To The Ottawa Citizen :

1998 June 7

To the Editor, The Citizen:

Once again Paul McKay demonstrates that he is unwilling to accept the responsibilities of objectivity expected of his profession. For months he has been using the pages of The Citizen to publish unbalanced anti-nuclear doctrine, and the two articles on Sunday, June 7 are no exception. I wish to respond specifically to the one entitled "Why CANDUs are bomb kits", which is accompanied by a photo of a mushroom cloud.

The following are glaring examples of McKay's shoddy journalism:

  • His opening sentence "The CANDU was originally developed during the Second World War as a means of producing plutonium ... for the U.S. Manhattan Project", is a falsehood. The CANDU reactor was developed two decades after WWII, as a civilian electricity-producing machine. It is not a plutonium production reactor.

  • He describes the CANDU as "a scaled-up version of the NRX [Canada's wartime research reactor], with steam generators added to produce electric power." This, again, is a falsehood. The only similar aspect between CANDU and NRX is their heavy-water moderators; the technologies are completely different.

  • He states that CANDU "produces the highest amount of plutonium per unit of power output of any commercial reactor", while neglecting to add that the plutonium produced in CANDU reactors (or any power reactor) is highly inefficient as a weapons material, and thus no country has pursued this questionable path to building a weapon (not even India, with the world's second largest fleet of heavy-water power reactors).

  • He states that CANDU "produces the highest amount of tritium ... which is an essential ingredient in hydrogen bombs", while neglecting to point out that tritium is routinely made around the world without the help of heavy-water reactors. He is also overstates tritium's significance, since hydrogen bombs do not use supplied tritium for their fusion stage; they utilize a solid material called lithium-deuteride.

  • He states that CANDU's on-line fuelling system makes it a plutonium-production reactor, without offering a word (in his entire article in fact) about the UN's Non-Proliferation Treaty that would make such use of a power reactor virtually impossible; nor does he explain how the slow-moving fuelling system and the act of electricity production itself, both highly incompatible with the needs of plutonium production, could be used in this manner.

  • He describes India's Canadian-designed research reactor as a "CANDU prototype", in a further attempt to link CANDU with weapons production. This statement is an obvious falsehood, as even a cursory reading of public literature reveals.

  • Finally, and most tellingly, McKay quotes a single source of information in his entire article - Norm Rubin of Energy Probe (an anti-nuclear group that McKay has been a member of). He does not mention that Rubin is an anti-nuclear activist, referring to him instead as "a nuclear specialist", and he does not quote any other expert in the article.

This form of propaganda is blatant, and demeaning to The Ottawa Citizen and its readers.


Jeremy Whitlock

[Response by Gordon Edwards, CCNR]