Like the tobacco companies of yore, the nuclear establishment is currently aggressively marketing its dubious products. Most recently, the industry has been bombarding the public with ads to the effect that nuclear energy is clean, safe and environmentally friendly; depicting it as an important tool in dealing with climate change and global warming. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This paper summarizes the downside of expanding nuclear power, which requires processes which cause noxious emissions as well as highly irradiated toxic fuel waste, uses non-renewable and ever more costly uranium deposits with increasing amounts of energy inputs, emits radioactive tritium into the air and water, contributes greatly to the Canadian national debt, is the basis for nuclear weapons proliferation, and is a desirable target for terrorism. It is a technology that must have an impossible-to-achieve perfect record of zero tolerance for serious accidents over an entire reactor life cycle, as there is no safe level of ionizing radiation.
Yes, nuclear energy does boil water which is converted to electricity, that is when not in a shut- down state for frequent maintenance. Yes, there are much safer, cheaper and environmentally friendly alternatives. Yes, our politicians are idiots if they pursue the nuclear option.
Please feel free to use this commentary and the material below to help prevent nuclear expansion and to promote nuclear phase-out along with a rapid increase in safe renewable energy alternatives, conservation and efficiency.
Did you know that nuclear energy is responsible for the release of large quantities of greenhouse gasses and other noxious emissions?
According to a December 14, 2006 report by the Pembina Institute, no other energy source combines the generation of as wide a range of conventional pollutants and waste streams-including heavy metals, smog-and acid-rain precursors and greenhouse gases. It notes that "...total greenhouse gas emissions associated with uranium mining, milling, refining, conversion and fuel fabrication in Canada are estimated at between 240,000 and 366,000 tonnes of CO2 per year."
Did you know that harmful emissions from the nuclear industry will continue to increase as supplies of rich uranium ore decrease?
According to scientists Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Bartlett Smith, "...at the present rate of use, worldwide supplies of rich uranium ore will soon become exhausted, perhaps within the next decade. Nuclear power stations of the future will have to rely on second-grade ore, which requires huge amounts of conventional energy to refine it. For each ton of poor-quality uranium, some 5000 tons of granite that contain it will have to be mined, milled and then disposed of. This could rise to 10,000 tons if the quality deteriorates further. At some point, and it could happen soon, the nuclear industry will be emitting as much carbon dioxide from mining and treating its ore as it saves from the so-called clean power it produces thanks to nuclear fission." The researchers estimate that "The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much carbon dioxide emission as gas-fired electricity production."
Did you know that nuclear power production could well go into energy deficit as rich ore quantities are consumed?
According to Energy writer David Fleming in Prospect magazine, "...it would be putting more energy into the process than it could extract from it. Its contribution to meeting the world's energy needs would become negative! The so-called reliability of nuclear power, which its proponents enthuse over, would therefore rest on the growing use of fossil fuels rather than their replacement."
Did you know that nuclear reactors routinely emit other noxious substances, one of the worst of which is radioactive tritium into the environment?
According to Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, "Tritium poses an ever-present radiological hazard to CANDU (reactor) workers. It is also an environmental contaminant which pollutes the drinking water of many communities situated near CANDU reactors. In addition, atmospheric emissions of tritium are readily inhaled - and also absorbed directly through the skin - by residents living near CANDU reactors."
Did you know that you, the taxpayer, are footing much of the bill and incurring much of the national debt, for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd's (AECL's) nuclear expansion?
According to a recent Energy Probe study, federal subsidies to AECL since its inception in 1952 amount to $74.9 billion of today's (2006) Federal Government debt (about 12 per cent of the entire outstanding amount).
Did you know that no acceptable solution for the permanent disposition of irradiated reactor fuel waste as yet exists in Canada?
According to the Canadian federal environmental assessment panel (Seaborn) report released in March, 1998 after an eight year intensive public process "... the (AECL) concept in its current form for deep geologic disposal does not have broad public support, and does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada's approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes."
Did you know that Canada's nuclear industry-based Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO, in November, 2005, after a three year study, continued to endorse the permanent underground burial of irradiated nuclear fuel wastes?
According to Elizabeth May, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada and currently leader of the Green Party of Canada, "...the NWMO has taken its mandate and skewed it to allow them to make decisions that are industry-biased, and not based on health, safety and security measures."
Did you know that if all of Canada's current nuclear waste is transported to a centralized location for storage or permanent burial, shipments by rail, highway and waterway, would be continuous, and over many years, possibly decades?
According to Nuclear Waste Watch, ( a network of thirty environmental, social and other groups across Canada) "the potential recipient and transport route communities should all have veto power, and should receive funding from proponents for independent research and community education."
Concerns expressed by many groups opposed to nuclear waste transportation include property value losses along the transportation corridor, the routine radiation exposure during handling and transit, worst case scenario radiation exposure, health and environmental costs, and more potential for accidents and terrorist acts resulting from greater shipment frequency and duration of shipments.
Did you know that no safe level of ionizing radiation exists?
According to a 2005 report of a US National Academy of Sciences panel (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation-BEIR VII), investigating the dangers of low energy, low-dose ionizing radiation, "..it is unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers... Further, there are extensive data on radiation-induced transmissible mutations in mice and other organisms. There is therefore no reason to believe that humans would be immune to this sort of harm."
Did you know that terrorists could use nuclear reactors and nuclear waste as weapons of mass destruction?
According to journalist Jeffrey St. Clair, shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., it was widely reported that al-Qaeda had given serious consideration to crashing commercial aircraft into several nuclear plants on that day. In his September 14, 2002 Counterpunch article (The Fire Next Time), he reports that al-Qaeda operatives Ramzi bin al-Shaibah and Khaled al-Sheikh Mohammad told Al-Jazeera interviewer Yosri Fouda, that future attacks on Western nuclear facilities could not be ruled out.
But the real Achille's heel at a nuclear plants is the adjacent spent fuel facility, which contains major concentrations of highly radioactive material. They lack the heavy duty containment safeguard provided for the reactor, and could be considered "sitting ducks" for disastrous terror attacks. Large explosions, along with major fire resulting in radioactive release from spent fuel would have serious health, social and economic consequences for people in the surrounding geographical area. It should be noted that many of our nuclear facilities are in close proximity to the Great Lakes. Any ecological disaster resulting from terrorism could affect water quality in both Canada and the United States.
Did you know that more nuclear reactors can lead directly to greater nuclear weapons proliferation?
According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, as a result of the projected "...renaissance of the nuclear power industry, twenty-five countries and consortia will have access over a period of two decades to Generation IV reactors fueled by plutonium." In her book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, Dr. Caldicott reminds us that "Canada supplied India with a CIRUS heavy water reactor for making nuclear energy. . . It was this reactor that gave India the plutonium it used in its first 1974 nuclear weapons test."