it is that sets environmental leaders, such as Dr. David Suzuki, apart from the average person. I believe that it is a rare combination of brilliance and wisdom, along with passion and commitment that defines a true environmental leader-an ability to have the foresight to look far into the future, for generations, at the consequences of human activity.

The good news is Dr. David Suzuki is not alone. The most respected environmental organizations besides The David Suzuki Foundation. Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, The Sierra Club of Canada, The Pembina Institute, The Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Sierra Legal Defense, Energy Probe, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and more, have combined their efforts in support of aggressive conservation and renewable energy, over nuclear and coal. Other respected organizations such as RNAO (Registered Nurses Assn. Of Ontario), of which I am a member, have also supported this stand. A visit to these environmental organizations' websites takes you into an exciting world of new ideas and a shift in thinking about our energy future! These organizations, together, represent a coming together of intelligent, innovative thinkers--- an impressive collective of brilliance, wisdom, passion and commitment!

Furthermore, people love it! Everywhere, people are showing enthusiasm about energy savings, wind turbines, solar, geothermal, biomass, and decentralized energy generation. There was an article in the Hamilton Spectator (March 12th) entitled "Catch the wave to generate electricity", about harnessing electricity from the ocean. March 11th there was another article entitled "EU creates Climate Change target" telling how Europe has agreed that 20% of the energy used by the 27 countries will be from renewable sources by 2020, and they will challenge the rest of the world to follow suit. "US government awards $96m in solar contracts" was yet another on March 12th. There is an energy revolution happening and people are talking about it like never before---children in schools, students in universities, parents and grandparents, nurses, teachers, farmers, homebuilders and engineers! Today we have an educated public that is ready to move into the 21st century with new sustainable solutions to our environmental problems.

Some may say we are 'dreamers'. All great ideas and shifts in the way we think begin with a dreamand these dreams are becoming reality in other places.

Ontario can learn a great deal from other countries or states that have taken the lead

California has replaced the need for 12,000 MW through investment in energy efficiency, according to the Sierra Club of Canada. California also has another 6257 MW of renewable energy capacity. (In comparison, Darlington Nuclear Generation Station has a generating capacity of approximately 3524 MW). Ontario lags far behind. Investment in energy conservation can eliminate the need for more nuclear investment if we are up to the challenge. We need much more economic incentives for consumers and business to switch to more energy efficient equipment and upgrades in buildings.

'Solar communities' are sprouting up in several countries including Japan, Germany, Denmark, and yeseven in Canada, in Okotoks Alberta, which boasts the first solar community of it's kind in North America.

In the Navarra region of Northern Spain, 70% of the electricity comes from the wind and the sun. Approximately 100,000 people in Spain are employed in the Green Energy sector, with 4000 new jobs created in Navarra in the last decade. As many people are employed making turbines and solar panels as there are in their automobile industry. ( BBC News, March 9/07)

Portugal has just opened the world's most powerful solar plant and the Prime Minister of Portugal has said he wants 45% of Portugal's power to come from renewable energy by 2010( BBC News, March 28/07)

Some countries, including Germany, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Sweden have chosen to phase out nuclear power. As mentioned previously, the European Union has just committed to a goal of 20% renewable sources by 2020challenging the rest of the world to follow.

A profound shift in the way we use and produce energy will make Ontario a healthier, safer, cleaner and more beautiful place to live, work and play. Are we up for the challenge, Ontario?

Janet Fraser

RR#1 Cayuga, ON

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