Below is the transcript of his talk, heard May 5, 2005 on the CBC's program "Commentary", where he discusses the disposal of radioactive waste produced by nuclear reactors.
In the 1970s the nuclear industry spokesmen used to say "Don't worry about it. We'll find a solution. We'll bury it somewhere, perhaps in the Canadian Shield." But in 1993 there was a federal environmental review panel which had looked at this very question of burial in the Canadian Shield and said it's not proven to be acceptably safe.
Now a new report by an industry-led
organization, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, says that Canada
should go ahead and do it anyway, but very cautiously, taking all the
time needed, even up to 300 years and spending all the money necessary,
even up to $24 billion.
The Chernobyl accident gave us a good indication of what happens when irradiated nuclear fuel is dispersed into the environment. It's a disaster. In 1976, a British royal commission told us that the same thing could happen as the result of conventional warfare. If nuclear reactors are targetted by ordinary bombs you could have uninhabitable regions resulting from that.
So if we keep on building and operating reactors we're not really solving the problem, we're just perpetuating it, and the radioactive shipments over our highways will never cease.
There are other things to think about. What about people in other countries that we sell our reactors to? Have the Romanians been told that they may have to cough up $24 billion to deal with their radioactive waste problem?
And although the nuclear industry doesn't like to talk about it, there is plutonium in the irradiated fuel. This plutonium is very long-lived and it's man-made. Even after 10,000 years any future regime can extract that plutonium from the radioactive waste and make atomic bombs. That's what North Korea's doing today; that's what India and Pakistan did a few years ago, and they're still doing it. This problem is not solved by simply moving the waste to a central repository.
I believe the time has come for Canadians to take the lead in telling our politicians that we should get out of the nuclear business, just as Germany has done, Sweden and Belgium as well. Let's stop producing nuclear waste at home; let's stop exporting our problems abroad.
For Commentary, this is Gordon Edwards in Montreal.