Ontario to transfer nuclear waste to Saskatchewan

By in News

ANDREW GLUM
News Writer

Saskatchewan may become the future home of a high-level nuclear waste dump, but Jim Harding and the Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan intend to prevent that.

Harding lectured at the Francis Morrison library Feb. 1 to raise awareness about Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s current negotiations with three northern communities — Pinehouse, Creighton and English River First Nation — regarding the creation of a high-level nuclear waste disposal site.

The immediate short-term goal of CCGS is to prevent the nuclear waste generated by Ontario power plants from ending up in Saskatchewan’s poverty-stricken north.

Harding not only discussed the economic, health and environmental ramifications of what he called “nuclear colonialism,” but also the dangers involved in transporting the waste across the country.

He added that the amount of nuclear waste currently awaiting disposal is massive.

“Two million spent fuel bundles now exist in Canada,” said Harding, “and if the reactors that are in operation today complete their projected cycle, that’ll double.”

Considering a majority of Saskatchewan residents opposed the construction of a nuclear power plant in the province, the chances of Saskatchewan accepting Ontario’s nuclear waste seems unlikely.

Harding described what such an arrangement would mean for Saskatchewan citizens.

“Now one scenario is shipping those millions in containers of 100 [spent fuel bundles] to a deep geological storage site. That means 18 to 20,000 truck loads or train loads of nuclear waste from southern Ontario, through northern Ontario, through Manitoba, through southern Saskatchewan into northern Saskatchewan,” he said.

“Now you calculate how many a day, for how many decades. People on that route are going to be seeing these trucks, on and off, all day, all night, literally for their whole life span.”

However, the broader question of nuclear energy is complex. While nuclear energy harms the environment, coal is environmentally the dirtiest energy source. And currently, an overwhelming majority of Canadians get their electricity from coal.

Further compounding the problem is the rapid dwindling of global oil reserves, so that alternative sources are becoming more important.

All environmental concerns aside, a population that cannot afford to fuel their oil-powered machines will require electric alternatives.

According to the Canadian Renewable Energy Alliance, the world’s electric power consumption in 2005 was 18.24 petawatt hours a year. According to WolframAlpha.com, that’s about eight times more than the energy produced by every nuclear power plant in the world combined in a year.

The CCGS claims that “more than 100 times this amount could be commercially produced from solar photovoltaic systems from the world’s rooftops and unused land,” and that “more than 20 times this amount could be commercially produced by wind farms in windy non-urban areas.”

While these renewable alternatives are promising, as transportation systems move away from oil power — placing increased stress on the electric grid — 20 or 100 times the current electricity consumption may actually be needed.

Whether nuclear energy is a tenable part in solving the fossil fuels problem is not totally clear. What is clear is that Ontario’s nuclear waste is not going to be dumped in Saskatchewan without a fight.

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image: Trois Têtes/Flickr