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[cdn-nucl-l] letters in Financial Post March 29 re. AECL subsidies
I read with disappointment and concern Tom Adams' lopsided attack on
Canada's nuclear industry (Last Call for AECL Subsidies, March 20).
Disappointment because of the lack of balance in the article. Concern
because these sentiments had misguidedly been connected to me.
Mr. Adams notes that there is currently a review ongoing for Atomic
Energy of Canada Ltd. This is hardly news or newsworthy. The government
of Canada periodically reviews its own services, agencies and programs.
As for my alleged "skepticism" about AECL's business case, I would say
that good governance and due diligence about the way we invest
Canadians' tax dollars are not the same as skepticism.
Mr. Adams suggests that the world is abandoning nuclear power. In fact,
nuclear energy generates 14% of Canada's electricity and 16% per cent of
the world's electricity. There are 438 nuclear power plants operating in
the world today, and 32 countries rely on nuclear power plants for a
quarter of their total electricity needs.
Mr. Adams reports that the federal government has invested $19-billion
in the nuclear industry between 1947 and 1994. In fact, the government
of Canada has invested about $6-billion in nuclear R&D since 1952. This
investment has helped create a technologically sophisticated industry
consisting of more than 150 companies employing tens of thousands of
well paid, high tech workers.
Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa.
Ontario Hydro did not "pull the plug" on seven reactors. Mr. Adams is
surely aware that Ontario Power Generation is, in fact, engaged in
restarting four reactors at Pickering, and Bruce Power is planning to
restart at least two of the reactors at Bruce. Hardly a pull-out as Mr.
The industry cares very much what the cost of nuclear power is. That is
precisely why the above-mentioned reactors are being restarted. Quite
simply, the electricity they provide is cheaper and cleaner than that of
The unpalatable fact that Mr. Adams is attempting to avoid is that
nuclear power means economic electricity supplied without atmospheric
emissions of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides. The
unpalatable fact is that Mr. Adams' recommendations for Ontario's energy
needs mean greater costs and greater pollution, not less.
William Clarke, president, Canadian Nuclear Association
I wish to respond to comments of mine taken out of context and
misrepresented by Energy Probe, in its latest tirade against the nuclear
"Cost" means much more than the dollar value of building a new
electricity plant. It means balancing all negative socio-economic and
environmental impacts against benefits, from start to finish, and making
the best choice among alternative technologies. It does require an open
mind, and certainly leaves no room for the Seventies' "no-nukes"
Since the first CANDU reactor started supplying electricity 40 years
ago, nuclear power in Canada has avoided the emission of over
1.5-billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, and saved something like 10,000
lives, due directly to the displacement of coal plants. By not buying
fuel for these coal plants, the Canadian public investment in nuclear
power has long been paid back, and the returns continue.
Jeremy Whitlock, reactor physicist, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Deep
Tom Adams responds: Canadians enjoy some of the most economical
electricity in the world, but -- Mr. Dhaliwal take note -- not in
Ontario and New Brunswick, the two provinces that rely on nuclear power.
Because nuclear has proven uneconomic, no Canadian utility has ordered a
plant since 1973, when Ontario Hydro ordered Darlington, a plant that
came in 270% over-budget and now produces the highest cost power in the
country. And that's despite federal subsidies to nuclear power of
$19-billion, according to Canada's leading impartial analyst, Lethbridge
University's George Lermer.
Canada's experience is consistent with that of the rest of the
industrialized world. Because nuclear power cannot compete with cheaper
and cleaner forms of electricity, no private company, anywhere in the
world, has ever built a nuclear reactor in which nuclear would be forced
to compete for customers.
In the 1990s, no longer able to support its money-losing nuclear
program, Ontario Hydro shut down eight obsolete reactors. The Canadian
Nuclear Association doesn't like my characterizing that decision as
"pulling the plug" because, with fresh subsidies, Ontario Hydro's
successor partially reversed its decision.
The restart program that the CNA seems so proud of illustrates nuclear
power's uncontrollable costs. Hydro's successor expected the
refurbishment to take four years, and be completed in 2002. The project
is already 90% over-budget and three years behind schedule.
Because nuclear power cannot stand up to economic scrutiny, people like
AECL's Mr. Whitlock employ non-economic factors, a highly subjective
exercise that could justify just about anything. Mr. Whitlock estimates
immense social and environmental costs for fossil fuel emissions, for
example, but ignores the immense environmental and social costs
associated with nuclear wastes and uranium mining, which have lain waste
vast tracts of Canada and uprooted many communities, particularly
northern and aboriginal communities.