CALGARY — Environmentalists are calling an Alberta government document aimed at giving people an unbiased look at the possibility of nuclear power in the province “fraudulent.”
The report, released Thursday, doesn’t make any recommendations on the hotly contested question but is a “factual report” that allows a fully informed discussion, said Energy Minister Mel Knight.
Not so, said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
“It’s a fraudulent report,” he said. “It purports to be describing not only the technology but the risks and the benefits, and it does no such thing.”
The report lays out a number of issues around the controversial technology.
It touches on the province’s rising need for electricity, as well as the various options available to meet it. It mentions advances in safety and in the disposal of radioactive waste, as well as the environmental plus that nuclear power “does not release carbon dioxide.”
What the report doesn’t tell people are the financial, environmental and health consequences of embracing such technologies, say various groups lobbying against the introduction of nuclear power.
“All the facts aren’t in this report,” said Elena Schacherl of Citizens Advocating for Use of Sustainable Energy.
She pointed out when the energy requirements of building massive reactors, mining uranium, storing waste and decommissioning the plants are taken into account, nuclear power is far from carbon neutral. The massive amount of water needed to cool the reactors would dwarf the thirsty oilsands, she said.
The government failed to take into account many studies that suggest even low radiation levels may not be safe and relies on “nuclear industry spin” to gloss over the topic, Schacherl said.
The massive costs involved in decommissioning reactors also aren’t fully addressed, added Edwards.
“It focuses on explaining and extolling the technology with a strong emphasis on engineering aspects and almost nothing on … long-term risks.”
Both Knight and Premier Ed Stelmach have said the government will not take a stance on nuclear power until citizens have been fully consulted.
They’ll roll out that process next month with focus groups made up of people plucked at random from the voters’ list, online or mail-in forms and a public opinion poll.
“We really wanted to make sure that we hear from average Albertans, and we’ll also give an opportunity for stakeholder groups to have their views in a separate process and we’ll engage those people directly,” said Alberta Environment spokesman Jason Chance.
The government won’t be holding town hall-style meetings.
“We’ve seen in public consultations with town halls in the past, you get a lot of folks that are motivated about a certain issue and they may go from community to community and that might prevent average Albertans from expressing their views,” Chance said.
Bruce Power Alberta has picked a site about 30 kilometres north of Peace River as its preferred option for a potential power plant in the province should the government give the OK. The proposed $10-billion facility is being touted as capable of producing enough electricity to power two million homes by 2017.
The president of Areva Canada, part of the French nuclear giant vying to help build the potential project, said he welcomed the “thoughtful review.”
“It shows that the province wants a debate to be organized around it and that’s a good thing,” said Armand Laferrere. “Nuclear is not something that should introduced by stealth.”