When the Toronto Star published a Greenpeace op-ed critical of nuclear power, Canada's largest nuclear lobby group was quick to defend its technology. "Nuclear is clean," declared Denise Carpenter, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association in her letter to the editor.
The problem is, Ms. Carpenter is quite wrong. So wrong, in fact, that earlier this summer Advertising Standards Canada formally decided that ads by the Power Workers' Union making a similar claim were inaccurate, unsupported, and misleading.
In fact, the Power Workers’ Union claim was arguably less sweeping than Ms. Carpenter’s use of the word "clean". The Union advertised CANDU reactors as "emission free," even though nuclear reactors emit all kinds of foul things into the environment, and industry and government know it.
Concerned by the flagrant inaccuracy of the ad, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and a group of law students from Queen's University filed a complaint about the Union’s claim with Advertising Standards Canada. The national not-for-profit body self-regulates the Canadian advertising industry. If an ad is misleading, deceptive, or makes claims that are unsupportable, Advertising Standards Canada can request that the advertiser remove the ad.
We provided supporting documentation that shows CANDU reactors at nuclear plants such as the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station emit many different contaminants: 2-propenoic acid, ammonia, aromatic hydrocarbon resin, benzene, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrazine, morpholine, nitrogen oxides, phosphoric acid, quarterly ammonium compounds, sulphur dioxide, suspended particulate matter, total hydrocarbons, as well as tritium.
Advertising Standards Canada agreed, posting a decision to its website declaring that the unqualified phrase "emission free" is inaccurate and unsupported. In its commentary, Advertising Standards Canada stated emphatically: "... it is misleading ... for an advertiser to categorically promise one thing when, by its own admission, it can only deliver something that is significantly less."
The Power Workers' Union was told to remove all ads containing the "emission free" statement and to qualify any future claims. Meanwhile, the Canadian Nuclear Association blithely continues telling the media and the general public that nuclear power is "clean." We encourage the Toronto Star and its readers to review Advertising Standards Canada's decision and to recognize the Nuclear Association's claims for what they are: inaccurate and unsupported.