Nuclear power ethics debated

Graphic by Laila Hack
Graphic by Laila Hack

It has been three years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when several nuclear reactors melted down in Japan.

In light of the third anniversary, a group in Ontario is raising discussion on the dangers of nuclear power for the province.

“We have 20 nuclear reactors in the province and they’re all old and coming to the end of their lives and the province has to think how to replace those reactors,” said Angela Bischoff from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA).

“What [Ontario] is proposing is extending the life of Pickering [nuclear reactor] beyond its design life for another five years, but they should be shutting it down this year.”

Bischoff contested that nuclear energy is a costly expenditure, often racking up bills in the billions.

Ontario is home to the highest cost nuclear station in North America, according to Bischoff.

However she mostly outlined the risks of nuclear energy, stating that it is dangerous because of the waste created by the reactors.

OCAA has proposed alternatives to nuclear energy that Bischoff believes are safer and more affordable.

“What we propose instead is shutting the existing reactors down when they come to the end of their lives, so we are not saying shut them down today,” she said.

OCAA also wants to replace Darlington, a nuclear power plant, with waterpower imports from Québec, “opening up the grid for all the local made-in-Ontario green energy options like wind, solar, thermal, biomass, biogas, conservation.”

There is strong opposition from the government and the nuclear lobby to OCAA’s ideas.

George Bereznai, a professor and director of the Industry Training Program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), does not think that nuclear energy is as harmful to society as OCAA contests.

He believes that is it “by far the most environmentally-conscious industry.

“Critics are a minority of people who are simply determined to criticize for whatever reason they have,” he said. “It’s completely illogical and ill-founded criticism.

According to Bereznai, nuclear energy brings high employment and economic benefits to the province.

“There are a lot of industries and jobs at stake so these multi-billion dollar centralized projects are great for industry,” Bischoff said. “And [there are] 11,000 employees in Ontario that make their living off the nuclear industry, so that holds a lot of weight when politicians are deciding if they were to shut down nuclear plants.”

“There would be a lot of pressure.”

But in terms of whether or not the Canadian government should shut down nuclear power plants, Bereznai says that this option is simply out of the question.

He contests that nuclear power is the only way to satisfy the energy needs of the province.

“Humanity has no other choice if we wish to maintain the kind of civilization that we have,” he said.


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