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Province Must Rethink Nuclear Plans: Greenpeace and Nurses

2011-03-16

16 March 2011 (Toronto) — Greenpeace and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) today called on Premier Dalton McGuinty, PC- leader Tim Hudak, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath to reject building new nuclear reactors in light of the tragic disaster unfolding in Japan.

“There has been no public assessment of the cost-effectiveness of new reactors and the environmental and safety reviews ignore the potential for accidents like we’re seeing in Japan,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, nuclear analyst with Greenpeace. “At a minimum, the government should seek postponement of the environmental assessment hearings on new Darlington reactors that are scheduled to start next week.”

“Like many Ontarians, registered nurses are  increasingly concerned about the staggering health, environmental and economic costs of nuclear power, particularly as safer and more affordable green alternatives are available,” said RNAO’s executive director Doris Grinspun adding “the tragedy  in Japan underlines the risk to public health.”

Representatives of both groups made their comments at a media conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday. McGuinty and Hudak have supported building new reactors to replace the Pickering nuclear station when it closes in 2020, in spite of a reported cost for new reactors topping $26 billion, or almost $20 billion more than promised in 2007. The nuclear disaster in Japan necessitates rigorous scrutiny of their plans, argue Greenpeace and RNAO.

“Globally, there has been more new power coming from wind and solar power than new nuclear for the last five years,” said Dr. Keith Stewart, an energy policy analyst with Greenpeace.  “Using green energy to replace the Pickering nuclear station would cost less while avoiding the accident risks of new reactors. That’s an outcome that should be supported by both Premier McGuinty as the self-styled champion of green energy and Tim Hudak as the self-proclaimed champion of electricity consumers, as well as Andrea Horwath who declared nuclear energy as a giant financial sinkhole.”

Greenpeace and the RNAO support a call by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) to postpone next week’s environmental assessment hearings on the proposed new Darlington reactors. Currently, the hearings would not allow for consideration of accident risk or alternatives. The groups are calling for the scope of the hearings to be expanded to include these. Such a delay would mirror the response of the National Energy Board that delayed changes to offshore drilling rules in the aftermath of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We join in the sadness Canadians are expressing as families in Japan deal with this immense tragedy.  That’s why we need to step back and ask ourselves why are we about to begin hearings on planning for more nuclear reactors when it’s clear nuclear power is an unforgiving technology. Japan reminds us that all reactor designs are vulnerable to a potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster,” said Grinspun. “It is completely unacceptable that politicians are proposing to build new reactors without a transparent and robust assessment of their cost-effectiveness or safety.”

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For more information, please contact:

Brian Blomme, Greenpeace communications coordinator, (416) 930-9055
Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace nuclear analyst, (416) 884-7053
Keith Stewart, Greenpeace energy analyst, (416) 533-5963
Marion Zych, RNAO Director of Communications, (647) 406-5605 (cell) (416) 408-5605 (office)
Jill-Marie Burke, RNAO communications officer, (416) 408-5606 (office)

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