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Pondering Our Energy Future

Regional News This Week

On this beautiful warm August afternoon, I am immensely enjoying this summery weather in the shade of my backyard and a welcome breeze. I know it's hot in the sun... the kind of day children run through sprinklers, and play in backyard pools, and campers enjoy the many fabulous lakes and rivers which are so abundant in Ontario. There's no air conditioning on in the house, and the windows are wide open. The temperature inside is only 26 degrees. In fact we have only used the air conditioning three times this summer... on those days when the humidex was high and it felt like 40 degrees. Energy is a precious resource and we have to use it wisely. It is not a hardship, but a responsibility.

We are ordinary folk and we know our ecological footprint is still larger than it should be. We are trying to change habits... do our part... reuse bags, use CFL lightbulbs, drive an efficient car, use no pesticides. These changes are easy and many people are also doing their part.

But I know that elsewhere, in our malls, and offices, restaurants and donut shops, air conditioners are running full tilt... even on this beautiful day. Lights are on even in vacant rooms. People in their workplaces are wearing sweaters to keep off the chill of the air conditioning. It's the way so many buildings are designed today... windows that do not open, rooms without windows at all. I recall a day when many stores would open their doors wide as customers came and went and everyone enjoyed the fresh air of summer! Many people prefer to sit out on the outdoor patios of restaurants rather than experience the "cold" inside. Something is wrong with this picture! We have an energy crisis... yes the government says "we need to keep the lights on"... but do we really need to leave on so many? When will conservation be taken seriously as an alternative to expensive mega-projects such as Nuclear Power Plants? If California can save 12,000 megawatts of power through conservation measures, so can Ontario. That's as much power as is produced by two or three Nuclear Power plants.

Last month an earthquake in Japan rattled the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant resulting in at least 50 problems at the plant including a fire, the leakage of 1200 litres of water containing radioactive materials into the Sea of Japan. Also 100 drums of radioactive waste fell over causing lids of the drums to open. One of the articles stated that the people in the city are very concerned... one resident stated that he wished the plant was not there... now they can only hope the government can keep them safe. Accidents at two German nuclear power plants in June, prompted the Environment Minister of Germany to call for an early shutdown of all aging reactors (Spectator July 19/07)

Closer to home, recent problems at the Pickering Plant, including a small leak, have resulted in more concerns about safety and reliability. (Toronto Star, July 19/07). Uranium producer Cameco Corp. has suspended operations at its Port Hope processing plant after uranium and chemicals were found in soil at the facility (Canadian Press, July 20th /07)

All these incidents are a grave reminder that nuclear power is neither clean, nor safe, nor the reliable and affordable option that proponents would have us believe.

Some people may believe that the likelihood of a seismic event in the Great Lakes region is unlikely. Well, think again. In fact, with global warming the likelihood of extreme weather events is very probable. According to John Bowlby, a geologist who spoke at the Energy Generation and the Environment Symposium in Jarvis on June 19th, "there are many earthquakes known in this area and in surrounding areas. A preliminary search of the National Earthquake Database shows that there are more than 275 events reported from within 250 km of here. This is public information and is readily available." For more information on John Bowlbys report go to www.energyquest4nanticoke.ca .

It's time to look at the reality of the risks involved in this form of energy generation. This is not alarmist... it is real. The people of Kashiwazaki wish the nuclear power plant was never built there... but we have a choice. We have the capacity today through serious conservation efforts and renewable energy technologies that already exist to meet all our energy needs. We just need the political will to stop subsidizing inefficient and costly mega- projects and start diverting our financial resources towards development of clean renewable energy projects, local generation and conservation efforts.

Two weeks ago our little granddaughter entered the world and took her first breath... and I ask what kind of world we are going to leave to her. We have reached the crossroads and the path we choose today will determine what kind of world we leave to these innocent ones. There is an old native philosophy "We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children". Wiser words were never spoken.

Janet Fraser, Cayuga, ON

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