The usual lobby groups are saying the usual things at and about the proposed Darlington nuclear plant refurbishment in Courtice Ontario. Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and the Sierra Club—to name just a few of the groups opposing the project—are recycling their tired, predictable, warmed-over tripe, vaguely prophesying apocalyptic doom if the Darlington refurbishment goes ahead. On the supporter side, the groups tend to be closer to the Darlington host community or involved directly in working at the plant.
I think that the latter are the ones with credibility: they have lived with, and worked in, the plant for decades. They know the safety issue like the back of their hand. If they say it is safe, I believe them. This is often used against them: opponents of nuclear energy claim that supporters’ self-interest de-legitimizes their case. They resort to that claim because the rest of their arguments are so qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to the pro-nuclear case that that is essentially all they can go on. Nuclear is demonstrably cheap, reliable, safe, and clean. So opponents say the opposite, and hope no one sees through their innumerate and hyperbolic non-logic. And if people do see through it, they play the self-interest card. It’s like claiming air travel is unsafe, and using airplane pilots’ self-interest to back up the claim. “Of course an airplane pilot will say air travel is safe. His job depends on many others believing it.” Well, of course. But his life also depends on it.
So it is with nuclear plant workers who are pro nuclear. Yes their job depends on continued support for nuclear energy. But since they are the ones who run the plants, who show up at eight and leave at four, five days a week, year after year, doesn’t that make them authorities on nuclear safety? I’ll believe them before I believe some Greenpeace activist who is paid to say it’s not safe.
And really, what is the alternative? As I have pointed out, Darlington generates enough electricity to power the City of Toronto 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has not put any greenhouse emissions into the air we breathe. If we abandon this plant, then Toronto and other Ontario communities will run on natural gas, a carbon heavy fossil fuel.
Have a look at Table 2 in the left-hand sidebar. As I was writing this article, Table 2 indicated that natural gas-fired power plants across the province had emitted 10,455 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, between midnight and noon on December 4, 2012.
Ten thousand four hundred fifty-five metric tons of carbon dioxide, in 12 hours. If nuclear plants had provided that electricity, they would have dumped zero metric tons of CO2 into our air.
That is what this is about.