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[cdn-nucl-l] CNA letter to Ottawa Citizen regarding anti-nuclear opinion piece
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Editor's note: the following is the full text of a letter to the editor sent
to the Ottawa Citizen which the newspaper declined to print.
August 21, 2003
Letter to the Editor:
In his eagerness to discredit Canadian nuclear technology, Citizen reporter
Paul McKay (August 21, page 1) makes so many scientific and technical errors
in his opinion piece that it is difficult to know where to start.
In his interest in building an anti-CANDU case, Mr. McKay comments on the
shutdown of Ontario's nuclear reactors by gadolinium injection. Gadolinium
is used to ensure the shutdown of a nuclear reactor under any circumstances.
It seems that Mr. McKay is now criticising nuclear reactors for having a
second shutdown system to ensure public safety under any emergency
conditions. I am confused by his criticism: are nuclear power plants too
safe, or not safe enough? CANDU reactors are the only nuclear reactors in
the world to have two dedicated emergency shutdown systems rather than just
one. This feature alone helps make CANDU reactors the safest in the world.
Would Mr. McKay prefer to trade off safety for personal convenience?
Mr McKay also ignored the fact that any nuclear plants which shut down
completely were going to be out of service from the xenon effect. Xenon
exists in nuclear fuel after prolonged periods of operation. After a
shutdown, it prevents restart of a reactor for several days until the xenon
has decayed away. This is a condition which affects all reactors, not just
Mr. McKay also got wrong which units remained operating and which shut down.
For the record, Darlington Unit 3 and Bruce B Units 5, 7 and 8 remained
operating throughout the blackout period. It was precisely the availability
of some nuclear power along with other sources that allowed Ontario's lights
to start coming back on Friday as soon as they did.
Mr. McKay asserted that "the four Bruce A reactors will likely never be
restored to service". How quickly events disprove judgement from ignorance.
Bruce Power received permission to restart Bruce A Unit 4 on Tuesday, August
19. First power to the grid can be expected in about two weeks after a
series of safety and operating system tests with full power a few weeks
after that. Unit 3 will follow Unit 4 into service about one month later,
adding 1500 MW to Ontario's electricity grid.
Mr. McKay states that Ontario faces a shortage of power because of future
maintenance on its nuclear plants and commitments to close coal-fired
plants. We agree that Ontario faces a potential shortage, but rather than
offering solutions, Mr. McKay offers only an error-riddled opinion piece
(rather than a fact-based news report) embarrassing to the front page of
Ottawa's leading newspaper. It is to be expected; Mr. McKay offered no
useful solutions as an advisor to a former Ontario government. Today,
citizens of Ontario can no longer afford to indulge in the sort of
anti-nuclear rhetoric thinly disguised as a news article. It is precisely by
indulging in Mr. McKay's line of thinking that has got us into this position
in the first place.
Nuclear energy provides nearly half of Ontario's electricity, and it is
essential that it continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As
electricity demand rises in Canada, we will need all forms of electricity
generation, particularly including nuclear power, which provides 25 per cent
of electricity in the OECD nations without emitting greenhouse gases or
Colin G. Hunt
Director of Research and Publications
Canadian Nuclear Association