The "value" of nuclear electricity is indisputable. In Canada it has avoided the release of almost a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere since 1971, along with 10 million tons of acid gases. Its infrastructure produces medical isotopes used in thousands of diagnostic and therapeutic applications daily around the world. Its centerpiece technology, the CANDU reactor, has a global status unparalleled in Canadian industry. Its waste stream is minuscule and confined onsite, with a promise of producing many times more energy if we so desire.

This is the "value" that critics of nuclear power do not want you to know about. Instead, we see it characterized as "value-destroying", for then the benefits can be dismissed as irrelevant, and the investments held to unbalanced scrutiny. We see demands that the four decades of federal R&D funding be converted to current dollars, with no equal demand for the economic benefits over the same four decades. Instead, the "positive" impacts are belittled. This is not objective analysis.

Innuendo abounds. It is touted that the half-life of spent nuclear fuel is in the thousands of years. True enough, but that spent fuel is so compact, so inert, so easily dealt with, that the public risk is easily reduced to well below that which is common with other industries. (And what if a hydro resevoir floods acres of habitat, leaching heavy metals - half-life: infinity - out of the soil?)

It is mentioned that most of the waste from coal stations ends up in "ash bins or baghouses". This is wrong on two counts: First, by weight, since for every ton of ash another ten tons of gases go up the stack. Second, by toxicity, since it is the small fraction of fly ash particulates that escape filtering which lead to lung disease fatalities - about 20 to 100 deaths annually per 1000 MW coal station (Rose et al, 1975). That's between 100 and 400 deaths annually in Ontario attributable to coal power, by my calculation, from direct deposition of waste products in our lungs.

It is implied that CANDU reactors have safety concerns related to the much-publicized accelerated corrosion in feeder piping discovered recently. In fact, discoveries like this are made as a direct result of the safety culture that permeates the industry. They indicate potential trouble years in advance, and the need for current action. Safety of the operating reactor, however, is not affected.

It is implied that nuclear technology is subject to the same accident risks as generic large- scale industry. Quite the opposite, no other industry employs as much "defence-in-depth", through diversity and redundancy of safety systems, as the nuclear industry. As a result, it has a much lower risk than other large industries.

Finally, the worldwide market for CANDU reactors, and the financing thereof, is criticized. It is overlooked that power reactors are not retail items like computers, or even airplanes. They are multi-billion-dollar investments, requiring financing assistance from the uppermost levels of government in each country involved. In a tight market, where deals take years to germinate, where the periods of negotiation span entire terms of office for elected officials in both countries, where price tags involve amounts of money that no country simply has on hand, our CANDU reactor is currently the world-leader, and we should be proud.

It has been said before but it bears repeating: Nuclear power is necessary. Terence Corcoran himself put it quite eloquently back in 1989, as associate editor of The Financial Post: "[The people] want a clean environment, continuing economic growth, and abundant electric power. Sooner or later more will realize that nuclear power offers all of the above". (TFP, 89/01/06, p.11)