Welcome to the nuclear renaissance

This is a good article in the Globe and Mail about the problems in AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) and the relationship between the federal government and the nuclear regulator.  What’s missing is a critical observation.  If we accept the AECL is hobbling and must cut corners on safety measures despite enormous government subsidies, what is the true cost of nuclear power?

11 responses to “Welcome to the nuclear renaissance”

  1. Ron M writes:

    Any idea what you are up against if you want to change government policy?

    The E7 who became the E8 who formed in response to Rio 1992 include Ontario Hydro/Power Generation and Hydro Quebec.

    Here’s the E8 take on nukes:

    “Internationally, there is growing recognition that nuclear generation will have to be expanded to mitigate CO2 emissions while reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Although the international climate change agreements do not expressly prevent a project developer from proposing such a project to the CDM EB, no nuclear projects have been presented to date. Nuclear generation must be recognized by the Flexible Mechanisms as a carbon free source of electricity.”

    The E8 fly the blue flag of the UN and green flag of sustainability.

    How the UN has partnered with big business to save the planet:

    India and China are following the same model for development as the west has. They have no effective environmental regs. Kyoto exempts India and China. While their rich are getting richer, corporatism is leaving hundreds of millions in poverty. If environmental and social activists in those countries oppose these polices of the corporate elites (now endorsed by the UN), then why do WE go along?

    Is it moral to sacrifice hundreds of millions more over the next decades while paying $10s of billions to the corporates to save us from their own neo-liberal economic program?

    Why do corporates like Shell support carbon trading?

    The answer is regulation of the corporates vs. denying the worlds poor to a fare share of the resources by taxing them.

  2. Ron M writes:

    cost of nuclear-continued

    The fallout from melted reactor fuel at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and the explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukraine should have been a wake-up call to the bosses of Ontario Hydro. In the fall of 1993, Canada’s nuclear watchdog, the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) took note of the deteriorating safety of Hydro’s nuclear stations and when conditions continued to deteriorate, in December 1996 the AECB warned Hydro that the Pickering ‘A’ station was in danger of regulatory shutdown. Hydro bosses responded by having a team of American experts brought in. The findings of the team were presented to the Ontario Hydro board of directors in August 1997. The report was “highly critical of virtually all aspects of management and operational performance”. The Report identified that one of the causes of the utility’s deteriorated performance were “Serious shortages of key management, supervisory and some technical skills”. The president of the AECB, Dr. Agnes Bishop’s response was that the report “contained nothing substantially different from what the AECB has been saying.”

    Back in Oct. 1992 Bob Rae had appointed Canadian businessman Maurice Strong chair and CEO of Ontario Hydro. Strong was also founder and first to head up CIDA, the federal development agency. CIDA funds “Sustainable” electricity projects like the Three gorges dam.

    Strong had just put on the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as UN Secretary-General. Coincidentally the E7 (predecessor of E8) were formed in 1992 and the E8 have since filed voluntary reports per the Climate Change convention that was signed in 1992. Strong created a subsidiary –Hydro International to further the E8 initiative. OHII spent over $100 million buying up parts of a public owned electrical utility in Peru that was being privatized. Here was an advocate of de-regulation and privatization but had no qualms about using a public utility in Ontario to buy up a public utility that was being privatized in the third world. In 1996 the Advisory Committee on Competition in Ontario’s Electricity System recommended that OHII should be sold off. “The Advisory Committee cannot justify retaining such a business as a publicly-owned corporation. It is our opinion that electricity ratepayers in Ontario should not support OHII’s international investment activities. These investment activities are best managed by private industry, rather than as decisions made on behalf of ratepayers by an entity controlled by a publicly-owned monopoly utility.”

    In April 1993, Strong told the Empire Club: “On the issue of privatization, I would only say at this point that I see it as a means, not as an end in itself. In my view the real test of the efficacy of private ownership of all or any part of Ontario Hydro will be the degree to which this would ensure that the interests of its customers and of Ontario would be better served.” Strong hired Bill Farlinger, the former chairman of accounting firm Ernst & Young to prepare a report in support of privatization of Hydro. Bill Farlinger was a close advisor of Mike Harris and had headed up the fund-raising for Harris’s leadership campaign in 1990. Farlinger sought input for his report from investment bankers, lawyers and pro-privatization academics and executives at ENRON. In July 1995, one a month after Mike Harris was elected Premier, Bill Farlinger presented the Premier Harris with the report that Strong had commissioned. The report called for the privatization of all Hydro assets including the nuclear stations. In Nov. 1995 Strong vacated the chair on Hydro’s board to make room for Bill Farlinger.

    Per Thomas Walkom’s book: Rae Days: Rise and Follies of the NDP:***By the fall of 1993, Rae himself seemed to be hinting at privatization. In a speech to a conference on technology, he lauded Strong as a modern-day Adam Beck, the man who had brought public power to Ontario in 1906. Public ownership may have been appropriate for Hydro then, Rae said, but in changed times, Hydro must change–and Strong was the man to make such change happen. In a newspaper interview, Rae signaled that his government would not be bound by NDP public-ownership policies in its dealings with Hydro. Instead, the premier said, he would approach Hydro reform in a “non-ideological way.”****

    Suitors like British Energy and Enron were lining up to pick up the pieces of a busted-up Hydro. IPPSO FACTO, a magazine published by the Independent Power Producers’ Society of Ontario, reported in July 1996 that French Trade Minister Yves Galland had had talks with Premier Harris, Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, stating that France was interested in Ontario Hydro’s sell off. “In any privatization project, we could be there to help” he said. France’s electric utility EDF “has the know-how and experience” to successfully privatize Ontario’s utility. Neither Premier Harris nor Galland gave specifics on what the involvement of the French would be. A leaked brief from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that representatives from Bombardier and Power Corporation were involved in the talks. Why? Was there a plan to set up a subsidiary of Bombardier and Power Corporation as a cover for France taking control of Ontario’s electric utility? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims the leaked brief is a fake. Bob Rae’s brother John Rae is presently Executive Vice-President at Power Corporation, where he has worked as an executive since 1971. John Rae was advisor to Jean Chrétien and had led Chrétien’s leadership and election campaigns. John Rae also ran brother Bob’s recent campaign for the leadership of Liberal Party of Canada. Paul Desmarais Jr of Power Corporation is one of 10 CEOs appointed to the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) which is the working end of the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

    “The Council comprises 30 senior private sector representatives, 10 from each country, and has a mandate to provide governments with recommendations on broad issues such as border facilitation and regulation, as well as the competitiveness of key sectors including automotive, transportation, manufacturing and services. The Council will meet annually with security and prosperity ministers and will engage with senior government officials on an ongoing basis. The Competitiveness Council is an initiative of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

    Back in August 1992 when the Hydro board received the report by the American experts, the board decided to shutdown the older reactors at the Pickering and Bruce sites and concentrate resources to make improvements to the 12 newer reactors. The estimated cost of the rescue plan was $8 billion. Replacement power was to cost an extra $2 billion. Electricity exports worth $100s of millions were stopped. Coal power plants that had no pollution controls were fired up. The health and environmental damages from running the coal plants cost Ontario $3 billion per year. With 8 nuclear reactors idled and rusting away, the Ontario government leased the reactors at the Bruce site to a private consortium at fire sale prices. The consortium earns over $500 million in profit annually.

    Strong had cut $1 billion per year from Hydro’s annual budget while programs at the nuclear stations were already falling behind and the nuclear regulator had been warning Hydro of deteriorating conditions. Today Strong says the Harris conservatives did not keep up investments in Hydro and allowed things to fall apart. Others say that Strong was focused on getting Hydro ready for privatization and used the Hydro debt to justify his actions.

    The legacy of the Rae days-laid-off workers, ripped up collective agreements, mandated pay cuts, hiked university tuition fees, cut places in medical schools and a broken promise to bing in public auto-insurance. Many defend Rae’s record, saying he was forced to reign in the deficit. In opposition, Rae had presented himself as a fierce opponent of privatization. Privatization, Rae had said, was “a symptom of a diseased economic order”. When Bob Rae left the Premier’s office in 1995, he had also sent Ontario down the road of privatizion and de-regulation without a road map. Rae wasn’t going to commit political suicide. He knew he didn’t have party and public support to carry out the privatization. Strong passed the baton to Farlinger and Mike Harris carried on where Bob Rae had left off.

    No one had asked the people of Ontario about their vision for the future of their public utility. Through backrooms, boardrooms and stacked advisory groups, the Premier Rae’s appointee Maurice Strong furthered the agenda of the privateers. With the secretive SPP dealings going on, it would appear this modus operandi is now well entrenched in Canada.

    The costs of nuclear in Canada are a symptom of disease. Let’s focus on the disease, not the symptoms.

  3. Gary Murphy writes:

    ok, now I am confused. Elizabeth May co-chairs Maurice Strong’s Earth Charter, who’s Temenos Books and “Ark of Hope” are pretty scary, and last round the Green Party candidate for Owen Sound Grey-Bruce was supported by Bruce Nuclear, and yet your site contains the rather indicting article at http://danforthgreens.ca/welcome-to-the-nuclear-renaissance/

    so what IS going on here?

  4. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    The Green Party of Canada advocates for an end to federal subsidies of both fossil fuels and nuclear energy. We advocate deep conservation above all, coupled with a rapid expansion of non-polluting renewable generation as we hope to phase out both fossil fuels and nuclear power. I have copied Cathy MacLellan, the energy critic for the Green Party of Canada, in case there is anything she would like to add.

    Thanks for the question. If anything in particular is still unclear, don’t hesitate to ask further questions.

  5. Gary Murphy writes:

    thanks for the reply and much appreciated; do you have a reference on the GPoC website to this policy?

  6. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    In our policy documents, fossil fuels and nuclear power are often handled separately. Assuming that you’re most interested in our nuclear policy, here’s the extract from Vision Green, which is our long-term policy development document:


    The Green Party follows the direction of its membership, and adheres to member-approved policy. This policy is only available to members on the website, because it includes historical policy superceded by new policy which can be confusing. I will share with you the most recent relevant member-approved policy, which reads:

    G08-p012: Nuclear Power
    BE IT RESOLVED that all subsidies and supports to the nuclear industry will be withdrawn,
    except those required to maintain the safety of the phase out, decommissioning of facilities and
    associated waste.
    G08-p137: Support of Distributed Electrical Power Grid Research
    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Green Party of Canada will provide adequate
    research funding to establish the design and management principals of a nationally integrated
    electrical power grid capable of supporting many diverse sources of renewable electrical energy,
    as well as a transition plan that will transform the existing distribution pattern into the pattern of
    distributed renewable generation.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Gary Murphy writes:

    excellent. yes, thanks.

  8. Elizabeth May writes:

    Hi Gary,

    Just to explain that I served as a member of the Earth Charter Commission, which was co-chaired by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a great honour and the Earth Charter formed the basis of the Global Green Principles. I have not heard of the books to which you refer, as they had no role in the work on the Earth Charter. Other Earth Charter Commissioners included Wangari Matthai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, the former PM of the Netherlands, and Princess Basmah of Jordan. It was a diverse group and our only collaborative work was the charter itself.

    The Green Party firmly opposes the use of nuclear energy. Our former candidate in Gruce Grey Owen Sound accepted that the party’s policy was firm, despite the fact he worked for Bruce Power.

    Elizabeth May

  9. Gary Murphy writes:

    thanks so much for the thoughtful reply, and especially for the reassurance. The books I spoke of are the books of the Earth Charter, so I am surprised you hadn’t heard of them; a quick Google search easily locates the texts and their prominence in the Earth Charter (see https://www.google.ca/search?q=Temenos+Books ) and while I hadn’t studied them in detail, bits and pieces surface now and then in the ecology news that are not entirely encouraging, so seeing as you were listed in some reports as a member, I was understandably concerned.

    though it is still odd that you’d be a member and now leader of a derivative-in-essence organization and yet be unfamiliar with that organization’s policies, but then I was a member of the Lion’s for years and I don’t think I was ever offered any official policy documents beyond their website, so I suppose it isn’t all that surprising 😉

  10. Elizabeth May writes:

    Hi Gary,

    the drafting of the Earth Charter involved the work of thousands around the world. Books “of the Earth Charter” may have been written and distributed subsequently, but were not part of my work as a commissioner. And, as noted, I have not heard of them. Being a Commissioner of the Earth Charter did not involved running an organization. It meant I was part of a relatively small group who developed the final text.

    Hope that helps!


  11. Charlie Halpern-Hamu writes:

    There’s a video of Adriana’s analysis of nuclear as a non-solution to climate change on the videos page.

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