Nuclear power cited as ‘an unforgiving technology’

By Karen Fallon

Citing the devastation in Japan and resulting nuclear disaster,  Jenniffer Johnston, registered nurse and the current president of the Windsor/Essex chapter of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, along with Kelly Mertens, sought council’s backing in support of a national moratorium regarding nuclear energy until further research is conducted.

According to Johnston’s report to council since the 1960s nuclear power has contributed to Ontario’s power supply and today provides over half of the energy used in the province.

There are currently three active nuclear power stations in Ontario – Pickering Generating Station, the Bruce Power Station and Darlington Generating Station. While the American Fermi 2 nuclear power plant sits across the river from Amherstburg.

As frontline healthcare providers, says Johnston, who represents over 30,000 RNs in the provincial association; she and the other members of the association are concerned with the health and welfare of communities across Canada and throughout the world.

“The health impacts of human produced radiation includes cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, mental disability due to in-utero exposure, immune system dysfunction and diabetes,” said Johnston, who noted that fear of a large scale accident is what people fear the most. However, she added the real danger from radiation has shown to be in chronic low-level exposure.

“It is irresponsible to move forward with plans to build new reactors or refurbish existing ones without stopping to learn from Japan’s nuclear tragedy,” said Johnston. “This is not the first time that RNAO has expressed concerns regarding the use of nuclear power.”

The provincial government is budgeting $33-billion for its nuclear plants, she said.

“Tell other Ontario politicians to stop and rethink the consequences of investing in more nuclear energy,” said Johnston. “Consider alternate forms of energy production, consider conservation and renewable sources. Stop and rethink the possibilities.”

Councillor Carolyn Davis made a motion to the effect that: “The Ontario government postpone any commitment to go forward with the proposed New Darlington nuclear reactors or upgrades until accident risks or alternate options can be fully explored.”

Davies also noted that County Council should be asked to encourage other municipalities in the area to take similar action and that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario challenge all Ontario municipalities to do the same.

Councillor Sutton says that the effects of the motion – result on the grid, extension of the economic base – need to be understood before proceeding with it.

“It is quite a complex motion,” said Sutton. “I am not saying I am against the motion, but I would like to understand the effect that would be long term in respect to power generation in Ontario before we vote on it.”

Davies says that certain countries have initiated a moratorium in respect to nuclear energy while Ontario is going forward without stopping their discussions.

“We are asking that they turn around those discussions and do the research to look at all case scenarios,” said Davies. “Japan thought they had done all case scenarios as do other plants.”

The motion was carried.

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