"It's a pretty exciting time, if not scary."
-- Energy consultant John McNeil on the return of nuclear power
"We're committed to clean energy," Premier Dalton McGuinty. His statement comes in response to recommendations by former deputy prime minister John Manley that Ontario build more nuclear power facilities.
One of the major arguments in favour of more nuclear power is that, compared to burning coal, nuclear is a "green" energy source.
As an alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power scores big with the environment. It doesn't produce carbon dioxide or methane, two big bad gases that add to the greenhouse effect, and it doesn't produce sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide or any of the other pollutants that can cause acid rain. Nice work, nuclear!
The "nuclear energy = green energy" point is destined to fail. Pickering and Darlington nuclear facilities are, arguably, the two worst polluters of water in Ontario:
- Pickering nuclear station has flushed nearly 2,000 tonnes of toxic metals into Lake Ontario since the 1970's. (Source: Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen, June 22 1998)
- A 1992 spill at Pickering dumped tritium into Lake Ontario; the carcinogen shut down neighbouring water intakes and was detected in drinking water supplies from Burlington to Belleville. (Source: Greengrid Electric, Environmental Assessment Report)
- On 33 separate occasions in 1999, the Darlington nuclear facility discharged wastewater lethal to fish. (Source: Brian McAndrew, Toronto Star, November 5, 2001)
- A 2001 Sierra Legal Defence Fund report revealed that discharges from Darlington and Pickering nuclear plants were "by far" more lethal to fish than any other facility in the province.
- MOE compliance reports reveal that Pickering and Darlington nuclear plants violate provincial water quality standards every single year (1994, 1998-2002).
Premier McGuinty expressed his commitment to clean energy. Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky expressed her commitment to clean water. Lake Ontario's nuclear plants have a track record that suggests they will bring us neither.
The choice between coal plants and nuclear plants is a false choice. With their track records, neither has earned a place in Lake Ontario's future.