To The Ottawa Citizen (published 99/03/20) :

1999 March 15

To the Editor, The Ottawa Citizen:

The anti-nuclear community confuses me by crying foul over AECL's efforts to communicate with young people ("Nuclear agency targets kids", 1999 March 14). I'm sure everyone agrees that increased communication is a good thing, and that nuclear power is a vastly misunderstood subject across all demographic groups. I'm equally sure that nobody thinks young people should be sheltered from these increased communication efforts.

Who, then, does the anti-nuclear camp think will provide the positive story on nuclear power, if not AECL, the major nuclear proponent in Canada? Surely they don't delude themselves that their own websites and publications offer balanced points of view (at least one high-profile anti-nuclear spokesman, Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, is proud to claim otherwise in response to my direct questioning on this subject). More to the point, if the weight of scientific inquiry is on the side of nuclear power, as it undoubtedly is, should not a scientific agency, like AECL, ensure that this information enters the debate?

Clearly, today's youth represent a valid constituency for improved communication from the nuclear industry. Inquisitive and open-minded, they are tomorrow's decision-makers. Roughly two-thirds the questions I receive to my own nuclear information website ( are from students seeking help on energy-related projects. Nuclear power is a clean and safe alternative to fossil fuels, and they are not hearing this side of the story from either the media or the self-declared environmentalist groups.

Moreover, many of the thousands of lung-related deaths avoided each year by burning uranium instead of coal, would have been of young people. Our youth likewise account for millions of lives saved each year through nuclear medicine and radiation cancer therapy -- technologies directly attributable to the existence of a nuclear industry.

So AECL chooses to show kids playing in a park before a CANDU containment building on the cover of its annual report. The imagery is powerful -- almost as powerful as the skulls and mushroom clouds that anti-nuclear groups choose to superimpose over CANDU containment buildings in their publicity items. Everyone has a story to tell.


Jeremy Whitlock