Today, an “urgent appeal” was issued by Greenpeace and the collective of Ontario nurses to the provincial government, to defer discussions meant to result in the construction of new nuclear power stations in Ontario.
What sad, ignorant fools they are. Nuclear energy – though not a definitive long term solution – is an excellent intermediate measure that can be used very safely while we find better, more usable energy sources – and learn to stop being such energy hogs.
I have a great deal of respect for nurses generally, but I’m disappointed by their position on this matter. They’re nurses, not nuclear scientists. They haven’t the expertise needed to contribute meaningfully on nuclear energy.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, I have no respect for at all. They give those of us who really care about sustainability a bad name. They’re political, not environmental, activists. I think they’re motivated more by anarchist tendencies than by any particularly sanguine or informed desire to “save the planet.”
Recent events at the nuclear facility in Fukushima have given sundry Machiavellian groups, like Greenpeace, fodder to come at nuclear energy again. Greenpeace is well known for this kind of lame tactic. The Ontario nurses are new players in this, apparently. Too bad they’re on the wrong side.
The argument they pose is that, based on the dangerous situation in Japan, we need to stop building nuclear power stations in Ontario. They talk about significant risks, environmental harm, human error, and such. But as all those who have a hidden agenda, their arguments are deeply flawed.
Here are some facts that are important because they undermine their arguments completely.
The earthquake in Japan measured 9 on the Richter Scale. What most people don’t know about the Richter Scale is that it’s non-linear. That is, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake is 10 times stronger than a magnitude 8.0 Earthquake. The strongest earthquake ever measured in Ontario measured 6.1, in 1935. That’s just about 800 times weaker than the Japan earthquake. According to the US Geological Survey, “several million earthquakes occur in the world each year.” And Ontario is definitely not known for its earthquakes. The point is this: the odds of an earthquake occurring in Ontario that is powerful enough to significantly damage one of our nuclear reactors is infinitesimal. So whoever thinks that Ontario reactors will meet an end similar to those in Fukushima are wrong, and whoever advocates for this position is a liar.
The risk of death associated with nuclear accidents is absurdly small. Consider the information here. These are indisputable facts, mind you, not the rants of self-absorbed do-gooders. Nuclear energy is as safe as anything else. And if you’re looking to address causes of premature death, virtually every other possible source exceeds that of death by nuclear accident.
Another flaw in the arguments against nuclear power in Ontario has to do with the reactors themselves. While the Fukushima BWR (boiling water reactor) design is quite respectable, the CANDU design is better; indeed, it was designed expressly to fail safely, as they say. So again, the shrill cries of the anti-nuclear advocates are just plain wrong – they’re comparing apples and oranges. It’s like saying a Ford Pinto is the same as a Lamborghini Diablo because they’re both cars.
Sure, there is “nuclear waste” produced by reactors. But it doesn’t have to be waste. The Yucca Mountain storage facility, which likely won’t be built now, was intended to store American nuclear waste. While one might argue the wisdom of putting that much nuclear waste in one place, it does form a huge heat source, heat that can be used to generate massive amounts of electricity, and that would last for several thousands of years. That would be a tremendous way to generate “clean” energy.
Furthermore, there are kinds of reactors that can be used to generate even more power from already-spent nuclear fuel, and as a by-product, produce much-needed radioactive isotopes for medical purposes. I already wrote about this.
So the complaints of the anti-nuclear movement are again unfounded insofar as the technology involved is concerned.
In the end, the real problem isn’t nuclear energy or the technologies needed to generate it. The real problem is a “people problem,” one of ignorance and self-serving political agendas, of people too worried about the incomprehensibly remote accidents and not worried enough about the far more massive and serious problems facing the world today: starvation, terrorism, genocide, rampant petroleum consumption, irrecoverable waste, and – at the root of it all – the pathetic ignorance of a few loud-mouths who have nothing better to do than cause trouble.