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Hyer On The Hill - MP Bruce Hyer is the Member of Parliament for the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding.
2010-05-19 at 13:48

New balance on nuclear

This March, a very thoughtful letter to the editor from Betty Brill appeared in the Nipigon Gazette ("Say it Ain’t So, Joe" Nipigon Gazette, March 2010).

She detailed her experiences analysing nuclear waste disposal, storage, and treatment options, as part of public consultation for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). She has asked her elected representatives for years, without concrete answers: "Can the federal or provincial government override the Nuclear Free Zone designation of communities if they are in the path of transporting used nuclear fuel?"

If I may offer an answer, legal researchers looked into the issue at my request, and the answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Municipalities are legal creatures of provincial legislation. Provinces therefore have the constitutional power to change municipal bylaws; if they want to transport nuclear waste through any community, they only have to pass legislation to do so.

The federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act (1992), and broad residual powers of anything "in the national interest" means the feds could do something similar.

Issues surrounding more nuclear power plants, putting limits on the liability owed to the public regarding nuclear accidents, and the storage and disposal of nuclear waste will affect taxpayers across Canada.

This week the government introduced Bill C-15, legislation that would cap the total liability of nuclear plant operators for an accident at a ridiculous $650 million - a miniscule fraction of the likely true cost of a nuclear disaster. That would mean likely a few dollars of compensation for the loss of a home.

Taxpayers have long subsidized the development and operation of Canada's nuclear facilities, including a whopping $19 billion to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. alone. If passed, Bill C-15 will amount to another massive handout; taxpayers will be picking up the tab for anything over the cap if an accident happens. So far, only New Democrats are opposing C-15.

Why is the federal government doing this? Because no insurance company in the world will insure private property against a nuclear leak or catastrophe. The fact that they won’t should give us a hint at the enormous risks and costs involved.

In the Northwest, we don’t have nuclear reactors nearby. Unfortunately we might have to live with their legacy anyway.

NWMO is expected to make an announcement soon on a process to deal with Southern Ontario’s accumulated nuclear waste. Some people worry that Northwestern Ontario might become the ultimate target for a disposal site.

They have good reason to. About 30 years ago, Atikokan was considering nuclear waste disposal and test drilling was done there. Last year, Ignace was exploring possibilities of hosting nuclear waste. Recently, the issue of a Nuclear Fuel Waste Site has come up at Nipigon town council.

It is supposedly up to each community to decide if hosting Canada’s 36,000 tons of nuclear waste is for them.

However, because of potential accidents along the way, each community along radioactive waste transport routes could be affected. They should have a say too.


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beached says:
There are far more dangerous things than Nuclear power or nuclear waste. We are just not accustomed to nuclear and it's associations with Nuclear weapons. Nuclear power is not the same as a bomb. Right now, caustic, acidic, explosive and poisonous gases and liquids travel across the country and most do not bat an eyebrow.

I think it is time we take a reality check. We want jobs. In particular, we want manufacturing jobs. We also want many items that use lots of electricity. Coal is cheap but really dirty; it also dumps radioactive particles into the air and people die often in the mining of it. We also want to reduce carbon output and the excludes the burning of stuff like coal and natural gas. Solar and wind cannot provide enough power to serve our needs if we do not want to go back to the early 20th century. That leaves hydro and nuclear and we have very little viable hydro left.

People will always bring up Chernobyl when confronted with the statement that nuclear power is safe. Chernobyl was a nuclear reactor without safeties turned on and it was being tested to see how far they could push it before they had to turn it off. They went to far. Outside of Chernobyl, there has never been a death due to a nuclear reactor accident.

I think we need a reality check if we want to be successful in the global market and give nuclear the chance it deserves. It is not dangerous, it is controlled and because of that very safe. Nuclear is only expensive due to the safety regulations imposed on it. Safe workers and safe communities. Ask a community with coal about the lung cancer rates or the safety of the workers who supply the generating station. Also, most of use probably know someone whose life was saved because of nuclear. The byproducts of a form of nuclear power station are used for medical imaging and cancer treatment.
5/20/2010 10:55:05 PM
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