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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the April 2010 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.31, No.1.

Will the Real Nuclear Renaissance Please Stand Up?

by Jeremy Whitlock

Good evening and welcome to Nuclear Hotstove. On tonight's show - the Nuclear Renaissance: is it real? My first guest has seen the industry through many ups and downs over his four decades in the business, and he's here tonight to talk about the future, or at least the next four decades. Please welcome P.H.T. Stillwater…

Good evening

So, Mr. Stillwater. The Nuclear Renaissance. Is it real?

Absolutely. The world will be knocking at nuclear's door in a big way, within 10-20 years. And nuclear will step up. It's ready to give 110%. Sustainable development, peak oil, climate change, severing the Arab pipeline. You name it, nuclear's ready to get back in the game.

Hm. 10-20 years. It seems to me we were hearing this 10-20 years ago, were we not? I mean, the Eagle Alliance, "America is Ready"… what happened to all that?

America was ready, my friend, but our green friends saw to it that progress was shut down at every turn.

By "green friends"… you of course mean…

You got it: money. The almighty dollar. Nobody wanted to risk one to build a plant. But the market is ready now. America is strong. The market is bringing it.

The "market"? With billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees…

Invested by our shareholders, the people of America. The market is speaking.

And the industry is listening?

You betcha. We're ready to go. In 10-20 years.

Okay then. Well, my next guest thinks sooner than that. Please welcome Garter Alloy. What say you, Mr. Alloy?

Yowza, I say throw some water on me! This renaissance is hot! We're wheels up baby!

All right, so according to you the nuclear renaissance is well underway?

Fifty new-builds underway that is, and over a hundred more over the next ten years. I'm talking nuclear engineering students outnumbering professors again… It's on!

Well let's take a look. Some of those new-builds are actually completion of deferred projects of course, or refurbishments of old reactors. Are we on the cusp, or just a slow ramp?

It's a fast ramp to prosperity and clean air, my friend. Our cusp runneth over. And it's not just the old industry waking up - it's a renaissance. That means "rebirth", you know. New designs, more efficient, more secure, stronger, modular…

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor doesn't seem to be coming out of the womb, as it were. The next generation designs are twenty years from commercialization. If you'll pardon the pun, is talk of a renaissance of new technology just a lot of high-temperature gas at the moment?

Look, this industry has burst out of the gates, and it's saving the world as we speak. China alone will build 20-30 plants in the next 10 years. Add that to a hundred more new-builds elsewhere on the planet.

Is that possible? Can it be sustained?

It's all about the financing, but don't forget it's a different industry now - the cash flow is planet wide. Global credit - how sustainable is that?

Hm, I think we should talk. But not now, because now we're going to hear from Garbled Efforts, President of the Canadian Coalition for Anti-Nuclear Irresponsibility. Mr. Efforts… er… why are you dressed as the Grim Reaper…?

This so-called nuclear renaissance hasn't happened, can't happen and won't happen. It's not a renaissance; it's a reno-SÉANCE. It's a moribund industry pathetically trying to conjure up its dead. The people have spoken, and they don't want deadly nuclear power!

Okay, fascinating stuff. So, the hood and the scythe…

Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for nuclear power.

Great. Now, what about -

Bong, bong, bong …

…Yes, but what about the new-builds already underway? There were none a few years ago, so is that not a renaissance already?

A mere blip. Unsustainable.

What about climate change? I mean, even Michael Douglas, the producer and star of "The China Syndrome", says nukes are needed now.

Climate change, shmimate shmange. Nukes aren't needed. Jane Fonda was the real star of that movie. Bong, bong, bong…

Okay, well that's about all the time we have. Three different views - one a little bit more different than the others I suppose. Join us next time on Nuclear Hotstove, when we ask the burning question: Why is Canada still burning diesel fuel in the arctic?

Discussion welcome.

©2011 Jeremy Whitlock

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