Published in the September 2005
issue of the Canadian
Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.26, No.3.
Refurbish Thyself by Jeremy Whitlock
Some anti-nuclear groups have now been operating for 30 years and longer, despite being designed initially for 20-years' usefulness.
"Our whole basis was generational," says Normally Rude, co-founder of the Toronto-based watchdog group Everything is a Problem, "It's sort of a zeitgeist thing. We never intended to be around 30 years later, still saying the same old stuff."
The situation came to a head with the recent decision to refurbish the Pt. Lepreau nuclear station in New Brunswick.
"There's a case where due process was followed to the extreme," says Rude, "They looked at all the options, and still came out in favour of refurbishment. I mean, what could we do? We had nothing."
A news release from Everything is a Problem, shortly after the Pt. Lepreau announcement, attempted to denounce the decision.
"It was ridiculous. We pulled out all the old chestnuts. We even dissed the MAPLE project, for crying out loud. We had nothing relevant to say."
That moment appears to have been the turning point in the anti-nuclear industry's self-review process.
"Our options were simple," says Toady Adams, Executive Director of Everything is a Problem, "We could either shut down the old anti-nuclear groups permanently, or refurbish them to provide a new usefulness for another 20 years."
"Frankly," adds Adams, "I'm too young to retire, so refurbish it is."
But refurbishment, Adams points out, must include completely new ethics and a total mandate overhaul.
"I mean, for decades we've been spoon-feeding the public what they wanted to hear," says Rude, "heck I even advocated roofing the 401 through Toronto with solar panels, if you can believe that."
"Then we started taking money from the gas and oil industry, and guess what? We started selling the virtues of private fossil. We called ourselves 'energy analysts' and 'consumer researchers', seeking global harmony and prosperity. Whatever kept the funds rolling our way. That kind of policy prostitution has to stop."
Rude and Adams also bemoan the years of "stealth fundraising": the initiation and spread of fear in the public consciousness through high-visibility media appearances, with key newspaper editors and radio producers on-board, all stoking the donation machine and channeling funds back to the pockets of Everything is a Problem and other groups.
"And what about government subsidization?" asks Dazed Mumbler, Energy Coordinator for Greenfleece Canada, "How many millions has the anti-nuclear industry taken from the public purse over the years? Just the intervener funding alone - talk about the goose that laid the golden egg. It was like taking candy from a baby during the 'inquiry years' of the Eighties and early Nineties."
"But more than that: how about the support from federal and provincial Ministries, municipal governments, crown corporations like the CBC and CIDA, public agencies like the National Film Board, school boards..."
"Add to this the years of charitable tax status, adjust for inflation over three decades, and you've got a multi-million-dollar public subsidy with bugger-all to show for it. What's our net worth to society?"
It's a bitter pill to swallow, but the anti-nuclear industry seems to be taking its medicine.
"We've milked this as far as it goes", intones Rude soberly, "No more lies. No more exaggerations."
Soft tears glisten in Rude's eyes. "No more telling people that they aren't insured against nuclear accidents. That was wrong."
Where to go from here? It appears that the anti-nuclear industry will simply start doing what it said it was doing all along: provide honest, critical, grass-roots oversight of the nuclear industry.
"Let's face it," explains Adams, "the economy and health of Canadians are just too important. There's simply no sense in opposing the patently obvious anymore."
Some inefficient units of the anti-nuclear industry will, inevitably, have to be shut down. Garbled Efforts, spokesman for the Canadian Coalition for Anti-Nuclear Irresponsibility simply shakes his head and whispers, "I'm out of here".
Others, such as Elizabeth Fey of the Ottawa-based Silly Club, are not as resigned to their fate. "I'm going to sue the utilities for $50 billion," she warns, "then I'm going to sue the nuclear industry, then I'm going to sue my so-called compatriots for leaving me in the lurch, and you'd better watch out or I'll sue you too."
In general, however, the future looks bright for responsible power generation, and responsible power criticism, in Canada.
"It's time to do the right thing," Normally Rude sighs with quiet resignation.
"By the way you're not going to print any of this are you?"
Energy Probe Greenpeace Sierra Club Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
©2011 Jeremy Whitlock