Nuclear debate continues

National Post
May 14, 2001

Nuclear relapse

Last time I looked 50% was not “a clear majority,” but some clever skewing of the recent Associated Press poll on energy has got the spin doctors convincing the world the U.S. is on a nuclear revival.

While 50% supported nuclear power, only a little over half of those same supporters (56%) were willing to accept a nuclear plant within 10 miles of their home. This means approximately 25% of all those polled, a far cry from a clear majority.

Better to call it relapse than revival. In the 1950s, nuclear power proponents adopted the now infamous promise that it would provide electricity “too cheap to meter.” President Nixon even predicted a thousand U.S. reactors by the year 2000. Instead we have 103. Despite a 40-year life expectancy, the 27 currently shuttered U.S. reactors lasted an average of just 15 years. Every reactor ordered since 1974 has been cancelled. No new reactors have been ordered since 1978. There remain no new U.S. orders on the books today.

Mario Lemieux is enjoying a revival. Nuclear power is a minor leaguer simply jockeying for a chance to be invited to the Big Show.

Linda Gunter, communications director, Safe Energy Communication Council, Washington, D.C.

Give nukes a chance

As so ably pointed out by Neville Nankivell in Nuclear Renaissance (May 4), nuclear energy is certainly enjoying a renaissance. Rising fossil fuel costs combined with increased demands for clean-air technologies have led to serious thoughts on the role nuclear energy has played and should continue to play in meeting world energy demands.

On the contrary, the accompanying article by Lawrence Solomon (… Or Nuclear Fantasy?) provides readers with the same negative, impractical and unrealistic arguments that anti-nuclear groups have been promoting for decades. These arguments are faulty, as are the facts used to support them. For example, Ontario has 20 reactors, of which eight are temporarily laid up. Ontario Power Generation is returning four units at their Pickering A station to service. In addition, Bruce Power has announced that they intend to restart at least two units at the Bruce site. Extensive technical, economic and environmental studies have indicated that the plans to refurbish and restart these generating facilities are the best option for providing clean electricity to residents of Ontario.

On the matter of funding for nuclear research and development, the facts are clear. The industry is not subsidized; all sales have been commercial transactions. Taxpayers have never subsidized the sale of a CANDU reactor. Loans have either been repaid in full or payments are up to date.

The history of nuclear technology is very impressive. The benefits include safe, economical and environmentally responsible electricity and nuclear medicine.

In Ontario, CANDU reactors provide about 50% of the electricity. Of course, nuclear opponents do not mention that this electricity has been generated without any greenhouse or acid gas emissions, and, equally important, no materials that contribute to smog and air pollution.

For those who are truly committed to meeting growing electricity demands in an environmentally responsible manner, nuclear energy is an important part of the solution.

David Lisle, director, communications, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

Please click here to read the original debate published in the National Post on May 4.

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