Canadian International Development Agency

Letter from Probe International to Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Grainne Ryder

February 24, 1999

Re: CIDA’s plans to sell Canadian nuclear technology to Thailand.

Feb 24, 1999

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G2

Dear Sir,

It has come to our attention that the federal government is using Canadian foreign aid to help sell Canadian nuclear technology to Thailand. Based on a report obtained from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), entitled “Energy for the Next Millennium: Thai-Canadian Nuclear Human Resources Development Linkage Project,” CIDA has granted nearly

U.S.$1 million to train nuclear personnel and to produce a series of videos and booklets in partnership with the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited — the Crown corporation that markets Canada’s nuclear reactors abroad.

High school students are the “target audience” for the Thai-language videos and booklets, the report says, because of their “ability to influence their peers, family members and others in their community” and because of the need to “gain a level of public acceptance that would allow the Government to proceed with a nuclear power program.”

In addition, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is spending $1 million of its own funds to establish Thailand’s first nuclear engineering department at the Bangkok-based Chulalongkhorn University. The report says that Thailand currently has “a complete lack of capability . . . to develop the engineering man-power for a nuclear power program.”

One of AECL’s partners, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, contributed another $500,000 to copy and distribute the CIDA-AECL materials and to produce its own pro-nuclear television cartoons, newspaper ads, leaflets for villagers, public exhibits, and an essay-writing contest for high school students.

As a Thai-speaking person, I have reviewed the CIDA-AECL videos and booklets and found that they do not convey the truth about Canada’s experience with nuclear power and that they make numerous inaccurate and misleading claims. In response, Probe International has prepared the attached briefing to provide Thai citizens with more information about Canada’s experience with nuclear power.

Last October, I had the opportunity to share this information at a forum in Bangkok that was attended by more than 30 community leaders from six Asian countries. (Please also find attached a copy of their declaration of opposition to nuclear power in Asia.) I talked with Thai villagers, Buddhist monks, community leaders, academics, journalists, and citizens groups who are opposed to nuclear power and who want the Canadian government to stop pushing nuclear power in their country. They are not interested in propping up a dying industry. They want to make fully informed decisions about electricity choices based on the risks to their health, environment, livelihoods, and economy. Instead, they get propaganda from AECL, CIDA, and their own government.

The public opposition to this propaganda campaign by the Thai and Canadian governments was captured recently by the Bangkok Post (also attached). The author, Supara Janchitfah, writes in her article, “Full-power PR,” that Thai people “are aware they are being underestimated, patronized, and manipulated” by nuclear proponents.

The CIDA-AECL videos and booklets claim, for instance, that nuclear power is a trouble-free technology despite the fact that the world’s largest owner and operator of CANDU reactors, Ontario Hydro, recently had to shut down seven reactors because it cannot operate them safely or economically. They claim that nuclear waste can be safely disposed underground, even though AECL has failed to convince Canadians and the federal government that its proposal is safe. They claim that nuclear power is one of the few viable options Thailand has for meeting its future electricity needs, when, in reality, Thailand’s new private power producers are already taking a

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