By Krystyn Tully
On September 14, 2005, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province is considering investing “billions” in new nuclear plants. One month later, the McGuinty government announced a deal to refurbish reactors on Lake Huron. All fall, lobbyists, public interest groups, and editors have been filling the newspapers with their responses to the McGuinty energy plan.
Perhaps the most eloquent appeal to include the public in the decision-making came from Murray Campbell writing in the Globe and Mail. His call for meaningful public debate mirrors the position of many of Ontario’s leading environmental and community organizations, including: Citizens for Renewable Energy, Families Against Radiat i o n Exposure, Greenpeace, Georgian Baykeeper, Sierra Club, Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee, Port Hope Nuclear Environmental Watchdogs and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
Unfortunately, the nuclear industry’s long-standing aversion to public scrutiny appears to be shared by the mainstream media, federal regulators, and Ontario’s governing party.
The province’s governing party – clearly supports nuclear energy. To affirm its support, the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) passed a resolution in November, 2004, recognizing that, “an appropriate supply mix” includes, “a viable nuclear component that utilizes installed and new capacity.” In his September 14, 2005, speech, Premier McGuinty reportedly told the audience that he’s willing to take a political hit for building nuclear plants even if they prove unpopular.
At the federal level, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission repeatedly rejects pleas for increased public scrutiny. The independent regulator is currently overseeing two major nuclear expansion projects: the introduction of new enriched uranium fuel, and the reconstruction of reactors on Lake Huron.
With the exception of Murray Campbell, the mainstream media is also embracing McGuinty’s new nuclear plan. “Ontario needs more nuclear power plants,” wrote the Globe and Mail. The paper’s main concern was whether the new plants would be owned by public or private interests.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star also expressed staunch support for nuclear power, dismissing the idea of an informed decision-making process altogether:“Ontario is running short on time. We shouldn’t waste overmuch of it debating the inevitable, controversial though nuclear power is. Rather, we should be discussing where new plants should be located.”
To hear the OLP, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, or the Canadian media, you’d think that we already have all the answers we need to go forward: Ontario’s obsolete energy program will be a thing of the past if only we build more nuclear plants.
Don’t be fooled by their exuberance: The push for a public hearing is not about being right or wrong, pro-nuclear or antinuclear. It’s about making the most informed decision possible.
As Murray Campbell says,“the province’s future hangs on it.”
For more information:
Krystyn Tully, GLAHNF Lake Advisor
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper
245 Queen’s Quay W., Toronto, ONT M5J 2K9
(416) 861-1237 • firstname.lastname@example.org