We need to know nuclear power is absolutely safe
The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
How do you feel about nuclear power generation now?
Are you comfortable knowing in Southern Ontario there are three nuclear power plants that you could drive to in half a day? A cloud floating overhead I’m sure could make the trip much quicker.
Bruce, Darlington and Pickering, with the latter being one of the largest in the world, is closest to Canada’s most-populated area.
I don’t want to spread fear and panic, and dump on the nuclear power industry. There is no shortage of experts who will tell you it is the safest and most efficient way to produce electricity in this province when you weigh all the variables.
Clearly, plenty agree as nuclear power makes up more than 50 per cent of Ontario’s grid, and both the Liberals and Conservatives have robust plans for expanding the industry. It’s perhaps the only thing they agree on in the energy file.
My question is, how do you decipher the truth when another soapbox politician starts spouting how their energy plan is the most effective, affordable and safe. We have all experienced the politics and higher prices for electricity in the last few years.
Now we’re asking this same group to ensure us that what has happened in Japan cannot possibly happen here. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.
Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Bruce Power, said on CHML that Japan is the most “over engineered” when it comes to nuclear power simply because it is within the most active earthquake zone in the world. With 54 nuclear plants, it has to be, as power options are few on the island.
Experts are also quick to point out what happened in Japan can’t happen here due to simple geographics. They’ll point out Japan’s reactors withstood the 8.9-Richter-scale earthquake and operated as they should. It was the subsequent tsunami that washed out the cooling systems which has lead Japan to where it is now.
How can you be on an island surrounded by water in an earthquake zone referred to as the Ring of Fire and not think of a tsunami? When you’re dealing with something as volatile as nuclear energy it’s not about probability, it’s about possibility.
I don’t think Ontarians are worried about a tsunami. But how about a terrorist attack? It sounds far fetched but so did flying two planes into the World Trade Center almost 10 years ago.
I asked that question of Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who represents the Pickering plant riding and has been reassuring residents about a leak of radioactive water at the reactor site last week. What would happen if someone plowed a plane right into the plant?
He suggested taking a “tour of the facility,” and is amazed at the high level of security at the plant saying, “it’s like an armed camp.”
But what about a jet and similar attack like 9/11?
There is “eight feet of concrete encasing the reactor,” McTeague said, but “those who want to do harm will always find the weakest link to attack.”
I know the MP is correct in his statement, but we live in a different world now, and when it comes to nuclear energy we have to plan for everything, not just the likely.
It’s not about the event that takes out the nuclear power plant. It’s about surviving what happens after, when rescue and recovery is hampered by radioactivity.
What is essential in moving forward is we thoroughly investigate what happened in Japan, and plan for the unexpected. Most importantly, we must demand our government and the nuclear industry are transparent with the public when it comes to nuclear policy, safety and a comprehensive emergency plan.
It was thought Japan had done all that, but clearly there is more work to be done.
Our hearts and hands go out to them.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays noon to 3 p.m. on News/Talk 900CHML. ScottThompsonTalk.com