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Chernobyl Blog

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 Toronto.

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 movement.

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 world.

Many groups also said that establishing a global coalition, similar to the Climate Action Network, could be very useful for the global anti-nuclear movement.

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 and Ukraine.

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 Campaigner.


Nuclear Power Links

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Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Greenpeace Chernobyl page

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