March 18, 2011
Our hearts go out to the people of Japan who are dealing with unthinkable tragedy, and to those workers who are risking their lives to prevent further catastrophe with their nuclear emergency.
Ontario nurses are not persuaded by government and nuclear industry leaders here at home that try to assure us about the safety of this industry. The Japanese nuclear industry reiterated those claims prior to the earthquake. The same happened in the United States prior to the 1979 Three Mile Island partial core meltdown. On March 14, Wayne Robbins, Ontario Power Generation’s chief nuclear officer, said that Ontario is in a geologically stable part of the world and that “we have a lot of back-up safety systems.” That same day, around 11:30 p.m., a failed pump seal from the Pickering nuclear power plant caused 73,000 litres of demineralized water to be released into Lake Ontario. Then, on March 16, a small 4.3 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Ontario. Both are reminders that nature is a force unto itself, back-up systems can fail anywhere in the world, and nuclear power is an unforgiving technology.
The public hearings on new nuclear reactors at Darlington are scheduled to start next week. That’s why RNAO appeared with Greenpeace at a media conference at Queen’s Park on March 16. That’s why we ask you to act urgently! The staggering health, environmental, and economic costs of nuclear power were good reasons to stop investing in nuclear power even before the tragic disaster unfolding in Japan. It is irresponsible to move forward with plans to build new reactors or refurbish existing ones without stopping to learn from Japan’s nuclear tragedy. This is not the first time that RNAO has expressed concerns regarding the use of nuclear power, as cited in our provincial election platform, Creating Vibrant Communities.
Added to the safety concerns is the exorbitant financial cost of nuclear power. The government is budgeting $33 billion for its nuclear plans, which alone would elbow out other more cost-efficient and environmentally sound investments. The nuclear industry has a dismal fiscal track record: every nuclear project in Ontario has gone considerably over-budget, on average about two and a half times. Ontarians concerned about their rising hydro bills are still paying for the huge cost overruns from reactors built decades ago.
The health impacts of human-produced radiation include cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, mental disability due to in utero exposure, immune system dysfunction and diabetes. Although fears arising from a large-scale accident or melt-down are most in our minds of late, the real danger of radiation may be in the chronic low-level exposures. The effects are poorly understood, particularly in children, and studies have linked increased prevalence of leukemia in children with living near nuclear facilities.
This is why we are urging, even demanding, that the McGuinty government and all political parties stop and rethink. We must transform our energy systems, but let’s do it through conservation and renewable energy.
Please Let Our Elected Leaders Know Today of Your Concerns About Nuclear Energy. Next week’s environmental assessment hearing on the proposed new Darlington reactors MUST be postponed so that accident risk and alternatives can be fully explored.