To The Ottawa Citizen in response to a letter from the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout on the future of the Canadian nuclear industry:


December 19, 2000

To the Editor, The Ottawa Citizen

Kristen Ostling provides a caustic review of Canada's nuclear fortunes ("Most countries reject nuclear option", Dec. 18) befitting the mandate of her group, the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout; however, she misrepresents the facts and offers little in the way of workable alternatives.

The problem lies partly with the task at hand: when it comes to assessing the future of the global nuclear industry we are all blind men describing an elephant before us. One shouldn't overlook, however, the resurgence of support for nuclear power among the world's governments -- underscored most recently by the European Union's declaration of the technology's necessity in future planning.

The reasons are clean air and efficient operation. As much a Ostling may wish to ignore the fact, nuclear power is a mature technology that produces no pollution, with the best safety record (including Chernobyl) of any competing industry.

This is why countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Finland, the Ukraine, Russia, the Czech Republic, Iran, Pakistan, Romania, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Brazil, and South Africa are expanding their use of nuclear power. It's why France continues to gain much of its electricity from nuclear reactors, why America is seeing an upswing in reactor refurbishment, and why Britain's private sector wants to build new reactors.

It is na´ve to point to the Green influence in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden and claim a world-wide trend -- the Swedish reference is particularly ironic when its struggles with an ill-advised 1980 decision to phase out nuclear power are so widely known.

Ostling is factually incorrect in her statement that Canada's nuclear-waste disposal technology was found to be "scientifically unacceptable" by an Environmental Review Panel. In fact, the 1998 Panel report describes the technology as technically sound, but lacking in "broad public support". The technology to safely dispose of nuclear waste exists.

Ostling misses the point completely when she defers to the David Suzuki Foundation for alternative ideas to nuclear power. Their vision of lifestyle change and renewable technology is utterly irrelevant to the equalization of the quality of life in the developing world. This is where eighty percent of the world's population lives, where two billion people lack reliable access to electricity, and where most of the increase in energy supply and global pollution will take place.

Importantly, Ostling fails to point out that the Suzuki vision, typical of the "anything but nuclear" camp, relies strongly on natural gas to make up the shortfall. The plan to dismantle a mature, efficient technology with a stable fuel supply, and replace it with gas-fired plants emitting 4 million tonnes each of greenhouse gases per year, with a fuel supply already unstable and expensive at current usage rages, is a dismal future I do not want my children and their children to witness.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Whitlock