February 21, 2006

No nuclear junk mail please!

Hundreds of people came out to public meetings last week and hundreds more have written often passionate letters to Premier Dalton McGuinty, all with the same message: Don’t squander the best opportunity in a generation to move Ontario toward a renewable electricity future by pouring more public dollars into high-cost, high-risk nuclear plants.

Sadly, the government has chosen to respond by sending all Ontario residents a misleading pamphlet essentially repeating the Ontario Power Authority’s call to build more nuclear generating stations.  Reaching out to every citizen and asking them for their thoughts on this critically important issue is certainly a good idea, but that, disappointingly, is not what the government is doing.  Instead, it is spending more tax dollars to prop up the threadbare myth that nuclear power is safe, clean, reliable, and affordable – the attributes that Premier McGuinty has said any new energy option for Ontario must possess. 

Here’s just a few of the facts that are missing from the pamphlet’s portrayal of Ontario’s electricity situation:

  • The pamphlet states that “we need more electricity” and reproduces the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA’s) projection that electricity demand will grow by 20% by 2020.  Nowhere does it disclose that there is little evidence to support the OPA’s high demand projections, nor does it outline the multitude of policies and programs that could implemented to actually decrease demand for electricity.
  • The pamphlet doesn’t talk about the fact that Ontario is one of the biggest per-capita electricity consumers in the world or discuss the huge benefits that could come from increasing our efficiency and productivity rather than continuing to increase inefficient, subsidized consumption.
  • The pamphlet fails to mention that according to the International Energy Agency, Canadian nuclear reliability for the period 1990 to 2002 has been the worst in the OECD.  The annual utilization rates of Ontario’s nuclear reactors declined from 80% between 1980 and 1983 to 51% in 2003.
  • The pamphlet suggests that nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, but fails to note that due to the poor performance of Ontario’s nuclear reactors, Ontario Power Generation had to increase the output of its dirty coal plants by 120% between 1995 and 2003 to keep the lights on.
  • As a result of Ontario’s heavy dependency on unreliable CANDU nuclear reactors, it took Ontario more than 8 days to fully recover from the August 2003 blackout versus less than 2 days for New York State.

But the biggest eye-popping statement in the piece is this: “The Ontario government’s experience has been that nuclear energy can help to ensure price stability”.  We can only shake our heads and wonder what “price stability” the authors are referring to: the steady increase in electricity costs since our nuclear plants started coming online in the 1970s?  (According to a 1997 Government of Ontario report, Ontario’s electricity prices rose 54% faster than the Consumer Price Index between 1986 and 1996.) Since 1997 the price of electricity has continued to rise due to the shutdown of seven our nuclear reactors and the resulting need to import high-cost coal-fired electricity from the Ohio Valley on smog alert days.

We don’t think this is the kind of information that most Ontarians will find terribly useful.  So we’re asking you to take a simple action:  Download from www.cleanairalliance.org our “No Nuclear Junk Mail Please!” mailbox notice and put it up on your front door or mailbox today.  You can also order bulk copies to distribute in your neighbourhood from our website.  You might also want to drop the Premier a line at Dalton.McGuinty@premier.gov.on.ca or send a letter from our website and ask him to get back to the job of leading Ontario toward a brighter energy future.  Tell the Premier you are looking for real solutions – not advertising.

Please pass this message on to your friends.

Thank you

Jessica Fracassi
Communications & Membership Manager
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
402-625 Church St, Toronto M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-926-1907 ext. 245
Fax: 416-926-1601
Email: info@cleanair.web.ca
Website: www.cleanairalliance.org