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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the July 2005 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.26, No.2.

Overheard in a Café

by Jeremy Whitlock

I'd like to interview you for a magazine article.

Why me?

Because you're interesting and have a story to tell.

Couldn't find anyone else eh?

Oh I've talked to enough CEOs and VPs. But they're all so gung-ho about nuclear's future. It's sad.

You're looking for a negative story?

Don't be ridiculous, that would be bad journalism. I'm looking for the facts. The facts about nuclear's questionable past and grim future.

Hey where's your tape recorder?

I prefer my own notes. I don't trust technology. Technology is evil.

Excuse me?

Now tell me about your technology.

Nuclear? Okay, well, it all started in World War II…

Where's the science?

Come again?

The science. Where is it? I toured Chalk River yesterday. I didn't see any science.

Did you talk to any scientists?

Of course not. Scientists are shallow and narrow-minded. They don't see the big picture and what's more, they're hopeless at communicating.

Didn't do well in math eh?

The devil's in the details my friend! Now, you were saying how nuclear power was a child of war.

Did I say that?

Sure it's in my notes. Here, have another coffee. So, nuclear needs war to survive. Its fortunes rise when conflict erupts, and sink as it dies down again.

I said that?

No I did. Keep up with me chum.

But what you said is silly. Didn't you prepare for this interview?

Look, I'm the famous journalist here. Don't tell me how to do my job.

I've never heard of you.

That's because you're a scientist. You're shallow and narrow-minded.

Did a scientist jilt you at university or something?

I'm not the one being interviewed, Neuron Boy.

That's "neutron".

Whatever. Now, tell me about nuclear power's grim future.

Okay, well, it's not so grim see. With gas prices uncertain and its supply limited…

Bull! We're swimming in natural gas up in the Mackenzie Valley.

Sure but that's not going to make it past the oil sands. In any case, there's also a compelling environmental argument…

If you overlook the waste. We don't have a clue what to do about the waste.

Actually you should talk to the people out at Whiteshell. You might be surprised at how much we know about the waste.

But Whiteshell's defunct.

You really didn't prepare much for this interview did you.

Hey I've prepared enough. I know all about the industry's rampant subsidization over the years.

Oh, you've been talking to Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

I can't divulge my sources. But I assure you they're diversified.

Ah, Energy Probe too.

Have some more coffee. Okay, so you came to Chalk River ten years ago and found the science gone…

I didn't say that.

And the company on its ass.

What? I didn't say that either.

And you found yourself in an unmanageable, increasingly dangerous black hole that you couldn't escape, that none of us could escape, and you screamed "My God! What have I done!"

Are you okay? Maybe you should lie down.

I've got to get back to Toronto. What kind of a town has one coffee shop anyway?

Discussion welcome.

©2011 Jeremy Whitlock

Elaine Dewar Canadian Geographic
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