Go to CNF homepage
The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the October 2015 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.37, No.3.

Class of 1987

by Jeremy Whitlock

Why so glum, Nuclear?

I don't know why I come to these things...

Oh come on - reunions are fun! Chance to catch up, see who's been more successful than you...

Um, that would be everyone.

Not that again Nuclear. Look, in 1987 you were named along with all these guys as one of Canada's Top Ten Achievements of the first century of Canadian engineering. Nobody can take that away. Who cares what the others are up to today?

Did you know that the 70thanniversary of Canada's first reactor, ZEEP, came and went this year - and nobody cared. Not a word in the national media. Second country to control nuclear fission! That should mean something.

It does... it does... it just doesn't sell papers. Energy is... well... sort of a background infrastructure item, and especially nuclear energy. Albeit a $6 billion/year background infrastructure item...

Oh yeah? Look at Tar Sands over there. $60 billion/year... over half a million jobs. Look at his entourage - the fawning sycophants. Now THAT'S what a Top Ten Engineering Achievement looks like.

Lawyers and spin doctors my friend - you don't want to be him today. Just keep quietly making clean energy and you'll be fine.

You mean like High-Voltage Transmission over there? Look at the aura around him - he's got it made. That's a $30 billion/year industry in sales alone.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall - remember the 1998 ice storm in Quebec?

Oh, and here comes Microwave Telecommunications, arm in arm with Satellite Communications - those two must be worth $100 billion/year combined. Smug jerks.

Now now. You can't fault those two lads for being popular. And look, as cool as those technologies are today, who really remembers the actual "top ten engineering achievement" - the Alouette satellite and Canada being the third country into space?

Hey I don't mind people forgetting about ZEEP or NPD either - but is it too much to expect the media to bring these world-class achievements to the pubilc's attention now and then - like say a 70th anniversary..?

Well, it's just not as sexy as a satellite...

Or a train - there goes Transcontinental Railroad, still a $12 billion/year concern today. Or an aircraft - the Beaver, $24 billion/year for aerospace today. Or Mr. Bombardier's Snowmobile - there's a $7 billion/year sexy industry right there. Look at those three - they know that any Canadian asked to pick three Top Ten Achievements today would probably still name them.

Okay, well how about St. Lawrence Seaway over there? Talk about a background infrastructure item. $60 billion/year in commerce and who spares one ragged thought about him? And look who's walking in behind him - Synthetic Rubber! Nobody even sees him - they think he's Tar Sands' chauffeur. A $3 billion/year business, absolutely vital to the transportation industry, and look at him shuffling anonymously behind the punch bowl.

Hm, okay, so I'm not the most invisible of the Top Ten Engineering Achievements...

Exactly! And occasionally, when something really bad happens, why you're the most visible and most talked-about achievement of the bunch. In fact, maybe that's a strategy you could consider: next time you're looking for attention, why not spring a leak somewhere, or recycle a steam generator or something - and when the spotlight's glare is upon you, tell them about ZEEP and the good ol' days.

Now you're making fun of me.

Only as necessary. Hey look, they're taking a photograph of the ten of you. Why don't you go stand in the back behind Tar Sands, and for gosh sakes, smile!

I really hate these things...

Discussion welcome.

©2015 Jeremy Whitlock

[Back to

The Canadian Nuclear FAQ]