Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up and atom

While the Sask Party's laughably short consultation period in response to its nuclear wish list is coming to a close, there's still plenty of discussion of the issue yet to come. And a couple of recent contributions to the debate are worth highlighting.

First, while I've previously discussed the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce's (thankfully failed) attempt to dominate the public consultation hearings on nuclear development, Joe Kuchta deconstructs the details behind the Chamber's FAQ:
The two “anti-nuclear sources” that McLellan proudly boasts of being included in his organization’s FAQ are buried on page 25 of the 27 page document. All it provides are links to the organizations homepages and not to any specific report. The Chamber leaves it up to the reader to do the research. Nowhere else in the document are the two group’s mentioned. And McLellan has the nerve to call this “balanced”?

The Chamber incredibly ignores the Pembina Institute, a well-respected national not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing innovative sustainable energy solutions. In May 2007, the institute published three documents studying the life cycle of nuclear. These include: Clearing the Air About Nuclear Power, a summary report of the larger Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability released in December 2006; and the related fact sheets Clearing the Air: Nuclear Power and Climate Change, and, Clearing the Air: Uranium Mining: Nuclear Power’s Dirty Secret. Together, these reports manage to blow apart many of the Saskatchewan Chamber’s arguments for supporting nuclear power.

The Chamber’s credibility implodes completely when it becomes apparent that the majority of the “expert and reputable sources” its information is drawn from have vested interests in expanding the nuclear industry. The suspects include: World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power Expert Panel, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Uranium Development Partnership, Bruce Power, and Cameco Corporation.
Meanwhile, Murray Mandryk offers his advice to those concerned about nuclear power, suggesting in particular a focus on SaskPower's interests and on cost rather than environmental considerations and process concerns.

Now, it's difficult to disagree that those figure to be both the strongest points against nuclear power, and the areas where a decision will ultimately be made. And I've criticized the NDP before for focusing unduly on process rather than the actual problems with nuclear power. But I'd argue nonetheless that it's important to keep at least some attention on the additional issues in the meantime as well.

After all, at least some people do figure to be more easily swayed by environmental concerns or the obvious unfairness of a process driven by the corporation which stands to profit at the province's expense if nuclear power becomes a reality - meaning that there's some potential to get more people into the anti-nuclear camp by highlighting those concerns now to present the stronger points later.

And there's also an obvious need to counter the efforts of the pro-nuclear forces who have gone out their way to try to claim the high ground on both issues. In particular, the dubious claim that nuclear energy is somehow "green" might well be a factor which tips the scales in favour of citizens tolerating somewhat higher prices if goes unchallenged - so there's an obvious need to set the record straight now in order to ensure that the cost of nuclear is put in its proper context, even if "swaying like an elm tree" may only be a first step in dealing with that side of the issue.

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