Skip to main content

Re: Nuclear power as “emission-free” energy. Letter to the Editor, Published in the Globe and Mail July 1, 2013

June 28, 2013
The Editors
The Globe and Mail
444 Front Street
Toronto, Ontario
Re: Nuclear power as "emission-free" energy.
Two recent articles in the Globe ("McGuinty's green energy 'vision' starts to fade" and "Ontario gets two nuclear options") have contained statements that nuclear power is "emission free" and "does not emit greenhouse gases." These statements are simply untrue. Greenhouse gases are emitted at all stages of the nuclear power life cycle: plant construction, operation and decommissioning, and fuel production and disposal. Greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear, may be low (depending on assumptions about plant construction, fuel cycles and decommissioning) relative to conventional fossil fuel powered energy sources, but they are certainly not zero. Moreover, the nuclear option carries with it a range of other costs and risks which must be weighed against whatever advantage it might claim in terms of GHG emssions. These include: the generation of extremely hazardous waste streams requiring perpetual care; serious non-greenhouse gas air and water pollution, particularly from uranium mining and milling; security, weapons proliferation and catastrophic accident risks unlike those those associated with any other energy technology; operational inflexibility and very strong long-term lock-in effects, leaving host jurisdictions vulnerable to both changes in predicted energy demand and unable adopt new and better energy technologies that may become available; and a history of delays and massive cost-overruns in plant contruction and refurbishment. Nuclear energy cannot be considered a sustainable energy source for these reasons. Better and more sustainable enegy options exist for Ontario and other jurisdicitions around the world.
Yours sincerely,
Mark S. Winfield, Ph.D. Associate Professor
Chair, Sustainable Energy Initiative Faculty of Environmental Studies