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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


To The Peace River Record-Gazette regarding letters from two Grade 8 students:

(published in 2007 Oct 23 edition)

To the Editor,

Opinions on nuclear power were expressed by two Grade 8 students recently, which contained a number of misperceptions that I'd like to address. I appreciate that a lot is said on this topic on the internet, and it is very difficult to sort fact from fiction. Unfortunately, high-profile visits by unqualified anti-nuclear spokespersons to the Peace Country recently have and will continue to muddy the waters.

The 1986 accident at Chernobyl, while tragic, was a lesson in how not to build and operate a nuclear reactor that nobody outside the former USSR. needed to learn: it simply could not have happened in Canada or other western nations. We do design our reactors under the assumption that humans can make mistakes, however, and also that key safety systems can fail: this is the reason for multiple back-up systems, "passively safe" protection that doesn't need human intervention or outside electricity, and a huge "containment building" with 6-ft reinforced concrete and steel walls surrounding everything (I call this the "what-if" building because it's a final barrier against all events). None of this was present at Chernobyl.

The record of reactor safety in Canada is better than any other industry, and that includes the health of workers as well as those living around nuclear stations. There have been numerous studies done of the health of local populations and station employees. No diseases or other abnormalities have been linked to nuclear operation, and no workers have died from radiation exposure, as implied in one of the previous letters. The effect on local communities is, in fact, very positive, due to the hundreds of high-paying jobs created, millions of dollars invested in the community, and all from a large industrial neighbour that isn't polluting the environment.

I was raised near several nuclear reactors, and I currently work and live with my family in the same environment. My qualifications and training allow me significant insight into the safety and ethics of nuclear power, and I am quite certain it is one of the cleanest, safest, and most sustainable technologies on this planet.


Jeremy Whitlock

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