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
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
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.