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The Nuclear Cycle

by Eric Walton

I am Eric Walton – President of the Kingston and The Islands Green Party and currently the federal Green Candidate for this Riding.

I would like to thank the organizers of this event for the opportunity to speak today and especially to thank Donna Dilman for her long and courageous hunger strike that directly led to this important civil society organized public consultation.

Last year, in a Letter-To-The Editor published in the Toronto Star, I wrote:

“The Ontario Liberals appear to be on course for approving a significant building and retrofitting of nuclear power plants to address Ontario’s future electricity needs. If they confirm this direction, it will prove to be one of the worst decisions ever made by this government.

Our current high energy consumption per capita in Ontario is an opportunity to find critical electricity supply time through an ambitious energy conservation plan. Critical supply time to develop an extensive renewable energy infrastructure that would be far less vulnerable than nuclear power plants to breakdown, terrorism, mega-project cost overruns and serious environmental liabilities.

Nuclear power is a dirty and dangerous fuel when you look at its full life-cycle from uranium extraction to nuclear waste disposal.

Ontario’s long-term competitiveness will depend on its ability to dramatically close the energy productivity gap it currently suffers. Even if nuclear power was not a contentious political issue, a serious energy conservation strategy and an expanded renewable energy production plan is one of the smartest decisions the Liberals could make for Ontario’s future prosperity.

Lets just hope the Nuclear Lobby does not have the Ontario Liberal government completely sold on its nuclear dreams.”

That clearly was too much to hope for . The well-financed and orchestrated public relations effort in support of new nuclear sadly won over the Liberal cabinet.

Two manoeuvres in particular stand out. The first was to project future electricity demand based on a near doubling of the historical growth rate in annual demand. Stabilizing and reducing overall demand into the future appears to have been significantly discounted despite the numerous examples of comparable jurisdictions that have a much lower electricity demand per capita – in some cases half of Ontario’s.

It was this assumption of inevitable growth in electricity demand – in fact an acceleration in demand – that was then used to derive the baseload electricity requirement number that was used as leverage to justify the need for at least two new nuclear power plants. And the Conservatives want to build four!

This failure to fully embrace an alternative or “soft” energy path for Ontario represents an immense lost potential to dramatically increase Ontario’s energy productivity and stimulate new green energy opportunities that would have created many well–paying jobs during a time of significant manufacturing job loss in Ontario. It would have also had a significant positive environment effect in reducing Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions and would have avoided the bitter social fall-out of uranium mining.

This negative social aspect of nuclear power is now damaging First Nations relationship to the Ontario government and also our international reputation for the imprisonment First Nations activists who where peacefully attempting to protect their land from unilateral mining activity.

Accepting the current assumption of future electricity demand was clearly not a responsible decision and must not be allowed to stand.

The second tactic used by the nuclear industry and the expensive lobbying effort they funded was to claim that nuclear power was emissions free and therefore a part of the solution to the Climate Change Crisis.

The claim is laughable in its audacity except that our political representatives fell for it.

The Oko Institute for Applied Ecology in Germany did a rigorous Life-Cycle analysis of comparative energy production methods and included nuclear power in their study.

Their researchers looked at the whole life-cycle of nuclear power production including uranium ore extraction, transformation, enrichment and the construction of all facilities as well as storage of radioactive material and de-commissioning .

The study found that a standard size German nuclear power plant – 1250 MW – would emit about 250,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases. This is hardly emissions free!

They also mentioned that other international studies show even higher CO2 emission figures especially with the mining of lower grade uranium ore.

They concluded that “In comparison with specific CO2 emissions (per kWh) of alternative systems, e.g. (Natural Gas) Cogeneration, renewable energies, and electricity saving, nuclear electricity is NOT the “winner”.

After the financial fiasco of Darlington Nuclear and the 19 billion dollar stranded nuclear debt Ontario taxpayers will be paying out of their pockets for long time, it is hard to believe there was not a more rigorous questioning of the assumptions and claims made on behalf of nuclear power. Someone either dropped the ball or intentionally ignored the evidence of Life Cycle greenhouse gas emissions for the nuclear power option to win a higher percentage of public and political support.

Its not too late for the Liberal Government to order a thorough review of the decision to build two new nuclear power plants in Ontario.

Given the public relations distortions that framed that decision, the very high and risky long-term financial implications, the environmental damage revealed in nuclear power life cycle analysis, the undermining of First Nations, and, the real risk of going down an energy route that closes more doors than it opens, the citizens of Ontario deserve nothing less.


References below from the Oko Institute Comparative Study

Chapman, P.F. (1975): Energy Analysis of Nuclear Power Stations, in: Energy Policy (Dec. 1975), p. 285-298

CRIEPI (Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry) 1995: Comparison of CO2 Emission Factors between Process Analysis and I/O-Analysis, Working Document prepared for IAEA, Tokyo

IEA (International Energy Agency) 1994: Energy and the Environment, Transport Systems Responses in the OECD - Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Road Transport Technology, Paris

Mortimer, N.D. (1991): Nuclear power and carbon dioxide, the fallacy of the nuclear industry's new propaganda; in: The Ecologist vol. 21 no. 3

NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency)/IEA (International Energy Agency) 2005: Projected Costs of Generating Electricity – 2005 update, Paris

OEKO (Öko-Institut – Institute for applied Ecology) 1996: The GEMIS Project - final report for version 3.0 (with updates for version 3.08 in 1998) - see

OEKO (Öko--Institut – Institute for applied Ecology) 2005: GEMIS Version 4.3, internet release, December 2005 (see

Schneider, Mycle/Froggatt, Antony (2004): The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2004, Brussels (December)

van Leeuwen, J.W.S./Smith, Philip (2004): Can nuclear power provide energy for the future; would it solve the CO2-emission problem?