Speaker: Ray Silver
Topic: "The Billion-Dollar Nuke Waste Boondoggle" (and other thoughts)
Location: J.L. Gray Centre
Deep River, Ont.
Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 (8:00 pm)

Summary published in North Renfrew Times,
April 28, 1999:

"You Have Lost the Nuclear Debate"

by Al Rose

An audience of about 70 people gathered at the J. L. Gray Centre last Thursday to hear an entertaining, if somewhat pessimistic, account by journalist Ray Silver of his half century of reporting on Nuclear issues for the Windsor Star, Toronto Daily Star and the Globe & Mail, and since 1977 for Nucleonics Week and Nuclear Fuel.

The 81 year old Silver, who still writes for McGraw-Hill, pointed out that in reporting he had to remain objective but in this meeting would add his own personal opinions and conclusions, formost of which is that Canada has blown its chance to play a major role in the nuclear era.

The three themes which Silver covered were, in his terms, the political billion dollar nuclear waste boondoggle, the so-called deregulation of the Ontario power market and the "Hiroshima Complex" that sustains the anti-nuclear attitude in Canada.

Silver reviewed the history of atomic science in Canada starting with Rutherford's work at McGill at the turn of the century, the establishment in 1906 of Ontario Hydro and Canada's wartime role as Britain's junior partner in the developement of the atomic bomb. He felt that these developements should have assured Canada's place in the nuclear era but that the opportunity has been thrown away.

In Silver's opinion, the existence of Ontario Hydro and its close association with AECL led to the rapid development of the CANDU power reactor system once Canada, alone among the original nuclear states, had rejected the option of continuing down the road of nuclear weapons development. He feels that what is now happening to Ontario Hydro threatens Canada's nuclear future by terminating the Hydro/AECL relationship. He blames this on a combination of privately owned power producers and anti-nuclear organisations which together would like to see the end of nuclear power in Canada. Speaking directly to the pro-nuclear audience Silver stated; "today the public attitude is anti-nuclear. You are losing the nuclear debate. It is being lost because neither the politicians nor the nuclear industry nor the leaders of Canada's scientific and engineering communities can or will mount their pro-nuclear horses and charge into battle."

This led Silver into a long dissertation on the anti-nuclear groups such as Energy Probe, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and how both federal and provincial governments are falling into line with their strategies to hasten the demise of the Canadian nuclear industry both here and abroad. Unfortunately space does not permit the coverage here that this deserves but further detail can be obtained from the CNS, Chalk River Branch for anyone interested in this fascinating subject.

On the subject of environmental issues, Silver noted that Toronto's medical health officer, Sheela Basrur had issued a recent report stating that Hydro's emissions of nitrous and sulphur oxides had increased by 58% and 68% respectively in the 1996-98 period because of the necessity of bringing back coal fired generation to replace lost nuclear capacity but that no comment had been heard from environmentalists or anti-nukes on the evils of acid rain or greenhouse gas problems related to lost nuclear capacity.

Silver's remarks about early pioneers in the nuclear field like C.D. Howe and his contemporaries are no less facinating than those on the opposition. But he concluded that the Hiroshima bomb, with its fallout of " awe, guilt, fear and incomprehension" had created an wall over which the promise of peaceful use has been unable to climb, and which aided the fearmongering by the protest organisations to take hold almost without opposition.

Silver then proceeded to a review of the sorry history of opposition to the disposal of radioactive waste, which he noted had been technically resolved by 1976, and to the dismissal of the medical advances made possible by spinoff from nuclear power research and the industry. At the end of the long series of nuclear waste review panels Silver quoted the conclusion (last year) of the most recent panel; "from a technical perspective, safety of the AECL concept has been on balance adequately demonstrated for a conceptual stage of developement but from a social perspective it has not."

Silver concluded his review of the waste management history by saying "such public relations diversions together with research projects perverted to political and publicity ends have added up to a nuclear waste boondoggle that has cost Canadian taxpayers well over a billion dollars and as of this last year of the 20th century the government has neither a plan nor a policy on how to dispose of nuclear crud. They are leaving it to Ontario Hydro."