Shades of green…

By  | January 9, 2009 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Posts by M. Boilard

In technically advanced countries, the general public has been conditioned to believe that expert opinion and truth are one and the same. We the public, must realize that there is a vast array of contradicting truths available to us; most of these are influenced by the circumstances of employment. Such are the truths of Canada’s quest for green energy.

Expert opinion in Canada would have us believe that nuclear power generation is the best green option available to combat climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s easy to consider yourself the best, when you don’t compare yourself to other green options. What ever happened to the less destructive methods … like conservation and using the sun or wind to fulfill our needs?

When taking into consideration the entire nuclear process from beginning to end, one finds a rather significant environmental footprint. This footprint is much larger than that acknowledged by industry experts, due mainly to the fact that their focus is solely glued to the stack, and not the steps of the process.

The mining of uranium, along with its processing and transporting; the construction of the facility, the obscene costs and time frame of its planning, building and maintenance; and the perpetual storage and monitoring requirements of the dangerous waste produced, should actually disqualify it as a green option altogether.

Uranium in itself, presents a serious shortcoming as far as sustainability is concerned. World prices have ballooned six fold in the past eight years, and as a non-renewable resource, its supply is estimated to run out in Canada, in less than 50 years at its current rate of consumption. Building more facilities or increasing output will naturally increase that rate of consumption.

…Reflections of a carbon era? You tell me.

The moral and ethical questions regarding the waste produced should be considered monumental hurtles in the goal for green power. As a society, ideally we should be managing our waste so that future generations do not have to pay the heavy toll for our conveniences and greed. Currently, interim storage has this waste sitting on-site at existing facilities. In fact, we’ve been storing it for the past 50 years, trying to find a more permanent solution to a waste that takes up to 1000 years to degrade enough so that it can be dealt with safely.

In Canada, the process to find this permanent solution has commenced. In 2002 the federal government passed the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, which made the owners of nuclear waste responsible for researching the options of its management. The research has been done, and the industry experts recommend long-term storage in deep repositories built somewhere between 500 to 1000 meters underground. We are also assured that this heavily, polluted waste can be safely stored right under heavily, populated areas. They are looking no further than southern and eastern Ontario, due to its unique rock formations. The list of potential sites includes locations like Toronto, Hamilton-Niagara, London, Windsor-Sarnia, Kingston, Ottawa and a ‘strip of land’ running from Kitchener-Waterloo to Barrie.

The experts know best… right?

The nuclear industry is hoping that one of the above communities will become a willing host, to accept the existing 1.9 billion bundles of radioactive waste stored at Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors. No doubt the host would be handsomely compensated for the inconvenience, but dare I include that, once established, this chosen recipient may become the not-so-willing host to trans-boundary imports. What happens when no community volunteers?

Although the development of this storage site could take years to complete, the search for the willing host is to begin in 2009 – this year. Again the public needs to separate expert opinion from the truth. Expert opinion in this case, will always support the industry’s concept, which is; to go green…we need to go nuclear. The truth in this type of green however, is not found in the opinions of the industry, but in the depletion of a non renewable resource and the deadly waste they wish to store deep beneath the surface.

M.B.

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m_boilard@sympatico.ca'

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