Published in the June 2016
issue of the Canadian
Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.37, No.2.
Love and Nuclear Will Keep Us Together
by Jeremy Whitlock
Why hello Nuclear Power, please come in. It's been a while - what brings you to my office today?
I'm … not sure Doc. Everything's going reasonably well, I suppose, but…
Yes indeed, I've heard good things - $25 billion to be invested in Ontario refurbishments over the next two decades, Pickering extended to 2024, SMR vendors popping up like mushrooms, Chalk River's future finally sorted out…
Yeah that's all great.
So tell me, what's troubling you?
Well, it's just that the world's falling apart.
Britain's disintegrating, the EU's a mess, Russia's annexing, the U.S. is insane… It seems like even though we had two World Wars that proved the dangers of imperialism and nationalism, the whole world is slipping back again. It's like three generations later we're morons again.
I see… Well, this may all be true, I suppose, but what really does it have to do with you?
I was supposed to be part of the new wave, Doc. Equalization, global human rights, liberalized economies.
Energy! When people aren't fighting over energy, everything else is small potatoes. I was the way - universal access to energy. Distribution of wealth. Universal prosperity.
Okay, well, that does sound grand, but perhaps a tad unrealistic? You certainly have the potential for universal access, but maybe it all depends more on good old human nature and politics, which aren't necessarily … shall we say, inherently egalitarian…?
Aren't you supposed to be cheering me up?
Hm, well, not exactly; I'm supposed to help you understand yourself.
Well I think I'm beginning to understand that maybe the opposite has happened out there - that abundant energy has shifted focus from survival to protectionism. People have had time to build walls. When you know where your food is coming from for the foreseeable future, you start looking around and finding problems with the folks around you.
Or the folks coming across your borders?
Exactly! You know, maybe we need a good war.
Well, it's been a while I suppose.
I'm kidding. Look, don't you think you're already doing the best you can do? Maybe others should be stepping up? Surely the maintenance of sustainable energy supply is a worthy enough contribution?
I.. I want to do more.
Okay… well, you're the most abundant, cost-effective, cleanest, safest, most universally available, long-term sustainable energy source on the planet. What more do you want to do exactly?
I don't know - maybe if I were smaller… cheaper… safer. What good is being all those things you say, when in the end I'm seen as just another corporate industrial elitist enabler of centralized control?
And being smaller, cheaper, safer will change that?
Well if it takes three generations for people to forget how nationalism can tear a planet apart, maybe this will take that long to come around too - but look, I can open up the north, I can make Inuit communities self-sufficient on energy, I can enable economic growth where, literally, nothing grows.
I can make Saskatchewan master of its own energy supply, I can make coal a thing of the past from coast to coast, I can make electric cars truly green, I can enable expansion of renewable supply without decreasing grid reliability, I can drive industrial growth - I can make Ontario great again!
Oh is that so?
Sorry, couldn't resist. But there's so much I could be doing, if people let me. I could be the cornerstone of Trudeau's "shared prosperity", "embracing diversity", "positive leadership" - I can make all that sunny ways stuff happen.
So you want to be a superhero? Save the world?
Yes! Why not - I've heard that radiation helps with that too.
And it doesn't bother you that your own government has basically abdicated its national nuclear program? That is has no energy strategy for the north? That it's walking away from the global nuclear medicine infrastructure it helped to invent? That students in the future won't be able to visit the historic nuclear reactors that made us world leaders? That soon we won't have a national neutron source and yet we still call ourselves a Tier 1 nuclear nation like we have no idea what that means?
You've just described my Gotham. Say, I could use a sidekick.
Sign me up. We've got work to do.