May 18, 1999
Agency blasted for pushing N-power
Canadian government funding for a public education programme to help a firm sell nuclear reactors to
Thailand has drawn strong criticism.
A Canadian newspaper on Sunday quoted academics as blasting the Canadian International Development
Agency project to convince students of the benefits of nuclear technology.
Ursula Franklin, a professor emerita at the University of Toronto, said: "This is shameful. To use these
children for the ‘softening up’ process and doing it so blatantly seems to go beyond anything I’ve seen… This is
an incredible misuse of taxpayers’ dollars," she told the Toronto Star.
Cida, which is supposed to help reduce poverty in developing countries, has been enlisted by Atomic Energy
of Canada Ltd (AECL) to help sell Candu reactors in Thailand.
The newspaper quoted an AECL report as saying the students were targeted because they could best
influence their parents and peers.
Bob Johnston, director of Cida’s Indochina, Thailand and Malaysia division, told The Star: "We may have
been wrong… We learn from our mistakes." But asked if Cida’s participation was a mistake, he was "not
Canada’s position on the nuclear issue appears self-evident: no new Candus have been built in Canada since
1982. And in August, 1997, seven of Canada’s then 21 operating reactors were shut after US consultants
found Ontario Hydro lacked the managerial capacity to operate them safely.
The Thai education project is funded by Cida, AECL and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. It
is to run in Thai schools until next year and uses videos, booklets, and essay contests offering scholarships.
A 12-minute Thai-language video shown in more than 1,000 schools, makes a strong case against fossil fuel
and hydro power, and uses upbeat pop music to introduce a gleaming, efficient, environment-friendly world of
nuclear energy. A youthful Thai woman notes that while nuclear power presents challenges, they are
manageable. Nuclear waste, for example can be buried.
A second part of the programme aims at improving and expanding the nuclear engineering programme at
Chulalongkorn University, to ensure Thailand has a core of engineers capable of handling Candu technology.
Education Ministry officials said they had no role in the programme in which academics from seven Canadian
universities made more than 100 short-term Cida-funded visits to Thailand to lecture on nuclear engineering
Cida’s contribution for both parts of the programme came to $1 million in taxpayers’ money.
A 1998 AECL report, entitled The Thai-Canadian Nuclear Human Resources Development Linkage Project,
states that in order to develop a nuclear programme in Thailand, "securing a level of public acceptance" is
vital. And students are the means to do it.
"This target audience was selected in part because they will be directly affected by the expected introduction
of nuclear power over the next 10 years, as well as their ability to influence their peers, family members and
others in the community," the report says.
A separate scholarly paper about the project, delivered at a conference in Banff last May, said of grade 11
Thai students, the target group:"They are more curious, by nature of their age, and in Thai society they are still
very close to their parents[At] the same time, the students may also have some influence on their parents’
behaviour, as seen in the case of smoking and electricity conservation."Cranford Pratt, Canada’s pre-eminent
scholar in the field of north-south relations and emeritus professor of political science at the University of
Toronto, called Cida’s involvement with the AECL project in Thailand, "terrible".
"It runs entirely counter to the putative primary emphasis of Cida, which is supposed to be poverty
alleviation," said the academic."A Cida spokesperson said the agency’s involvement was justified on the basis
that human resources in Thailand would be developed.
Categories: Foreign Aid