March 10, 2006
The headline said it all: “Plan for new nuclear programme approaches meltdown after report.” But it wasn’t talking about the Ontario government’s pending decision on whether or not to re-invest billions in tried-and-failed nuclear power. It was talking about the verdict of the British Sustainable Development Commission on that country’s all-too-familiar proposal to once again place a high-risk bet on nuclear power to meet its future electricity needs.
According to The Independent newspaper, the British Commission found five “major disadvantages” in going nuclear:
- The lack of a long-term strategy for dealing with highly toxic nuclear waste
- Uncertainty over the cost of new nuclear stations and the risk that taxpayers would be left to pick up the tab;
- The danger that going down the nuclear route would lock the UK into a centralized system for distributing energy for the next 50 years;
- The risk a new nuclear program would undermine efforts to improve energy efficiency;
- The threat of terrorist attacks and radiation exposure if other countries with lower safety standards also opt for nuclear.
Unfortunately, the only fundamental difference between the flaws identified in the British plan and the flaws in the Ontario plan are ones of scale and performance: Ontario is considering meeting a larger percentage of its electricity needs with nuclear power, and our current nuclear units have performed even worse than the aging British fleet.
David Suzuki and Paul McKay (author of Electric Empire: The Inside Story of Ontario Hydro) have similarly pointed out just how outdated the Ontario nuclear energy proposal (and its mirror-image British plan) really are. Comparing the centralized nuclear approach to continuing to rely mainly on mainframe computing in 2006, Suzuki and McKay argue that it is the equivalent of ignoring the existence of laptops and Blackberries.
- You can read more about the Sustainable Development Commission report at http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/060306.html
- You can read the David Suzuki-Paul McKay article at
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Communications & Membership Manager
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
402-625 Church St, Toronto M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-926-1907 ext. 245