Day Four - April 25, 2006
Third and final day of the conference.
On the agenda: Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy Future and Clean
Energy Alternatives; Why nuclear power is no solution for tackling
climate change, and networking sessions in the afternoon.
One fundamental point was made today by Dr. Klaus Illum from Denmark,
that politicians must understand that we cannot simply replace our
reliance on fossil fuels with reliance on another fuel. What needs
to happen in order to achieve a sustainable future is to transform
the entire energy system, by diversifying, developing decentralization
generation systems and relying increasingly on renewables. Unfortunately,
nuclear power, as Premier McGuinty seems set to do, simply prevents
a transition to a sustainable energy system and creates radioactive
waste while increasing the risks of an accident similar to Chernobyl,
not to mention the risks of weapons proliferation. I doubt that
many Canadians are aware that that India obtained the bomb through
the reactor sold to them by Canada.
Nuclear relies on the electricity infrastructure currently in place
as it is a centralized generation system. Massive government subsidies
essential to the survival of this industry (if the nuclear industry
were to be completely privatized in France electricity prices would
go up 300 times) mean that other sources of energy cannot compete,
especially when they are emerging technologies. Furthermore, if
there is another accident, which is likely to occur if the number
of plants multiplies, populations would no longer accept further
construction of nuclear power plants as was the case after Chernobyl.
The nuclear option is not a solution to climate change, but rather
just another dead end.
Furthermore, Uranium is a non-renewable resource if an expansion
of the nuclear industry does occur shortages of Uranium will be
felt in the next 50 years.
This afternoon, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Fairlie, the scientist
who worked on the TORCH report. He explained that of the 30,000
to 60,000 deaths predicted from Chernobyl, 6,000 are expected to
occur outside of Europe, some of which very likely would be in Canada.
Another reminder that Chernobyl was not an isolated event, but a
truly global one, and devastating one. No country in the Northern
Hemisphere was left untouched.
It is with this information in mind that I think about the ticking
time bomb that is the pickering power plant. The “Dead zone”
around Chernobyl that was evacuated is a diameter of 30 kilometers.
Pickering power plant is 30 kilometers from the heart of downtown
It is very likely that Toronto could not be evacuated in the event
of a serious nuclear accident at the Pickering plant. Despite all
the same old reassurances from the nuclear industry that CANDU reactors
are extremely safe, it remains a fact that the International Atomic
Energy Agency declared the Chernobyl type RBMK reactors the safest
in the world one month before the accident!
The afternoon session of the conference consisted of a networking
session where conference participants separated off into regional
groups to identify the three main issues of concern in the region
related to energy and nuclear, and to identify needs of the anti-nuclear
Several common points emerged from this.
First of all, it seems that the nuclear resurgence and the dilemma
of radioactive waste is a concern throughout all regions of the
Many groups also said that establishing a global coalition, similar
to the Climate Action Network, could be very useful for the global
Many other great suggestions emerged from this forum, especially
the idea that Chernobyl should be classified under the United Nations
as a crime against humanity, and that April 26th should be commemorated
every year. The nuclear industry would like nothing better than
to have the public forget and ignore the true impacts of the Chernobyl
disaster, or to think that it was a regional event isolated in Belarus
If the public does forget, or dismiss the repercutions of Chernobyl,
another accident is more likely to occur. Commemorating this event
every year, for the lifetime of the Chernobyl radioactivity –
that is 300 years or more – would certainly prevent our forgetting
or ignoring the terrible suffering that has come from this disaster.
If the United Nations, and governments are as committed as the
people are to avoiding another such disaster, they should be in
favour of establishing April 26th as Chernobyl remembrance day.
Sadly, Chernobyl is not just in our past, it is in our present and
it will be with us for hundreds of years to come.
Headlines like “Ukraine remembers Chernobyl” in today's
Globe and Mail should be “World remembers Chernobyl”
if we are to avoid such a disaster from ever occurring again.
Emilie Moorhouse is Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and Energy