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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


To The Beaver ("Canada's History Magazine") regarding an article on the 100th anniversary of Ontario Hydro:

(published in 2006 August/September issue)

To the Editor,
The Beaver:

Jamie Swift and Keith Stewart's piece on the 100th anniversary of Ontario Hydro (April/May 2006) made good reading before lapsing into contemporary editorial. Several jabs are made at nuclear technology, whereas I'm sure that Sir Adam Beck would have been pleased to see this clean, cost-effective, almost limitless source of "public power" pioneered in Ontario as his legacy.

Interestingly, the claim that "cost overruns [of Ontario's reactors] dwarfed those of the Beck station at Niagara" is contradicted by the photo caption claiming that the Beck station cost "four times its original estimate". The poster child for nuclear cost overruns (Darlington, near Toronto) almost doubled its projected cost of $7.5 billion made at the start of construction, and almost tripled an earlier estimate made at the time the gov't committed to the project - hardly a "dwarfing"!

The lesson is that major projects sometimes overspend, often (as with Darlington) due to political factors unrelated to the technology. Sir Adam Beck would agree that what really matters is efficient performance, as intended, for years afterward - the case with both the Niagara and Darlington stations.

The article concludes with a curious statement that "conservation has no physical limit". While this statement is demonstrably false for conservation (the limit is zero), it is effectively true for uranium since it offers thousands of years of energy using advanced reactor technology.

Perhaps the biggest advantage citizens have today, not available in Beck's time, is diversity of options.


Jeremy Whitlock

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