2004 March 14
To the Editor,
Your guest columnist from the "Green Budget Coalition" (Feb.23-Mar.1 issue) presented an outdated and unrealistic view of nuclear power. Across Canada there is increasing recognition of nuclear power's necessary role in future energy supply planning.
This is particularly true in Ontario, where the provincial government's recent Electricity Conservation and Supply Task Force echoed the call from the provincial grid operator (the Independent Electricity Market Operator, IEMO) for significantly more base-load capacity. The Task Force's report encourages both a "conservation culture" and aggressive renewable-energy development, but still predicts a large and imminent supply shortfall. It astutely recommends a diversity of new supply, and recognizes nuclear power's potentially significant contribution to this mix.
Nuclear power is a mature base-load electricity supply option that minimizes both resource utilization and waste production. A single CANDU reactor can supply a city of one million people with reliable, competitive-cost electricity, without contributing to air pollution and generating only a 10-foot cube's worth of spent fuel each year. This waste stream is not only remarkably small but also solid and easily managed, while retaining all of its toxic by-products. Long-term, conscientious management of this material is technologically proven and in practice today.
The truly compelling environmental case for nuclear power, however, is what it avoids: each year nuclear reactors in Canada avoid the release of over 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, half a million tonnes of acid-rain and smog-producing gases, 100,000 tonnes of particulate air pollution, and consequently up to 1000 deaths from respiratory illness.
Canadians can be proud of this industry that contributes, according to the Canadian Economic Research Institute's recent analysis, roughly $5 billion annually to the Canadian economy, and over 30,000 jobs in almost 200 public and private-sector high-tech companies coast to coast. It is also directly responsible for Canada's leading role in the development and continuing support of global nuclear medicine and radiation cancer therapy.
With total government R&D funding at about $6 billion over the last 50 years (your previous correspondent prefers an inflation-adjusted figure of $17.5 billion), it is clear that Canadian nuclear technology has made back its public investment and continues to provide good worth to its shareholders - Canadian citizens.