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Focus on the real scandal.

The Toronto Star came up with a cute name for the Chalk River/missing documents scandal that has engulfed Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt and caused the Conservatives to scapegoat her aide; they’re calling it Raitt-Gate. Very cute, if not exactly original.

In the very same paper, the Toronto Star editorial thinks the opposition should move on from calling on Raitt to resign. I’ll agree to a point, and say what I’ve said on here before; the Opposition parties should be focusing on the actual details that were leaked in that binder. The Toronto Star editorial failed to mention that part of this scandal, and seems to have failed to realize that is the more relevant issue. On the other hand, Greg Weston of the Sun Media chain, who has been all over this Chalk River issue, does realize the significance of these documents:

…taxpayers learn for the first time that the Harper government has pumped a staggering $1.7 billion into Atomic Energy just in the past three years — most of it up in smoke if the Chalk River reactor remains beyond repair. Even if the reactor had remained working, Raitt’s briefing documents say Canadian taxpayers would have had to shell out $72 million this year to produce medical isotopes, 90% of which go to U.S. hospitals. The documents openly admit the financial truth about Chalk River was deliberately hidden in the last federal budget.

So, the documents showed the Conservatives hid the real financial figures from the Parliament and from the people of Canada. Weston also points out these documents show they were deceiving Canadians about the “crisis” at Chalk River 16 months ago, which sent Harper’s government into a feeding frenzy against Linda Keen, former head of the Nuclear Safety Board regulatory agency, overruling her decision to close Chalk River over safety concerns and which led them to eventually fire her:

Sixteen months ago, the Harper government ordered the reactor restarted after a shutdown for safety reasons, saying cancer and heart patients would die without an immediate isotope supply. At that time, the shutdown lasted four weeks and the world’s other four isotope reactors were operating. This time, the situation is far worse — Chalk River is out of order indefinitely and two of the other reactors are also down. Yet, Raitt testified at a Commons committee this week there is nothing to panic about. Either the Harper government lied to Canadians 16 months ago, or it is lying today. Either way, government deceit is a far bigger issue than lost documents.

Those last 2 lines are the key to the whole piece. If the Liberals want to wait til Harper gets back in the House for QP to ask him why the different standards between Maxime Bernier and Lisa Raitt, by all means.. But I think the questioning strategy should be gradually turned away from asking for Raitt’s head and focusing on those deceptions that Greg Weston talks about.

9 comments to Focus on the real scandal.

  • croghan27

    Don’t forget this one …

    OTTAWA — A radioactive spill has occurred at the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor west of the capital after the facility was recently cranked up to double its normal output of medical isotopes …. ”

    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/01/27/8159396-sun.html

  • Well, Nick, you may say there’s only been one accident but if you count spills, leaks, exposure of workers and the public to damaging amounts of radiation and lost or misplaced radioactive metals, there have been plenty of accidents. The nuclear industry has its own nomenclature, though, where accidents are not called accidents but are called “events.” You can see a list of reported events at:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/nerlist.aspx?fid=812

    Some other interesting links on leaks:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/13/opinion/the-hole-in-the-reactor.html

    Penn State reactor leaked for over 2 weeks – http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2007/10/30/reactor_continues_to_leak.aspx
    Ukrainian reactor leak – http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2008/200806/20080611/article_362825.htm
    French reactor leak – http://nuclearfreesa.blogspot.com/2008/07/french-reactors-leak-again.html
    Japanese leak – http://www.atomicarchive.com/Reports/Japan/Accidents.shtml
    Japanese reactor leak – http://wikileaks.org/wiki/The_Monju_nuclear_reactor_leak
    A list of leaks and accidents – http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/nuclear_leaks_and_accidents/
    Swedish reactor leak – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3702175,00.html
    American reactor leaks – http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/17/national/17nuke.html
    San Onofre decommissioned reactor leaking for decades – http://www.10news.com/news/9690567/detail.html
    Slovenian reactor leak – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/slovenia/2076671/Slovenian-nuclear-reactor-leak-forces-emergency-shutdown.html

    All reactors require taxpayer input to be economically viable – http://wikileaks.org/leak/crs/RL33442.txt

    This is a tiny sliver of issues that have occurred in our nuclear power industry. These reactors are susceptible not only to their own production and structural fallibilities but also human fallibility and you just can’t bet against human fallibility.

    The British reprocessing plant is closed and is expected to remain closed for years.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/19/thorp-nuclear-plant-white-elephant

    Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant also has problems:
    http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2009/05/20/delays_at_japans_ill-fated_nuclear_plant/3478/

    France’s LaHague reprocessing plant is under fire from other EU nations for routinely dumping tonnes of waste into the sea. Cancer clusters have been discovered near LaHague and also the Sellafield plant in the UK.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cancer_clusters

    Even the nuclear industry admits that its spent fuel will remain deadly for thousands of years and must be guarded by paramilitary swat teams 24/7 for all of those 1000’s of years.

    The Americans spent 20 years and $13 billion on Yucca Mountain before finally declaring it unsuitable for spent fuel storage. Now, our own NWMO wants to replicate the American boondoggle with and estimated price tag of $16 – $24 billion and a 20 year time frame.

    As for the myth about summer usage pushing to the “absolute max”, Ontario’s peak demand for electricity fell by 6% during the summer of 2008 compared to the summer of 2007, and an additional 4.7% the previous year. This demonstrates the enormous potential of conservation and load shifting.
    http://www.energyquest4nanticoke.ca/myths_facts.pdf

    Follow the money— from taxpayers’ pockets to nuclear lobbyists’ fat wallets. Despite all of the hype and money we’ve invested, more renewable capacity has come on line in recent years than nuclear. In North America, wind power equivalent to 2 nuke plants came on line last year. No nukes have come on line for 30 years.

    In Ontario, 7 of our reactors were offline for 8 years each since 1995. That ain’t reliability in anybody’s book. Many remain offline today while some are getting refurbished, well over-budget and off schedule by years. We all pay for those cost over runs.

    In Ontario, we have actually paid commercial and industrial users to take our excess electricity. Why? Because it’s cheaper to pay them to take excess power than it is to shut down our nuke plants.

    JB

  • croghan27

    Oh Nick …. if you think that turning spent fuel into bombs is a reasonable method of disposal perhaps you should speak to pres. Obama who is winding down future research into nuclear weapons. He is also restricting monies for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste disposal facility. I am a believer on ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ – but this is ridiculous. “We are safe – we will just turn the stuff into weapons and then we will be even more safe.”

    There is no known safe way store this waste – some of which may be lethal for 10,000 years. Nukes maybe useful in making nuclear medicines – but are not an option for power generation. Just because they can, does not mean they should.

    As for safe operation – read some of the accounts of early experiments into the whole technology – they are frightening. Nuclear technology does not need an ‘accident’ to be dangerous, not in the supplying of the nuclear material, not in the use of the reactors and not in the disposal of wastes.

  • Nick, you’re not thinking, you’re repeating statistics that people who can gain from nuclear, want you to repeat.

    Conservation is the only, and most cost effective method of increasing supply over the long term.

  • nick

    That kind of sounds like Jack Layton and Howard Hampton. If you don’t want to burn fossil fuels, the horrible truth is that nuclear is needed. Wind Farms and Solar Farms are a grand idea, but until the technology is much improved, they won’t be able to replace the coal fired plants. What you’re also forgetting is Ontario’s power grid is ALREADY 50% nuclear.

    Is nuclear safe? Statistics say yes. There has only been one North American nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power plants, that being 3 Mile Island and CANDU reactors are among the best designs in the world. As for the waste, reprocessing spent fissile material is well within Ontario’s technological capacity. There’s a plant in Peterborough which essentially houses the worlds largest supply of weapons/reactor grade uranium and plutonium.

    AS for unneeded, every summer, Toronto and the GTA pushes the power usage to the absolute max. Any drop in supply and there would be brownouts and rolling blackouts. New plants are absolutely needed.

    Nuclear isn’t a boogey man type issue. They want to focus on the person because it translates better in the media rather than a bunch of documents that tell a story people already forgot about. Furthermore, I guarantee you that even if the nuclear issue was brought up, about 10 people would see a connection as the nuclear deal in Ontario was struck years ago. The Ontario Liberals won’t look good because they just bought a car company, not because they, oh, I don’t know, actually wan’t to provide the province with electricity.

  • Green, as in money.

  • Unfortunately, the bloodlust for Raitt’s head on a platter has overshadowed the real story. Weston, at least, has been on the nuclear file for the past couple of years. Despite the fact that he works for the Sun chain, he’s been critical of Harper’s nuke policies and AECL. His latest piece is one of a long line of op-eds devoted to exposing the folly of nuclear investment.

    The Cons want to divest themselves (and us) of AECL. Last year, they jumped at the opportunity to hobble the pesky CNSC regulator that might have stood in the way of a fire sale. Now, they’ve conveniently exposed the fact that the crown corporation is a bigger money pit than we knew and they only had to fire a lowly 26 YO staffer to get the damning material out in the public eye. The price of AECL is going down by the minute. When they finally give it away to GE, Westinghouse or Areva, it will be at a deep, deep discount. The buyer will scoop up the skilled employees that are willing to move out of Canada and then shutter the money-losing operation.

    The Cons aren’t the only ones to blame here. The Ontario Liberals have earmarked $26.6 billion for new, unneeded nuclear builds. They’ve been under a great deal of pressure to “buy Canadian.” By exposing AECL’s ineptness and unprofitability, the way is being paved to award the sweetheart contract to Areva or Westinghouse. That will be especially easy when one of those corporate welfare giants purchases AECL.

    Kirby wonders why the opposition is so strangely silent on the real crux of the matter. Ask the McGuinty brothers. If the federal Liberals work too hard at exposing the nuclear fiasco, the Ontario Liberals will not look very good. The Ontario Liberals just passed their “Green” Energy Act. It allows for 50% of Ontario’s future energy mix to come from nuclear power.

    JB

  • Indeed, the opposition seems to be strangely silent on these incredibly important issues. The deceit that these documents reveal should be enough in itself to bring down a majority government, the fact that the issues involved barely rate a footnote in the media is utterly amazing.

  • […] documents aren’t the only thing that needs idiot strings. Do they make nuclear reactors with idiot strings? Duct tape […]

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