September 22, 2000
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said it clearly this summer: “The world is abandoning nuclear power.” The next day, he announced that Turkey would not be buying two Canadian Candu reactors – or any other kind – and would instead pursue energy conservation, natural gas, and renewables. Ecevit also turned down the sweetheart $1.5 billion loan that Ottawa had already offered him, out of Canadian taxpayers’ money.
Turkey has joined a growing majority of countries that “just say no” to nuclear power. Some – including Austria, Ireland, and the Philippines – have publicly, politically decided to rule out ever building a reactor. Others – including Italy, Germany, and Sweden – have decided democratically to phase out operating reactors. Others – Britain, the US, and even Canada – have introduced enough competition and market discipline into their electricity sector that construction of new nuclear generating stations is now inconceivable.
But even with the reactor phaseout underway in Canada, our federal government is still squandering millions of our dollars, and Canada’s good name, in a hopeless effort to bring back the nuclear “good old days” of the 1950s.
Ottawa continues to give Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) about $100 million of annual taxpayer subsidies. AECL claims the money is for research, but virtually all of AECL’s non-Candu research activities have been axed. Total taxpayer subsidies to AECL alone would be worth well over $100 billion by now, if they had been left in the productive part of the economy. Instead, they have created well over $20 billion in additional losses and cleanup costs.
In addition, Ottawa spends billions more to finance reactor export projects that international banks would not touch without taxpayer guarantees. The people who rule China have already started taking $1.5 billion of our money from Ottawa.
And Ottawa demeans us through diplomatic tricks. As soon as the world’s major countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, Ottawa tried to get nuclear reactor exports considered a “clean” technology, comparable to renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Although the European Union and others have strongly opposed this scheme, Ottawa is attempting to slip nuclear-power matters into the next conference of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, to get nuclear power accepted through the back door.
The public in the West now realizes that nuclear power isn’t “clean” or “sustainable” because of its grave environmental, social, health, and financial failings. And yet, our government seems grimly determined to soldier on in keeping AECL alive with our money. Ottawa – especially the prime minister – uses every opportunity at international meetings, trade missions, and even social occasions to try to sell Candu reactors to unsophisticated countries who still haven’t figured out that nuclear power – on all counts – is a loser.
Until every last potential purchaser of a Candu reactor becomes fully informed, we are relentlessly opposing the nuclear industry’s distortions at public forums, in government hearings, and through the media. The article Canada’s nuclear nabobs try to turn green in the National Post, for example, exposes Ottawa’s plans to capitalize on international concerns over global warming. Through the Financial Times of London database, this article has now received widespread exposure among international government decision-makers and in the international financial community.
The battle against nuclear madness is not yet won and we cannot rest. The government must soon make hard choices about whether to continue to fund a doomed nuclear export program, which harms people here and in the purchasing country, or to put the money toward goals that the Canadian public truly shares. With your help, we’ll help the government make the right decision.
Director, Nuclear Research <!—
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P.S. We’ve just won another long battle that will make it harder for nuclear salesmen to claim their industry is “clean” and “sustainable”: Almost six years after Energy Probe forced a federal investigation, government scientists have concluded that the ongoing emissions from Canada’s uranium mines and mills and several Canadian radioactive waste facilities – including AECL’s own Chalk River Laboratories! – are environmentally toxic under the legal definition in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. These findings are already on their way to the many local groups in Third World countries that we work with, to help them keep their governments from acquiring Canadian nuclear reactors.