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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


To Canadian Geographic regarding its article "Nuclear Resurrection" (May/June 2005):

2005 June 5

To the Editor, Canadian Geographic:

Elaine Dewar's article "Nuclear Resurrection" (May/June 2005) provides an interesting outsider's view of a crucial industry that Canadians know little about, but unfortunately leaves the waters muddier than before she waded in.

Canada's wartime introduction to nuclear energy is fascinating history, but irrelevant to the ebb and flow of the present industry. Today's dynamic is a politicized struggle of economics and environmental realities, and a widespread public apprehension rooted in mushroom-cloud fears and ineffective communication.

Canadians need to know, for example, that this country's nuclear industry makes back its total historic R&D public investment in annual economic activity. Unfortunately, Ms. Dewar quotes, without reference, an anti-nuclear activist's figure of $17.5 billion in public money over five decades, a number that has been inflation-adjusted by a factor of at three and overlooks the "benefit" part of any shrewd investor's cost-benefit analysis.

Active support of a large-scale energy technology with no air emissions is an ethical and necessary role for government, and this is certainly not the kind of "political interference" I am quoted as opposing. Rather, this is a time for concerted action by our leaders.

Most unfortunate is Dewar's cynical conclusion that nuclear technology should be supported, if only to provide the brains to keep nuclear waste from visiting doom upon future generations. This ignores the essence of Canada's geologic nuclear waste technology, which is to isolate the material in perpetuity without institutional intervention. In this we are guided by Nature itself, which, as any frustrated uranium prospector will tell you, has been doing just this with similar material for millions of years


Jeremy Whitlock

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