The Nuclear Age

The weekly announcements of yet another new nuclear plant in the works suggest an industry gaining credibility after years of environmental backlash and NIMBYism. The province of Ontario says it will build two nuclear reactors at the Darlington generating station east of Toronto. Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall says his province will be “the Saudi Arabia of uranium for the world”, hopefully without that country’s security concerns. In Manitoba, the town of Pinawa, Man., 180 km northeast of Winnipeg, is in discussions with Atomic Energy of Canada to put a nuclear lab in the town. The site used to have a functioning plant in the 1960s, but it was closed in 1998.

Many Canadian environmental groups, from the Pembina Institute to Greenpeace Canada, has firmly come out against this rise in nuclear power. And while the problems of nuclear power are well known – managing the waste, contamination and the inevitable accidents, there has been a shift in public perception, especially in countries with much stricter carbon dioxide targets than Canada. Indeed, many prominent greens have come out in favour of nuclear energy as an unfortunate, but necessary evil. Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace UK, says he has had an about face, almost like a religious conversion, and now embraces nuclear energy as the only way to solve climate change. George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, has also had a change of heart, and now says that nuclear power is “less threatening” than climate change.

Of course, neither solution sounds particularly welcoming – it’s hard to say whether frying later is preferable to living on top of a contaminated nuclear site. However, if nuclear power really is the only way to stop the planet’s meltdown, perhaps this nuclear renaissance should be embraced.

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