Awhile back I did a piece on nuclear energy and you would have thought I was in favour of hanging petty thieves (that theory belongs to the Harper Conservatives). I said nothing in favour of nuclear but only made the point that before anything is rejected, it (the modern version) should be studied so we can understand our options. At that point we had had Chernobyl and Three Mile Island but not, of course, Fukushima.
In the Globe and Mail for May 23 last, on the op-ed page is an article by Neil Reynolds, headlined “With Thorium We Could Have Safe Nuclear Power”.
Here is the opening paragraph to set the stage:
[quote]In the beginning, nuclear scientists identified two fuel sources for the atomic age: uranium and thorium. They went with uranium. Why? It wasn’t because uranium was the better fuel. Thorium is more abundant. It is simpler. It is safer. (Although slightly radioactive, it can’t sustain a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor and, hence, can’t “melt down.”)[/quote]
Incidentally, why did we end up taking what was so obviously the wrong path? In short, because you can’t make Plutonium from Thorium – while you can from Uranium. And Plutonium was essential to building nuclear warheads. As Reynolds explains, “In the Cold War, the science goal was synonymous with the military goal:
nuclear weapons. Plutonium delivered the deadliest mushroom cloud.” Nuclear power from Uranium was a two-for-one proposition: energy and weapons.
Now, Dear Friends, did old Uncle Rafe come out in favour of nuclear power? Is it time we all set our hairpieces on fire? Does he want to have reactors like they have (had, I suppose) in Japan?
No, I want no such thing! Nuclear power as we know it has been thoroughly discredited as dangerous and expensive – and we still haven’t found a safe way to get rid of the waste.
Nor am I ready to accept a column in the Toronto Globe and Mail as definitive of the matter. Mr. Reynolds is an experienced and able columnist but he is not the scientific community. His proposition requires a hell of a lot more information from not only science but regurgitated from a thorough public debate.
If there is to be a debate it must be about Thorium, not Uranium, and free of the sort of cant by which debates are too often destroyed.
If Thorium is what Reynolds says it is, there would be an end to the destruction of our rivers and Site “C” would be abandoned (which it should be regardless).
Which brings on the other side of the debate:
What if our energy customers decide to abandon us in favour of Thorium? In the island mentality that is the hallmark of our American cousins, they will always opt for their own supply of whatever is critically needed – so long as they have that option.
Ironically, it was the US cancelling of our Uranium which had got us into big time trouble in the late 70s. So sure were we of American customers that Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. stockpiled a huge quantity which it was now stuck with. That led the way for Canada, under then Deputy Energy Minister and later Senator Jack Austin, to form a worldwide cartel of uranium producers.
My own history was as BC Minister of Environment, banning exploration for and mining of Uranium in 1979.
But, let’s get back to the theme – we are not talking about Uranium but Thorium and for all the reasons above and more it makes abundant good sense to find out what it does and judge its use based on the Precautionary Principle – meaning that proponents must demonstrate its safeness.
Now, once again, dear friends, as loudly as possible, and in unison, shout: “Rafe Mair is not in favour of nuclear power – only of examining an alternative which is alleged to be a safe, and efficient alternative!”