June 29, 1999
Mr Thompson dismisses “the claim that Candu reactors may have been used to make weapons material” by reference to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Letter to the Editor in response to the June 18 letter from Terry Thompson of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)
India, of course, has never signed the NPT, and permits no IAEA inspection. But ambiguous nuclear technology survives for centuries, longer than any government policies in Canada, India or Thailand-longer even than international treaties. So India extracted tritium, a key ingredient in the hydrogen bomb it tested, from its Candu reactors. (Some of these are Canadian built, and some are Indian copies.) AECL’s letter has only one weak response to these facts: “AECL no longer has any business relations with India.” That assurance, even if it were true, would obviously give little comfort to the victims if India decided to use its “Candu” H-bomb in a war. Mr Thompson claims that radioactive waste from nuclear reactors-probably the largest collection of persistently toxic, cancer-causing and mutation-causing materials on earth, whose hazards will last for well over a million years-“present no threat to power plant personnel, the public or the environment” because they are currently being supervised by nuclear station staff. Clearly, Mr Thompson’s understanding of long-term environmental concerns is primitive by any standard, Thai or Canadian. Indeed, his company’s (AECL’s) proposal to dispose of radioactive waste in Canada was recently judged unacceptable by an independent Canadian environmental assessment panel, after a nine-year review process. Among the panel’s seven main reasons: it can’t be judged safe from both required perspectives; it was not based on an ethical framework; it lacks broad public support; and it lacks a trustworthy proponent (AECL) and regulator (AECB). Finally, when Mr Thompson says, “It is wrong to say Canada has shut down seven Candu reactors due to safety reasons”, he is only correct by accident. Actually, it was eight reactors, not seven. One reactor (Bruce unit 2) was shut down first, in late 1995. More recently, seven more reactors were shut down. Mr Thompson would have your readers believe that they were not shut down for safety reasons, but “because a backlog of routine maintenance was affecting electricity output”. Note what passes for logic at AECL. Billions of dollars’ worth of generating station was producing only half its desired output, so the owner chose zero production. In reality, the Ontario Hydro report states clearly that safety margins were compromised in many areas, and the Canadian nuclear regulator (AECB) has been embarrassed publicly for allowing these reactors to operate until the owner finally shut them down. It is true that their owner-now called OPGI, a separate company from the owner of the transmission system,-has not decided whether or not to restart the reactors. But four of them (Bruce 1-4) have had their fuel removed, and at least those four are almost certain to stay shut down forever. The possible restart of the other four, at Pickering, is already the subject of bitter political conflict in the region.
Director, Nuclear Research
and Senior Policy Analyst
Categories: Mekong Utility Watch
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